"Iron Lady" unveils her bronze statue

LONDON (Reuters) - Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” of politics, unveiled a silicon bronze statue of herself in parliament on Wednesday.

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“I might have preferred iron -- but bronze will do. It won’t rust,” Thatcher told a ceremony in the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons, the lower chamber of parliament.

“This time I hope, the head will stay on,” she joked to laughter and applause, referring to a marble statue of herself that was decapitated by a vandal in 2002.

The 7-foot-4-inch (2.2 metre) bronze work, by sculptor Antony Dufort, showed a younger-looking Thatcher with her right arm outstretched, as though she were addressing parliament.

Thatcher, now 81, said she was thrilled with it.

“Above all, I could not ask better company for it -- with Lloyd George, (Clement) Attlee and (Winston) Churchill -- three great prime ministers, one of them our greatest ever,” she said.

Statues of the other former leaders are also in the lobby.

Looking cheerful and relaxed in a gold and champagne-coloured two-piece suit, Thatcher was addressing about 300 people, including former cabinet colleagues.

A member of the Conservative Party, she held office from 1979 to 1990 as the country’s first female prime minister.

The statue -- a full-length likeness which cost 80,000 pounds and weighs 71 stones (451 kg) was commissioned by the Advisory Committee on Works of Art in 2003.