Margaret Thatcher cartoon exhibition

This punk rock music video from Britain says about itself:

The Larks – Maggie Maggie Maggie (Out Out Out) … The Maggie Out protest song was one of the popular songs sung during the Miners’ Strike, student grant protests, Poll Tax protests and other public demonstrations that fell within the time when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Exhibition: Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Tuesday 02 June 2009 by Michal Boncza The Cartoon Museum‘s latest showing is a satirical take on a political period that divided the nation In his introduction to this exhibition of satirical cartoons, Kenneth Baker, a trustee of the museum and dependable Thatcher collaborator, waxes lyrically over the heady days when the new populist conservatism, punch drunk on the nearly absolute power gained through the ballot box, proceeded to change the “political weather” of Britain.

To his credit, and to cheers from the guests, Baker readily admitted that he had the harder task in putting together the exhibition, as positive caricatures of his former boss were few and far between.

When his turn came, Steve Bell, also a trustee at the museum, confessed, only part in jest, to having had to suppress urges to kill Mr Baker for his role in creating the “delusional narrative of the Thatcher era.” In a gentlemanly fashion, however, he added that although Baker had “clearly wallowed in glories past” while working on the exhibition, he had “refrained from gloating in my presence.”

This reminiscing foray on the 30th anniversary of Thatcher‘s success at the urns is the elegant brainchild of Anita O’Brian, curator of the Cartoon Museum. By engaging two trustees with diametrically opposed political outlooks she created a dynamic that delivers a spirited exhibition. It pulsates with the cartoonists’ responses to the oft-calamitous milestones of those traumatic years.

By 1981, Thatcher‘s market reforms had put three million on the dole and sparked widespread riots. Les Gibbard aptly ridicules “Thatcher’s Market Forces” with a hilarious street market running battle between citizenry and the police. In On The Race Riots, Ken Gill clinically dissects Tory cynicism. “Benn fights Healey, screams a headline,” while Mel Calman’s character asks poignantly: “Who is fighting Maggie?”

Unions, as the last credible bastion of resistance, were targeted by the Tories from the beginning. Thus Stanley Franklin’s Thatcher proclaims triumphantly: “Now we’re quits” as she hangs Scargill‘s head as a wall trophy. In the preceding frame, the miners do the same with Ted Heath’s head. Rather uncomfortably, Les Gibbard has Brenda Dean under the Murdoch-driven juggernaut and Tony Dubbins pinned against a Wapping ramp waving a white flag.

But the wheels started to come off the Tory bandwagon when, in an attempt to replenish coffers emptied by incessant privatisations, they came up with the insidious poll tax. For Gibbard, the poll tax becomes a crocodile, chewing with gusto through the sinking boat of tory votes. Assorted Tory worthies, like the proverbial rats, are seen looking to bail out at the first opportunity.

Anticipating a grand finale, in November 1990 Charles Griffin made the front page of the Mirror with a joyous take on Thatcher’s cricket metaphor from her speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. There, with customary arrogance and vanity, she claimed: “I am still at the crease, though the bowling has been pretty hostile of late.” In Griffin’s cartoon, Thatcher’s head is knocked clean off by a ball from Geoffrey Howe.

The Tories were now at each other’s throats and rapidly loosing the plot. With trademark bile, Martin Rowson expertly rubs salt into the wounds by depicting John Major as a maggot popping out of Thatcher’s carcass. Befittingly though, it is Bell – “to the left of Marx and Lenin” in Baker’s words – that delivers the venomously accurate coup de grace on the whole epoch.

In a pastiche of the infamous Saatchi brothers’ “Labour isn’t working” poster, retitled “Gordon isn’t joking,” Gordon Brown walks Thatcher, arm in arm, into Number 10 while David Cameron lies prostrate on the ground under her interminable train. In the postscript, Ken Loach derides the “clever commentators’ talk of the cruel necessity of the Thatcher revolution” by highlighting the malignant shift of values it engendered in the consciousness of British society. “From ideas of collective endeavour and social solidarity to aggressive competition and social antagonism.”

The Cartoon Museum is the most successful small museum in the country and has seen over 150,000 visitors in the last three years. You won’t regret adding yourself to this impressive statistic. Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Margaret Thatcher – Mother Of The Nation Or Monster From The Blue Lagoon, guest curated by Kenneth Baker and Steve Bell, is on at the Cartoon Museum (35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH, until July 26. Tickets are £5.50 for adults and by showing a copy of this article you will be able to purchase the 100-page catalogue for just £10.

See also here.

If Ray Mansbridge wants to celebrate Lady Thatcher’s death (M Star June 27) and has a computer connected to the internet, he should visit The Witch is Dead Party on Facebook. Parties are planned in London, Bristol, Brighton, Bury St Edmunds, Leeds, Doncaster, Leicester and other places. An invitation is not needed: here.

7 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher cartoon exhibition

  1. Mercenary faces coup questioning

    Crime: Freed mercenary Simon Mann has arrived back in Britain amid reports that Scotland Yard anti-terror detectives want to question him.

    Officers plan to quiz the Old Etonian and ex-SAS soldier over a bungled Equatorial Guinea coup that left him facing a 34-year jail sentence.

    Mr Mann has reportedly vowed to testify in a British court against Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark and others involved in the 2004 plot to overthrow the government of the oil-rich west African country.


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