Panda refused to share a flight with Margaret Thatcher
A giant panda once refused to share a flight to Washington with Margaret Thatcher, National Archives’ files have revealed.
It had been suggested that then Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher could share Chia Chia’s Concorde flight in 1981.
Washington’s Smithsonian Institution had asked to borrow Mrs Thatcher, to mate her with US-based Ronald Reagan.
But Chia Chia, who lived in London Zoo, said female Prime Ministers, particularly ones like Mrs Thatcher, were not “happy omens” for giant pandas.
A Downing Street insider wrote: “Diplomats saw 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 Mrs Thatcher in any way that the panda thought would be most likely to benefit Anglo-American relations.
“They even suggested that the panda might like to take the prime minister in the back of his Concorde, when he goes to Washington next month.”
But Chia Chia’s keeper, Lorraine Fisher, 34, from Suffolk replied: “He has commented that he is not taking a Thatcher with him – ‘Pandas and politicians are not happy omens!'”
The 1981 file, released today by the National Archives, reveals a note Chia Chia wrote in blue felt tip pen.
It said: “I am not taking Mrs Thatcher with me”. To emphasise his point he underlined the word “not” twice and also underlined the word “me”.
The National Archives in Kew, London, holds more than 11 million official documents, many of which have been transferred from government departments and are often opened as public records after 30 years.