TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION : PAST CONTESTS : Thatcher's Fatal Mistake
Rentoul, John, The Independent (London, England)
The complicated rules of Conservative leadership contests caught Margaret Thatcher out in 1990. The election was triggered by Michael Heseltine's candidacy - he was nominated by Sir Neil Macfarlane, who retired at the 1992 election, and Sir Peter Tapsell, MP for Lindsey East.
In the first ballot, she cleared one hurdle - she won the votes of a majority of Tory MPs - but failed to clear the second hurdle, the requirement to beat Michael Heseltine by 56 votes. Required to win 187 votes, she won 204, but Mr Heseltine was 52 votes behind on 152, with 16 abstentions.
She was just four votes short of outright victory - if only two Heseltine supporters had been persuaded to vote for her, she would have held on. She had decided to go to Paris for a European summit meeting, a decision widely seen as a mistake, and came down the steps of the British Embassy in front of the cameras to insist that she would fight on in the second round.
After famously repeating "I fight on, I fight to win" when she returned to Downing Street, she withdrew from the contest two days later, allowing members of the Cabinet to enter the race.
For the second ballot, John Major and Douglas Hurd joined the contest. …