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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 16:54 GMT
Baroness back on photo-op trail
By Adam Fleming
BBC political reporter

Lady Thatcher meeting baby
Lady Thatcher smiled when reminded of campaigns past

It seems that politicians never lose their instinct for a photo-op with a baby - even if they have been out of office for nearly two decades.

Former prime minister Baroness Thatcher was supposed to be naming the new infirmary at the Royal Hospital Chelsea for retired servicemen.

But the Iron Lady could not resist the urge to cuddle up to a passing newborn.

Natalie Brooks and her 19-week-old daughter Octavia were taking a mid-morning stroll around the hospital's garden when they met the former Tory leader.

"I can't really remember what I said to her. Something about how we needed her back to help run the country," said Ms Brookes.

I asked Lady Thatcher if it reminded her of the campaign trail. She merely smiled.


She had spent part of the morning chatting to some of the retired military men who will benefit from the new 35m Margaret Thatcher Infirmary when it is completed later this year.

Lady Thatcher is a long-standing supporter of the hospital and she worships at its chapel.

She said: "I am deeply honoured to give my name to such a prestigious building."

The old boys love her
Karen Smith, matron

The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded in 1692 to provide a home for old and injured servicemen - the famous Chelsea Pensioners, who are instantly recognisable from their crimson coats and three-pointed hats. Today 300 former soldiers live there.

David Poulteney, 79, met the former prime minister during her visit. "We don't talk about politics in the army," he said. "But Mrs Thatcher was the greatest."

The Matron of the hospital, Karen Smith, said of Lady Thatcher: "The old boys love her. She is an appropriate person for the infirmary to be named after."

In the next few years, the new wing will allow the Royal Hospital Chelsea to admit female members of the armed forces for the first time.

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