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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Former British PM warned off visit by Richard Nixon

Government papers reveal concerns about visit to 10 Downing Street amid prospect of hostile reception for Donald Trump in 2018

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned against inviting disgraced former US president Richard Nixon to her official residence at Downing Street, according to newly released government files.

Papers released by the UK’s National Archives show diplomats said the White House would be “unhelpfully” surprised if she agreed to receive him.

The release of the documents come amid brewing controversy over a planned visit by Donald Trump to the UK, with activists planning demonstrations against his climate change policies and sexually-charged comments about women during the campaign for the presidency.

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The warning to Mrs Thatcher about Mr Nixon’s visit came in April 1980, six years after his resignation over the Watergate scandal when one of her party’s lawmakers asked if she would see him during a forthcoming visit to London.

After consulting the British ambassador in Washington, Malcolm Adams at the Foreign Office advised Downing Street that there was "no overriding objection" if Mrs Thatcher wished to meet to him.

He added: "The ambassador pointed out that Mr Nixon is as much out of touch in the US as he is controversial and he doubts whether the prime minister would learn much from him. In the US, more might be read into a call at No 10 than was intended.

"To judge from our experience when soundings were taken before Mr Nixon's last visit to Britain the US administration would not presume to advise us how to respond; but the ambassador considers that they, and senior Republicans, would be surprised, and unhelpfully so, if the prime minister received him."

Despite the advice, Mrs Thatcher – the premier from 1979 to 1990 - agreed to a private appointment with the ex-presidentafter a further approach two years later.