Archives unveil Margaret Thatcher's refusal to share flight with panda

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Photo credit: Getty

A release of new papers from the UK's National Archive has revealed former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's uncooperative stance on panda diplomacy.

The newly released papers from the national archives show Ms Thatcher was asked to allow adult panda Chia-Chia to fly to Washington with her during a state visit in 1981, but she refused.

The plan was concocted by London Zoo's president Lord Zuckerman, who wrote to the Prime Minster via her Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong.

He suggested perhaps Ms Thatcher could boost the zoo's profile by helping take Chia-Chia to Washington for a planned romantic dalliance with one of Washington Zoo's female pandas.

Chia-Chia. Photo credit: Getty

Lord Zuckerman said if Ms Thatcher brought the panda across on her Concorde flight, it could also help strengthen Anglo-American relations.

Writing on top of her secretary's notes, Ms Thatcher made her unwillingness clear, underlining several words for emphasis.

"I am not taking a panda with me," she wrote.

"Pandas and politicians are not happy omens!"

Archives unveil Margaret Thatcher's refusal to share flight with panda
Photo credit: UK National Archives

Chia-Chia did eventually make it to Washington under his own steam, flying in a special 747 cargo jet.

Unfortunately according to the New York Times, once he arrived it was clear he did not get along with his intended mate and the trip was ultimately unsuccessful.

Lord Zuckerman tried one more time a year later to request Ms Thatcher's help with panda diplomacy, this time with bringing a fertile female to London Zoo, and was similarly dismissed.