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Revealed: Disgraced TV star's charm offensive with ex-PM Margaret Thatcher

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pictured in 1980 with TV host Jimmy Savile.

Story highlights

  • Hand-written letter from UK National Arhives shows Jimmy Savile's admiration for Margaret Thatcher
  • Savile asked Thatcher if the government would consider a grant for the hospital as "goodwill gesture"
  • National Archives papers also show that the UK's former prime minister was surprised by the invasion of the Falkland Islands
  • "It was such a stupid thing to do," Thatcher told a Falklands war review committee

Disgraced TV star Jimmy Savile lobbied former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for government money to help fund a hospital unit, newly released archive documents reveal.

UK TV host Savile died last year aged 84 but police are now investigating claims of sexual abuse during his long broadcasting career, saying they are dealing with about 300 apparent victims -- mostly girls who were in their mid-teens at the time.

Who was Jimmy Savile?

The papers released Friday include a hand-written note thanking the then prime minster for a lunch invitation and shows Savile's familiarity with, and admiration for Margaret Thatcher.

"My girl patients pretended to be madly jealous and wanted to know what you wore and what you ate," Savile writes, adding: "They all love you. Me too!!"

In 1980 Savile was trying to raise £10 million ($16 million) for Stoke Mandeville Hospital and asked Thatcher's advice about tax deductions for charity.

She wrote back to express her own interest in the subject and later to inform him that the rules for charity donations had been changed in the budget, explaining that "the period for which covenants to charity must be capable of running is being reduced from seven years to four so that people will no longer have to commit themselves to such a long time."

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Documents released by the UK's National Archives further reveal that they met on several occasions. A note from a prime minister's aide shows that in 1981 Savile asked her if the government would consider a grant for the hospital as a "goodwill gesture" to all the people who had donated.

Subsequent memos demonstrate that government advisers were sensitive about a financial commitment and pressed the prime minister to let them know if she had made Savile a promise about offering money for Stoke Mandeville or agreed to appear on his TV show "Jim'll fix it."

Read more: Inquiry slams BBC managers over Savile probe response

The government eventually agreed to give £500,000 ($800,000) to help rebuild the hospital's spinal injuries unit.

Other documents released Friday under the UK's 30-year rule detail the handling of the conflict in the southern Atlantic in 1982 after Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands.

Testimony in the archive reveals Thatcher's surprise at the invasion, describing it as "the worst... moment of my life."

In evidence given to the Falkland Islands Review Committee in October 1982, and some months after the war ended, Thatcher said there were no warning signs from Argentina since its 1977 statement saying there would be talks.

"I never, never expected the Argentines to invade the Falklands head-on," she told the committee. "It was such a stupid thing to do, as events happened, such a stupid thing even to contemplate doing.

"I saw on March 3 that we must make contingency plans. Even then I did not think it would happen. The first time that I actually realized was on the Wednesday before... but I never believed that they would invade," the released papers quote her as saying.

Read more: Scandal-hit BBC appoints new director general

The files also show that Thatcher's cabinet was trying to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis through the help of then U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, whilst also preparing a military response.

Thatcher made clear that the UK government would negotiate with Argentina but that "the immediate requirement was for Argentine troops to leave the Falkland Islands and for British administration to be restored. The prime minister added that she would be "guided by the wishes of the islanders."

Documents show the UK government also refused to give an undertaking that the military task force (at that time on its way to the south Atlantic) would be halted "much less turned back" during a period of any Argentine military withdrawal.

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