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1990: Thatcher quits as prime minister

VIDEO : Prime Minister Margret Thatcher decides to resigns

Margaret Thatcher is to stand down as prime minister after her Cabinet refused to back her in a second round of leadership elections.

She will remain in office until a successor is elected, but will not continue to fight Michael Heseltine for the Conservative Party leadership.

The former secretary of state for the environment threw down the gauntlet after a string of serious disputes over Britain's involvement in the European Union.

The prime minister said pressure from colleagues had forced her to conclude that party unity and the prospect of victory in the next general election would be better served if she stepped down.


"Once again Margaret Thatcher has put her country's and party's interests before personal considerations"

Conservative Party Chairman Kenneth Baker

Downing Street issued a statement at 0930 GMT after Mrs Thatcher had informed her Cabinet and the Queen of her intention.

By 1200 GMT, Chancellor John Major and Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd had announced they would now stand against Mr Heseltine in the next stage of the leadership contest.

The decision comes less than 24 hours after the Iron Lady had vowed to "fight on and fight to win" after winning the first round - but not with the required majority.

Tory Party Chairman Kenneth Baker said it was a typically brave and selfless decision from the prime minister.

"Once again Margaret Thatcher has put her country's and party's interests before personal considerations," he said.

And there were tributes to Mrs Thatcher from both sides of the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions.

Labour leader Neil Kinnock said the prime minister's decision showed she amounted to more than those who had recently turned against her.

But the outgoing Tory leader refused a request from Mr Kinnock to hold a general election so the British people could make their own choice about her successor.

In Context
The first challenge to Margaret Thatcher's authority had been from "stalking horse" candidate Sir Anthony Meyer a year earlier, but the prime minister won easily.

John Major succeeded as Tory leader five days after Mrs Thatcher's resignation.

She remained MP for Finchley until 1992, but even after leaving Westminster the Iron Lady continued to be a formidable force in British politics.

Her appearances at Conservative Party conferences overshadowed successive Tory leaders years after her resignation, and she frequently spoke out to lend her support to the Euro sceptics.

In 2002 Mrs Thatcher announced she was giving up public speaking on doctors' orders.


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