Thatcher needn't lose her head over Commons statue

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The Independent Online

Baroness Thatcher is to find her place of honour in the Members' Lobby of the House of Commons, in spite of losing her head.

An all-party group of MPs has decided to order a replica of the £150,000 statue that was beheaded by a protester.

The MPs had considered restoring the head at a cost of £10,000 but they came to the same view as the judge at the trial of the protester who said it would "never be quite the same again".

The attack on the statue while it was on show at the Guildhall led to a national debate about what to do with the damaged sculpture.

Critics of the former Conservative prime minister said the MPs should leave the head off, as a lasting gesture of defiance to her leadership.

However, The Independent has learnt that the committee, chaired by the Labour MP Tony Banks, has commissioned a second identical statue from the sculptor, Neil Simmons.

A plinth at the Commons has been waiting for more than a year for the statue. When it was commissioned by the MPs, the rules of the Commons did not allow the display of a statue of a living politician in the members' lobby.

The rules were changed to allow Lady Thatcher's statue, complete with handbag, to have a place of honour in the members' lobby near that of her hero, Sir Winston Churchill.

However, while the MPs were waiting for the ban to be lifted, it was put on show at the Guildhall art gallery where it was attacked on 3 July, 2002, by Paul Kelleher.

Mr Kelleher, who was jailed for three months in February 2003, bought a Slazenger V600 cricket bat to hit the head of the statue. But when the bat "pinged" off the head, Kelleher picked up a crowd barrier and beheaded it.

He was found guilty of criminal damage at Southwark Crown Court after telling the court he was sorry that "my frustrations led me to this".

It is not clear whether the MPs are paying another £150,000 in taxpayers' cash for the second sculpture. The original, with its head in place, is to be left at Guildhall.