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Declassified Documents Thatcher turned down a plane trip with a giant panda on her first visit to Reagan

MARGARET THATCHER refused to share a plane with a giant panda on her first trip to visit US president Ronald Reagan, newly declassified documents show.

The former PM argued that the cuddly animals brought bad luck to politicians, according to National Archives documents released yesterday under the 30-year rule.

Her mistrust of panda diplomacy was revealed in 1981 ahead of her US trip to see Mr Reagan, who had just been sworn in as president.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington had asked if it could borrow a male panda from London Zoo to mate with a female panda that the Chinese had given to the US.

Seizing on the request as a chance to promote the cash-strapped zoo, London Zoological Society president Lord Zuckerman contacted Downing Street suggesting the PM herself might like to preside over the handover, suggesting the PM might like to take the panda in the back of her Concorde when she flew to Washington.

Ms Thatcher, however, was having none of it. Her private secretary Clive Whitmore replied: “She has commented that she is not taking a panda with her: ‘Pandas and politicians are not happy omens’!”


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