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V&A scraps Margaret Thatcher 'villain' label after public outcry

A caption next to some Punch and Judy puppets reads: ‘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.’ (Supplied)
A caption next to some Punch and Judy puppets reads: ‘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.’ (Supplied)

The V&A has changed its description of Margaret Thatcher in an exhibition after listing the former prime minister as a “contemporary villain”.

The Tory leader, who died in 2013, was featured as part of the Victoria and Albert’s history of comedy display - having been lampooned during her 1980s rule.

It listed her as an “unpopular popular figure” alongside Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler and others who were the subject of mockery and caricatures.

Lady Thatcher featured in the V&A’s Punch and Judy display case of comedy through the ages.

 (Supplied)
(Supplied)

A description used to read: “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.”

This led to Sir Iain Duncan Smith, another former Tory leader, and current culture secretary Lucy Frazer saying that Lady Thatcher should not be in such company.

Ms Frazer said in an interview with LBC this week: “I didn't think that that was appropriate.

“I think in describing objects, in museums and galleries, the creator has an important role to look at history to make sure that their objects are understood. But these are matters for those individual institutions.”

The V&A has a cast from Spitting Image in the cabinet to represent Lady Thatcher.

The new description reads: “The characters have since been re-cast to reflect figures in the public eye – from Adolf Hitler during wartime to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s being portrayed as villains, to more recently Nick Clegg as the clown and Simon Cowell as the judge.”

The Kensington museum has said that it will always listen to public feedback about its works and exhibitions.

A statement added: “In response to some concerns around a caption in the Punch and Judy case of our Laughing Matters display – which looks at 'Britishness' through the lens of comedy– we have reviewed the label text which relates to public figures who, in recent history, have been characterised as villains in Punch and Judy shows.

“We do appreciate that the original wording was open to misinterpretation and have updated it.”