The extent to which leading Conservatives under-estimated Margaret Thatcher, both as a politician and a woman, is laid bare in a new BBC Two series charting her rise to power.

Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, who went on to serve under the UK’s first female prime minister, told Thatcher: A Very British Revolution that the idea of her one day leading the country seemed “incredible” to them back in the early 1970s.

“If you’d told me this woman would become prime minister, I mean no dislike of her at all, I’d have thought that was ridiculous,” Mr Clarke told a documentary marking the 40th anniversary of Mrs Thatcher’s first election victory in 1979.

Reflecting on Mrs Thatcher’s rise to prominence and surprise election as Tory leader in 1975,

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