Despite her own fall from power in a party revolt, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher this week showed she still has plenty of clout, managing to put her stamp on who would be chosen to become prime minister in her place.
Named as Conservative Party leader to succeed Thatcher was John Major, chancellor of the exchequer in the Thatcher Cabinet - similar to U.S. secretary of the treasury. While he is her hand-picked successor, it's already clear he won't be be a political carbon copy of Thatcher.Back in the early 1980s, while still at the height of her power, Thatcher quietly decided on who her successor ought to be. She picked Major, a then-nearly unknown member of Parliament from humble beginnings who had worked himself into business and political success.
After serving in several minor Cabinet posts, Major was appointed foreign secretary in July 1989 and chancellor of the exchequer three months later - moves that clearly indicated he was Thatcher's heir apparent.
In the Conservative Party vote this week, former defense secretary Michael Heseltine was considered the early favorite, partly because he was a popular public figure. But he was quickly eclipsed in a five-day campaign for the leadership by Major.
It was Heseltine's challenge of Thatcher that led to her failure to gather enough party support and her subsequent resignation announcement. The outcome of that challenge apparently caused many of Thatcher's supporters to feel they had two reasons to vote for Major - he was The Iron Lady's first choice and he wasn't Heseltine. Finishing third was Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.
Now that the issue of Conservative Party leadership is settled, Thatcher has resigned and Major has been named prime minister. The ruling Conservative Party has until 1992 before it must call an election, but it could opt for an earlier vote. The party may do so since polls indicate Conservatives could bolster their already heavy majority with an election now.
The youthful Major - at 47 he would be the youngest British prime minister since the 19th century - has indicated he will "review" the unpopular "poll tax," a flat head tax on all adults regardless of wealth. It has replaced the traditional property tax and is widely hated. The poll tax is one of the reasons for Thatcher's slip from power.
However, Major has the same views as Thatcher regarding Britain's place in the European Community. Thatcher has been reluctant to bind Britain too closely to the idea of a United States of Europe. That independence has been seen as a stubborn refusal to go along with the desirable and inevitable integration of Europe and was also partly a factor in her fall.
Major - at least early on - will probably do more listening and be more open to advice and counsel than Thatcher, who always knew what she wanted and did it, no matter what. But as he adjusts to the power of the prime minister post, he will grow to take charge as his own man.
However, it is doubtful he will be able to wield the kind of power that Thatcher did. Such historically commanding figures don't usually follow in sequence at the helm of nations.