THE TURBULENT YEARS, by Kenneth Baker (Faber and Faber, $255). THERE are some who believe Lady Thatcher was Britain's best prime minister yet and that, if there was any justice, she would still be in office. For them, those who helped bring the former premier down in the heady days of November 1990 were small weak men who failed to understand Lady Thatcher's greatness, and have done so much to contribute to Britain's decline. Kenneth Baker, one of Lady Thatcher's closest ministerial confidants during her final years in office, falls wholeheartedly into that camp. So it is hardly surprising his memoirs, The Turbulent Years, are replete with venom for the actions of those who took part in the former premier's downfall, including Governor Chris Patten. Mr Baker, Mr Patten's predecessor as Conservative Party chairman, sees it as inexcusable that fellow ministers dared to doubt Lady Thatcher's ability to survive after she had failed to gather enough votes for a clear victory in the first round of the Conservative leadership contest. The fact that the Governor and four of his Cabinet colleagues gathered to discuss the results of that ballot is seen as proof of a conspiracy to unseat her. ''The clear impression I got was this group were searching for an executioner,'' claims Mr Baker, who stumbled on them in an antechamber of the House of Commons. Then, when Mr Patten and others trooped into Lady Thatcher's office less than 24 hours later to tell her she could not win, Mr Baker sees all his suspicions proved right. ''While daggers were not issued, guns not loaded, gunpowder barrels not installed, instead regulation grey suits were issued for the solemn procession of those who were to see the leader the following day with their avowals of total loyalty accompanied by frank assessments of her inevitable defeat. Of such stuff is modern political assassination made.'' Mr Baker is not totally blind, admitting the former premier made mistakes that contributed to her fall. He recounts how she needlessly provoked the resignation of former foreign secretary Lord Howe, well-known in Hong Kong as the architect of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Not only did Lady Thatcher deprive Lord Howe of the country house he adored, but also vindictively attacked him in cabinet, and so, on such a minor matter as a loss of face, did the challenge that brought down modern Britain's longest-serving prime minister begin. Nonetheless, Baker's general attitude is one of adulation towards a prime minister he believed could do no wrong on major issues. Those who failed to support her, such as ''The Frightened Five'' that included Mr Patten, are seen almost as having committed a crime. Even those judged not to have supported Lady Thatcher actively enough - in other words, as much as Mr Baker - come in for a spot of criticism. John Major, who effectively forced Mr Baker out of the cabinet last year by offering him the junior position of Welsh Secretary, was always thought to have supported Lady Thatcher to the last. But the new memoirs try to rewrite history by accusing him ofhesitating to sign the former premier's nomination papers, or appear on television in her support. Yet the evidence is so thin as to seem politically contrived, prompting some suggestions in Britain that Mr Baker is using his memoirs to try to position himself for a political comeback, ahead of the publication of Lady Thatcher's explosive autobiography later this autumn. ''He is not writing as a frank and fearless diarist. This is a carefully written up account of events in which Ken is trying to make himself, however implausible this may sound, the head of the Thatcherite rump so that, if there is a change of leader, hebecomes the king-maker,'' said one senior cabinet minister. In fact, the explanation may be far simpler than that, with Mr Baker out to settle a few scores. Some colleagues, such as former chief whip Timothy Renton, come in for repeated criticism over the most minor of matters. Others, such as former chancellor Lord Lawson, are blamed for failing to fully support the now-scrapped poll tax, that did much to blight Mr Baker's career and played a large part in bringing Lady Thatcher down. Indeed, so involved has the score-settling among cabinet ministers of the Thatcher years now become, that Mr Baker even devotes space to a rebuttal of accusations in Lord Lawson's recent memoirs over Mr Patten's behaviour on the poll tax. No doubt, the further autobiographies in the pipeline will see more such allegations and counter-allegations. In the meantime, any political connoisseur interested in one man's view of why the former premier could do virtually no wrong will find Mr Baker's offerings of interest. But rather than investing in a pale imitation general readers would be better advised to save their money until the real thing emerges: with the publication of Lady Thatcher's memoirs later this autumn.