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Monday, 4 May 2009

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie...

-- Out, Out, Out! What's that? She turned into a man and re-named herself Tony Blair? The cunning minx...

30 years ago today (4th May) Margaret Thatcher walked through the doors of 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister, quoting St. Francis of Assisi. As far as I'm concerned, she totally failed to bring harmony where there was discord, and any hope where there was despair was ruthlessly crushed for anyone who was not a Fat Cat business tycoons or bank manager. But of course, opinions differ about Maggie, scourge of miners, students, pensioners... oh, all right, I'll come quietly, officer...

Noting the divisions she fostered, London's Cartoon Museum has asked two veterans of the ideological battles of the Thatcher years – Kenneth Baker, who served in her cabinet from 1985 until 1990 and is vice-chairman of Museum and Steve Bell, the Guardian’s chief cartoonist – to select some of their favourite cartoons of Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, her colleagues, her critics and her adversaries. (The opposing views she generarated are perfectly captured in the featured cartoon above caricatured by Charles Griffin, via Bloghorn)

The London-based Museum's latest exhibition shows how she has been both loved and loathed by politicians, the press and the public, featuring a selection of nearly 100 cartoons by 35 cartoonists from across the political spectrum. Steve Bell, Michael Cummings, Stanley Franklin, Nicholas Garland, Les Gibbard, Charles Griffin, Jak, Peter Kennard, Gerald Scarfe, Posy Simmonds and Ralph Steadman all feature in an exhibition that chronicles her rise to power, the Falklands war, the miners’ strike, privatisation, the poll tax, Europe, her eventual downfall and her long term impact on both the Conservative and Labour parties.

While Thatcher ws the butt of many a cartoon (although, off the tope of our heads, she was never drawn to look like one), the British Journalism Review noted back in 2007 that she did not care how she was depicted – she rarely looked at cartoons and never bothered to watch Spitting Image. "She appeared to be a gift for cartoonists, but the more the left-wing artists attacked her, it seemed, the stronger she became," the site states. Indeed.

The exhibition is accompanied by a gorgeous, fully illustrated 100-page catalogue, including contributions by Kenneth Baker, Steve Bell, Lord Carrington, Michael Foot, Les Gibbard, Charles Griffin, Geoffrey Howe, Ken Loach, David Owen, David Steel, Norman Tebbit and Admiral Sir John ‘Sandy’ Woodward.

Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Margaret Thatcher – Mother of the Nation or Monster from the Blue Lagoon opnes on 6 may and runs until 26th July. The Cartoon Museum is at 35 Little Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London and open: Tuesday – Saturday, 10.30 – 17.30 and Sun 12 – 17.30. Web:

BBC News: Maggie's Cartoon Legacy Item

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