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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iron Lady Hammers On Major

LONDON -- Margaret Thatcher launched a withering attack Thursday on her successor as Britain's prime minister, John Major, for failing to carry the flame of her Conservative right-wing revolution.


In a speech bound to heighten tensions in a deeply divided ruling party, Thatcher dismissed as "baloney" the idea that the Conservatives were in political trouble because they had lurched to the right.


"We are unpopular, above all, because the middle classes -- and all those who aspire to join the middle classes -- feel that they no longer have the incentives and opportunities they expect from a Conservative government," Thatcher said in her first major domestic speech since she was ousted in November 1990.


Thatcher was delivering a memorial lecture in honor of Keith Joseph, one of her longest-serving cabinet members and a political mentor, to a right-wing think tank in London.


Her return to the political fray comes as the Conservatives agonize over how to claw back the Labour party's huge poll lead in time for the next election, now no more than 16 months away.


A poll in Thursday's Guardian newspaper showed just 26 percent of voters supported the Conservatives, down from 31 percent in December. Labour stayed steady at 48 percent.


In her typically forthright manner, Thatcher said it would make no political or economic sense for the Conservatives to try to fight Labour leader Tony Blair on the center ground he has all but made his own.


"Certainly anyone who believes that salvation is to be found further away from the basic Conservative principles which prevailed in the 1980s -- small government, a property-owning democracy, tax cuts, deregulation and national sovereignty -- is profoundly mistaken," Thatcher said.


Thatcher, widely known as the Iron Lady, admitted that some discontent was inevitable when a party had been in power so long.


"A constant struggle is required to ensure that long-serving governments don't run out of steam. I always regarded it as necessary to combine my role as prime minister with that of chief stoker so as to keep up the pressure," Thatcher said.


But, without naming him, Thatcher implied that Major had to carry the blame for veering from the trail she blazed during her 11 years as prime minister.