31 Dec 2011

Frugality marks Thatcher years at No 10

9:09 pm on 31 December 2011

Britain's former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was so worried about how public money was being spent on her, that she offered to pay for her own ironing board in 1981.

This has been made public in government files released from the British National Archives.

Ms Thatcher's biographer Charles Moore says her ironing board suggestion is no surprise as she was always very alert as to how something would be seen by the public.

He says she would have been conscious that receiving a £19 ironing board bought with public funds would be damaging.

"She genuinely was interested in household economy and getting a good price, and unlike male politicians she knew what those prices were," Mr Moore says, "so as soon as she saw £19 for an ironing board in 1981 she would have thought 'My goodness that's an absurd price - you shop around and you can get it for half that!'"

The BBC says the archive material shows Mrs Thatcher kept a very close eye on the costs of furnishing her official residence at No 10, questioning any costs she thought too high and insisting any spending should be as "economical as possible".