Why did Margaret Thatcher's husband Denis want to block Paul McCartney from showbiz reception?

Margaret Thatcher’s husband Denis queried Sir Paul McCartney’s inclusion on the list (John Stillwell/ PA) Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Margaret Thatcher’s husband Denis vetted a celebrity guestlist for a showbusiness reception planned by Number 10, marking it with a red pen and questioning the inclusion of Paul McCartney, newly released documents show.

The reception in April 1988, to be attended by Thatcher and her husband, was planned as a thank you to the 45 celebrities who attended the Wembley Rally during her 1987 General Election campaign.

Thatcher decided more guests were needed and a longer list of “a possible 229 without spouses” was drawn up – including some suggestions from former culture secretary John Whittingdale, then political secretary to Thatcher.

The celebrity guestlist vetted by Denis Thatcher Credit: The Churchill Archives Centre/PA

“He was not then the grizzled elder statesman of the present day,” said Chris Collins, of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. “This was the young man whose evenings were spent watching Meat Loaf at the Hammersmith Odeon.

“His idea of a good party was to invite Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, the Jaggers.”

However, Denis Thatcher went through the proposed guestlist with a red pen, marking ticks against those he “would personally like to see included” and question marks beside “those who, I believe, do not help”.

Paul McCartney, seen in 1988, alongside Sting. Credit: PA

In a note to the Private Office, he wrote: “Whilst I accept of course that not everyone who comes to our receptions are necessarily on ‘our’ side I find it both unpleasant and embarrassing to entertain those who publicly insult the PM.

“This list therefore needs some careful checking in this regard.”

He explained that more than one red tick “means super person and a known friend and wonderful to have them here”.

His absolute favourite was comedian Eric Sykes, who got four ticks.

Veteran comic actor Eric Sykes was given four ticks by Denis Thatcher Credit: Andrew Parsons/ PA

There were also ticks for Rolf Harris, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Dame Judi Dench, Ronnie Corbett and golfers Tony Jacklin and Nick Faldo, among others.

Question marks were placed beside names including Paul McCartney, Sir David Attenborough, Sebastian Coe, Shirley Bassey and magician Paul Daniels.

Former culture secretary John Whittingdale suggested some celebrities to invite to the showbusiness reception Credit: PA

Mr Collins said it was “unusual” for Denis Thatcher to involve himself to such lengths, and that this may be explained by an earlier episode in which Thatcher considered suing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for libel over a show aired in January 1988.

Denis Thatcher criticised the show’s satirical story, entitled Thatcherism: The Final Solution, writing that never has “so foul a libel been published against anyone let alone a Prime Minister”.

Mr Collins said: “The special coded system of question marks and ticks and crosses, that’s actually slightly unusual.

“I think perhaps he was in a somewhat irritable frame of mind and maybe the story about the BBC helps to explain that.

“Certainly the steam is coming out of his ears at various points in 1988 and this party he jumps on.”

In the end the longer guestlist was dropped in favour of the original 45 plus the Parliamentary Skiing Team and the British Winter Olympics Squad.

Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, who competed in the ski jump at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, in February 1988, does not appear on the list.

Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards did not appear on the guestlist Credit: PA Archive

He said he was invited to the reception but could not attend due to a clash with a charity event.

Mr Collins said documents do not reveal why “suddenly they changed tack” from plans for the longer guestlist.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation is gradually overseeing the release of her private files through the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge.

Members of the public will be able to browse the archive from Monday by visiting www.margaretthatcher.org