It was an icon of its era: a weapon Britain's first woman Prime Minister wielded against opponents and unfortunate Ministers alike.

Margaret Thatcher's handbag was such a symbol of her single-minded determination that the verb 'to handbag' even entered the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

And now a new statue of Lady Thatcher - commissioned at huge cost to stand outside Parliament - has been mothballed... because the sculptor has failed to include the late Premier's legendary accessory.

Margaret Thatcher's daughter Carol has blocked plans to place the sculpture of her mother alongside statues of such distinguished figures as Churchill and Lloyd George because the Iron Lady isn't carrying a handbag.


The 10ft bronze sculpture was completed last year but has been left collecting dust in a top-secret storage facility.

The statue was proposed shortly after Baroness Thatcher's death in 2013 when London Mayor Boris Johnson suggested a public subscription to place a statue in London's Parliament Square in memory of the former Premier.

An appeal raised £300,000 to fund the work and its future maintenance, but the project hit problems after the work was commissioned.

A previous statue made of Lady Thatcher does feature a handbag. Photo / Getty Images
A previous statue made of Lady Thatcher does feature a handbag. Photo / Getty Images

Once she was aware of the design Carol Thatcher fired off a scathing letter detailing what she perceived to be the statue's faults - namely, its lack of a handbag.

And Mr Johnson insists he won't approve a planning application for the statue to be erected without the Thatcher family's full approval.

Embarrassed organisers are refusing to reveal the name of the sculptor responsible for the vital omission.

Ivan Saxton, co-founder of the Public Memorials Appeal Trust, which raised the funds for the statue, told The Mail on Sunday last night: 'I won't reveal the sculptor until the day of the unveiling.'

Mr Saxton added that he will fight tooth and nail to get the controversial statue erected, adding: 'The statue will go up - there's no doubt about that.'

Speaking of Carol Thatcher, he said: 'There was talk that she didn't like it because it isn't made of iron, but she doesn't mind that it's not made of iron. Carol's upset that there's no handbag.'

And he argued that it is Mr Johnson who is at fault over the impasse.

"The Mayor sent a man from City Hall to scout around for a suitable site for the statue as soon as she died - he was in favour of a statue. He gave up," said Mr Saxton.

"The law is not on Boris Johnson's side - there is no law that says the family must give their approval. That's his law."

But a spokesman for Boris Johnson said: "The Mayor made it clear when it was first announced that he would need the family's support to get City Hall approval and planning permission."

And a Westminster source said: 'It was fairly irresponsible to commission it without checking with Carol first. It shouldn't have got this far. It appears that, just like her mother, Carol Thatcher is not for turning.'

Could a handbag be attached to the new statue? One leading sculptor thinks it might be possible.

"You could always weld a bronze handbag on, but it's not usual," says Martin Jennings, Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.

"I would have thought the artist would have a lot to say about an alteration that late in the process. It had better be good if it's going in Parliament Square. There are some wonderful statues there."

Carol Thatcher, who now lives in Swiss ski resort Klosters with her ski-instructor partner Marco, 15 years her junior, declined to comment on the statue last night.

A spokesman for her twin brother Sir Mark Thatcher said: "Mark has not made contact with the appeal."

A statue of the Iron Lady already stands in the House of Commons lobby - put up during her lifetime - but statues in Parliament Square are generally only erected at least a decade after the person's death, unless Westminster Council decides to make an exception.