V&A museum sparks fury by listing Margaret Thatcher as 'contemporary villain' alongside Hitler and Bin Laden

18 March 2024, 07:01 | Updated: 18 March 2024, 13:59

An exhibition at the V&A has sparked fury with its description of Baroness Thatcher. (Inset) A spitting image puppet of Britain's first female PM
An exhibition at the V&A has sparked fury with its description of Baroness Thatcher. (Inset) A spitting image puppet of Britain's first female PM. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The Victoria and Albert Museum has sparked anger by naming Margaret Thatcher alongside Hitler and Osama bin Laden on a list of ‘unpopular public figures’.

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Britain’s first female prime minister was labelled a ‘contemporary villain’ in a display on British humour through the ages.

Near a display about Punch and Judy at the London museum, a sign states: “Over the years, the evil character in this seaside puppet show has shifted from the Devil to unpopular public figures including Adolf Hitler, Margaret Thatcher and Osama bin Laden, to offer contemporary villains.”

The wording caused an angry backlash and sparked calls for it to be stripped of funding.

The museum display also features a puppet of Baroness Thatcher from Spitting Image.

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Britain’s first female prime minister was labelled a ‘contemporary villain’ in a display on British humour
Britain’s first female prime minister was labelled a ‘contemporary villain’ in a display on British humour. Picture: Alamy

MPs have reacted with anger to the signage in the museum.

Sir Connor Burns, Conservative MP for Bournemouth, said: “Whoever wrote that caption should be called out publicly for being a moron, or perhaps more usefully sent to read a Ladybird book of modern world history.

Thatcher was mentioned in the same breath as Hitler and Osama bin Laden
Thatcher was mentioned in the same breath as Hitler and Osama bin Laden. Picture: Alamy

“It is sadly symptomatic of the woke, luvvie-dom nonsense that persists in our public institutions.

“They should be given a serious rap across the knuckles and a clarion instruction to grow up.”

A V&A Spokesperson said:" The V&A is always open to feedback from our visitors.  In response to some concerns around a caption in the Punch and Judy case of our Laughing Matters display – telling the story of British satire and comedy – we will review the relevant label text and update the wording if necessary.

The wording appears under a set of Victorian Punch and Judy puppets with a caption headed: 'That's the way to do it?'
The wording appears under a set of Victorian Punch and Judy puppets with a caption headed: 'That's the way to do it?'. Picture: Alamy

Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: “Given the fact that MPs are now regularly receiving death threats, myself included, from extremists and others, this V&A exhibition is ill-thought and mendacious,' he said.

“They must live in a bubble, away from the real world, to think that it is rational to propose that a politician of the stature of Margaret Thatcher would equate to any of those mass murderers and vile human beings.

“This sort of idiocy begs the question about funding. It would be a good idea if those who thought of this did a hard day's work in among the rest of us, rather than sitting on their lofty perch producing stupid ideas.”

Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Baroness Thatcher and director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, wrote online: “Disgraceful from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It should be stripped of public funding.”

One person who viewed the signage told the Telegraph: "I believe that this bracketing of Margaret Thatcher with a genocidal maniac and the worst terrorist of the 21st century to be deeply offensive and repugnant and I am sure most people would agree. It is completely unacceptable in a taxpayer funded institution.”

In 2015 the same museum was criticised for refusing to accept a selection of Thatcher’s suits and handbags. 

The museum 'politely declined' the collection, saying it collected only items of 'outstanding aesthetic or technical quality' rather than those with 'intrinsic social historical value'.

The V&A has not yet commented.

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