The three contenders to succeed Margaret Thatcher as prime minister are working hard to woo uncommitted Conservative members of Parliament through newspaper and television interviews.

The candidates each portray themselves as the one best able to unite the party after its most rancourous feud in decades, one which forced Thatcher to announce her resignation last week.All three also praised Thatcher, embraced most of her policies but distanced themselves from the poll tax - a controversial new local tax that prompted massive demonstrations and helped make Thatcher the most unpopular prime minister since public opinion polling began here in 1937.

Tuesday, the 372 Conservative members of Parliament will vote by secret ballot for leader of the party, who then automatically becomes prime minister.

A batch of public opinion polls released Sunday showed the Conservatives would beat the Labor Party in the next general election if Michael Heseltine, a former Defense Secretary, or John Major, the chancellor of the exchequer, led the party, but the race would be closer if Douglas Hurd, the foreign secretary, became prime minister.

Thatcher has not endorsed any of the three candidates, but before the recent political crisis Major was considered her heir apparent.