Declassified documents show Margaret Thatcher refused to share her plane with a panda

The Iron Lady of Britain had a thing about pandas, apparently. She didn’t like them. She didn’t trust the ursines either.

Newly-released government documents about Margaret Thatcher released this week show that the former British prime minister, known for her steely resolve and unwillingness to turn was not keen on pandas.

Memos exchanged between Thatcher and her staff showed the former PMs reluctance to share a flight or a proposed public appearance with the pandas.

The pandas were to be part of what was known as “panda diplomacy” between London and Washington. The London Zoo lent its male panda to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington in 1981 to breed with its female panda.

Solly Zuckerman, the president of the London Zoological Society, wrote a note recommending the prime minister be involved in the transaction.

Sir Robert Armstrong, Thatcher’s cabinet secretary, wrote:

Lord Zuckerman sees this as a signal demonstration of the special relationship and would be very happy to time the announcement of the loan or the delivery of the panda in any way that the prime minister thought would be most likely to benefit Anglo-American relations.”

Armstrong added that it was suggested by the Zoological Society that Thatcher accompany the pandas.

The prime minister might like to take the panda in the back of her Concorde, when she goes to Washington next month.”

Thatcher wanted no part in that.

Clive Whitmore, the prime minister’s private secretary responded, writing that Thatcher “has commented that she is not taking a panda with her.”

The quote he got from Thatcher was:

Pandas and politicians are not happy omens!'”

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