The Ironing Lady: Files reveal Thatcher's expenses fears

30th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher offered to buy her own ironing board after being appalled at the refurbishment costs for her official residence when she was elected, new files showed Friday.

In a row reminiscent of the expenses scandal that rocked British politics in 2009, the Iron Lady acted after details were leaked to the media of the £1,836 cost of refitting Number 10 Downing Street after she took office in 1979.

Adjusted for inflation, this is the equivalent of about £7,250 in today's money (about $11,200 dollars, 8,650 euros).

On a memo accompanying details of the refurbishment, an aide to Thatcher wrote that some of the costs were "impossible to believe", to which she replied: "So do I! I could use my own (linen) and my own crockery."

In a separate note, she wrote: "I will pay for the ironing board and other things. We've sufficient linen for the one bedroom we use. The rest can go back into stock. MT."

The notes, revealed as part of a mass release of confidential government documents from the National Archives, also show Thatcher's concern that her expenses could be used by her political opponents.

Three decades later, a huge scandal broke out when a British newspaper published details of lawmakers' expenses, revealing how politicians charged the taxpayer for everything from duck houses to flatscreen televisions.

A number of lawmakers were subsequently sent to jail for fraudulent claims.

Thatcher, dubbed the Iron Lady by the Soviets because of her uncompromising stance, was Conservative prime minister between 1979 and 1990.

© 2011 AFP

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