The Celebrities Who Margaret Thatcher's Husband Wanted Banned From PM's Party

How could anyone not like Sir David Attenborough?
Margaret Thatcher with her husband Denis.
Margaret Thatcher with her husband Denis.
PA Archive/PA Images

New files just released reveal who Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis, vetted for a showbiz reception planned by Number 10, with question marks being placed next to the names of stars such as Sir Paul McCartney and Sir David Attenborough.

The reception, which was held in April 1988, was to be attended by the former Prime Minister and her husband.

It was planned as a thank you to the 45 celebrities who attended the Wembley Rally during her 1987 General Election campaign.

The former Tory leader decided more guests were needed and a longer list of “a possible 229 without spouses” was drawn up – including some suggestions from former culture secretary John Whittingdale, then political secretary to Thatcher.

“He was not then the grizzled elder statesman of the present day,” said Chris Collins, of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

“This was the young man whose evenings were spent watching Meat Loaf at the Hammersmith Odeon.

“His idea of a good party was to invite Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, the Jaggers.”

But Thatcher’s husband went through the proposed guestlist with a red pen, marking ticks against those he “would personally like to see included” and question marks beside “those who, I believe, do not help”.

The celebrity guestlist vetted by Denis Thatcher.
The celebrity guestlist vetted by Denis Thatcher.
The Churchill Archives Centre/PA

In a note to the Private Office, he wrote: “Whilst I accept of course that not everyone who comes to our receptions are necessarily on ‘our’ side I find it both unpleasant and embarrassing to entertain those who publicly insult the PM.

“This list therefore needs some careful checking in this regard.”

He explained that more than one red tick “means super person and a known friend and wonderful to have them here”.

His absolute favourite was comedian Eric Sykes, who got four ticks.

There were also ticks for Rolf Harris, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Dame Judi Dench, Ronnie Corbett and golfers Tony Jacklin and Nick Faldo, among others.

Question marks were placed beside names including Paul McCartney, Sir David Attenborough, Sebastian Coe, Shirley Bassey and magician Paul Daniels.

Collins said it was “unusual” for Denis Thatcher to involve himself to such an extent.

One explanation why the former Prime Minister’s spouse chose to involve himself was because of an earlier episode in which Thatcher considered suing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for libel over a show aired in January 1988.

Denis Thatcher criticised the show’s satirical story, entitled Thatcherism: The Final Solution, writing that never has “so foul a libel been published against anyone let alone a Prime Minister”.

Collins said: “The special coded system of question marks and ticks and crosses, that’s actually slightly unusual.

“I think perhaps he was in a somewhat irritable frame of mind and maybe the story about the BBC helps to explain that.

“Certainly the steam is coming out of his ears at various points in 1988 and this party he jumps on.”

In the end the longer guestlist was dropped in favour of the original 45 plus the Parliamentary Skiing Team and the British Winter Olympics Squad.

Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, who competed in the ski jump at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, in February 1988, does not appear on the list.

He said he was invited to the reception but could not attend due to a clash with a charity event.

Collins said documents do not reveal why “suddenly they changed tack” from plans for the longer guestlist.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation is gradually overseeing the release of her private files through the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge.


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