Revealed: Lady Thatcher’s FIVE attempts to secure knighthood for Jimmy Savile while her aides warned of his ‘strange and complex’ life
- Tory PM first asked he be made ‘Sir’ Jimmy in 1984, secret documents show
- Civil servants warned her off because of his boasts about his ‘lurid’ sex life
- He was finally knighted in 1990, Lady Thatcher’s final year in office
Margaret Thatcher made repeated attempts to win a knighthood for Jimmy Savile despite warnings about his ‘manner of life’.
The former prime minister made at least five requests for the now-disgraced DJ to be considered for the top honour, but senior civil servants voiced fears about his ‘strange and complex’ private life.
Previously unseen documents from the Cabinet Office reveal the extent of unease about the BBC presenter, almost three decades before he was finally unmasked as a predatory paedophile.
There is no suggestion that Baroness Thatcher or her aides were aware of his vile abuse of children as young as eight.
But the official documents show that while BBC bosses were apparently willing to ignore the presenter’s private life, Whitehall mandarins privately voiced their misgivings about handing him a knighthood.
The files, made public under the Freedom of Information Act, show Mrs Thatcher wanted to bestow the honour to reward Savile’s charity work.
But her aides feared a scandal would engulf him and expressed fears he would ‘exploit’ a knighthood and taint the entire honours system.
Mrs Thatcher eventually succeeded in her quest and the DJ and Jim’ll Fix It presenter was made Sir Jimmy Savile in 1990, a month after she left Downing Street.
The Cabinet Office correspondence showed her requests on his behalf began at least seven years earlier in 1983 – the year Savile boasted to journalists that he bedded women he met while running charity marathons.
Her request was vetoed by the honours committee, whose chairman Robert Armstrong said it was too soon after Savile’s ‘unfortunate revelations’.
Mrs Thatcher repeated her request in October that year but Mr Armstrong, who was also her Cabinet Secretary, voiced ‘continued misgivings’.
The civil servant said: ‘We remain worried … Fears have been expressed that Mr Savile might not be able to refrain from exploiting a knighthood in a way which brought the honours system into disrepute.’
Later requests were also refused, to Mrs Thatcher’s evident exasperation.
A letter from her private secretary Nigel Wicks in 1986 said: ‘She is most disappointed that Mr Savile’s name has not been recommended … She wonders how many more times his name is to be pushed aside.’
‘She (Lady Thatcher) wonders how many more times his name is to be pushed aside. She would therefore like you to consider further the inclusion of his name on the (honours) list’
– Lady Thatcher’s private secretary in letter to head of the civil service
The Government was spearheading a high-profile campaign to highlight the spread of Aids and Mr Armstrong said ‘sexual promiscuity’ like Savile’s should not be encouraged.
He wrote: ‘The case of Jimmy Savile is difficult. Mr Savile is a strange and complex man.
‘He deserves high praise for the lead he offers in giving quiet background help to the sick.
‘But he has made no attempt to deny the accounts in the press about his private life two or three years ago.’
Savile raised more than £30million for good causes, including £12million to rebuild the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, and he was given an OBE in 1971.
But misgivings about his private life meant civil servants continued to veto Mrs Thatcher’s requests for him to be given a higher award.
Mr Armstrong’s successor Robin Butler said the honours committee had rejected him for a knighthood again in 1987.
JIMMY SAVILE’S KNIGHTHOOD CAN’T BE REVOKED BECAUSE HE’S DEAD
Those given a knighthood are awarded lifetime membership to a ‘living order’ and the title no longer exists when the holder dies.
The TV host, who died aged 84, was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 1990 – an award which followed the OBE he was given in 1971.
Whitehall sources admitted they considered awarding him a posthumous knighthood – so he could then be stripped of it.
The Queen has the power to remove honours after they have been recommended by the forfeiture committee.
Last year Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, was stripped of his knighthood.
He wrote: ‘My Committee and I still fear that his manner of life – on his own confession – has been such that a high award for him would be an unhelpful signal when we are still having to grapple with an Aids problem which threatens to intensify. A knighthood for him would not benefit the honours system in the eyes of the public.’
Previous government correspondence has revealed that Savile wrote to Mrs Thatcher in 1980 and she invited him to lunch at Chequers.
She subsequently spent 11 consecutive New Year’s Eves with him and oversaw his eventual knighthood in 1990.
It was only after his death in 2011, aged 84, that he was finally unmasked as a predatory paedophile with more than 450 victims.
His decades of child abuse prompted calls for the Honours Forfeiture Committee to revoke his knighthood, but officials claimed it was impossible as the honour formally ended when he died. The Cabinet Office originally refused the Freedom of Information request to release the secret files, made by The Sun newspaper last October.
But the Information Commissioner’s Office upheld an appeal, ruling there was ‘compelling public interest’ to release the files from the 1980s.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘There is no indication in the papers that anything was known then about the allegations that have subsequently come to light about Jimmy Savile. The honours process was followed in accordance with the system at the time.’
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