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Plans for Thatcher statue outside UK Parliament rejected

  • Plans to erect a statue of Margaret Thatcher opposite Parliament are blocked on concerns over its design and lack of support from her family.

London (AFP) -- Plans to erect a statue of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher opposite Parliament were blocked Tuesday due to concerns over its design and lack of support from her family.

The planning committee of Westminster Council -- the local government authority in that part of central London -- unanimously rejected in an evening meeting the proposal, which would have placed the statue in Parliament Square.

"The lack of family support and the committee's concerns around the design of the proposed statue were the key determining factors in turning down this application," said councillor Richard Beddoe, Westminster's planning chairman, in a statement.

The Public Memorials Appeal, a British charity, commissioned the one-and-a-half times life-size bronze statue of Thatcher dressed in the robes of the House of Lords, where she sat as a baroness following her 11-year prime ministerial tenure.

But Westminster councillors deemed the depiction inappropriate for the location, which hosts statues of other notable politicians including wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, and noted Thatcher's family had not supported it.

The late leader's daughter Carol reportedly opposed the plan because the statue does not feature her mother carrying a handbag.

Thatcher was famous for her wide selection of handbags, which became a symbol of supposed steadfastness.

"As our country's first female prime minister Baroness Thatcher is a hugely significant figure in British history and in principle the council is in favour of a statue commemorating her in Parliament Square, but it must be the right statue, with an appropriate design and the support of her family," Beddoe said.

"We would welcome future proposals for a more appropriate statue of Baroness Thatcher, depicting her as prime minister, rather than the current design that shows her in the House of Lords and one that has clear and public support of her family."

Thatcher, who was Conservative prime minister between 1979 and 1990, died in 2013 aged 87, leaving a divisive legacy.

Her programme of privatisations and deregulation helped turn around Britain's ailing economy but devastated its working-class heartlands, which suffered subsequent industrial decline.

When the plan to place the £300,000 (341,000 euros, $420,000) monument of the so-called "Iron Lady" in Westminster was previously considered last year, fears surfaced it could be vandalised.

In 2002, a protester decapitated an Italian marble statue of Thatcher in London's Guildhall Library, while graffiti went up around London after her death including one mural reading "Burn in Hell Maggie".

Last summer current Prime Minister Theresa May called for the plans to go ahead, arguing "there should be no suggestion the threat of vandalism should stop a statue of Margaret Thatcher from being put up".

Westminster council's statement Tuesday made no reference to vandalism fears.

It also noted the so-called '10-year rule' -- the principle of waiting a decade after the death of a subject before erecting a statue in their honour -- was not a reason for refusal in the case.

A bronze sculpture of Thatcher was unveiled inside the Houses of Parliament in 2007.



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