The Thatcher Crisis Years

An era of protest and fury

celebrity margaret thatcher

Back in 1979, we gritted our teeth as Thatcher won that year’s general election. This was a seismic political shift for Britain. And for those of us on the losing side, there was the spectacle of certain celebrities publicly supporting Margaret Thatcher.

DISCOVER: Anti-Tory art from the early 1980s

Admittedly, they weren’t the coolest celebrities. But there were some surprises. For example….LGBT alternative and slightly surreal comedian, Kenny Everett. He got up on stage in front of a baying Tory audience with a pair of giant hands and yelled: “Let’s bomb Russia!” And just in case you think that didn’t happen…

The majority of the “alternative comedy” set were left-leaning if not Labour. While traditional stand-ups like Jimmy Tarbuck were ardent Tories. The celebrity supporters of Margaret Thatcher tended to come from the mainstream TV output of the 1970s and not the bubbling up counter-culture that would ascend, ironically, under Thatcher in the 80s. Often as a reaction to Thatcher – take the likes of Alexei Sayle and Ben Elton.

Tarbuck’s love affair with Thatcher continued for many years even though his home city of Liverpool was a hotbed of anti-Thatcher rebellion. Decades later, his Toryism and the alleged Tory sympathies of another scouser, Cilla Black, brought the ire of Liverpudlian Ricky Tomlinson – a definite lefty – down on them.

The irascible actor said that Cilla, as a docker’s daughter, should be ashamed of being a Tory and this led to a spat between them back in 2002. Tomlinson was referencing the closure of docks and factories as a result of Conservative economic policy in the early 1980s.

FIND OUT MORE: Inflation and unemployment under the Thatcher government

For me, one of the oddest appearances at a Tory conference overseen by Thatcher was in 1983 when the late piano popstar Lynsey de Paul popped up at her keyboard singing: “Vote Tory, Tory, Tory/For election glory”. Her previous career high point was representing the UK in the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest.

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