Howe and Lawson attack Thatcher

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 1993, 12:00am

TWO of Lady Thatcher's most senior former colleagues have delivered damning and deeply hostile verdicts on her memoirs, The Downing Street Years.

The attacks, from Lord Howe and Lord Lawson, both ex-chancellors of the exchequer and, in Lord Howe's case, a former foreign secretary, spectacularly fuel the controversy over the most discussed political memoirs for years.

Both dispute her version of events, which saw both of them resign from her final term of government before she, too, succumbed.

Lord Howe, in a review in yesterday's Financial Times , attacked Lady Thatcher's ''I must prevail syndrome'' and said she destroyed the ''troika'' of herself, Lord Howe and Lord Lawson.

''One cannot help feeling that her own reputation might be the greater today - indeed she might even still be in power - if she had not tested that relationship to destruction in pursuit of an ideological obsession,'' he said.

Lord Howe said he was happy to be cast by Lady Thatcher as the main villain within her cabinet and that he would explain his side of the story in his memoirs next year.

''My own feeling now is one of sorrow, rather than anger. Sadness that she should feel so deeply and so bitterly about the rights which others asserted to have their say. Sorrow that she could not understand, and - as her recent interviews suggest - is coming even less to understand, the danger in her mood of invincibility and intolerance towards any who dared to disagree,'' he wrote.

''For Margaret Thatcher, in her final years, there was no distinction to be drawn between person, government, party and nation. They merged in her mind in one seamless whole. Her interests were axiomatically those of Britain.

''Any criticism of her was an unpatriotic act. To see that tragedy for what it was and react accordingly was not to engage in treachery, but to do what I at least believed to be right for my party and my country. I have no regrets whatsoever about that.'' Lord Howe summed up his views by writing: ''Margaret Thatcher was beyond argument a great prime minister. Her tragedy is that she may be remembered less for the brilliance of her many achievements than for the tenacity, the recklessness, with which she later defended her own, increasingly uncompromising views.

''The insistence on the undivided sovereignty of her own opinion, dressed up as the nation's sovereignty, was her undoing.'' He said of the memoirs: ''Ironically, this characteristically candid book makes clear to almost everyone except its author the reasons that lie behind the tragedy, as well as the triumph, of Margaret Thatcher.'' In his review in the London Evening Standard on Friday night, Lord Lawson said he believed the Conservative government of the 1980s would will be viewed as the most successful British government of the latter half of the 20th century and that Lady Thatcher - ''its leader and inspiration'' - would go down as one of the greatest prime ministers.

''Sadly, her own keenly awaited account of it, although well worth reading, is unlikely to enhance that reputation.

''Despite some well-told passages - of which the best is her account of the Falklands War: arguably her finest hour - the overall flavour of this distinctly selective book can best be described as self-satisfaction only partially redeemed by passion, andreinforced by an unconcealed contempt for most of her colleagues most of the time.''