The Thatcher Crisis Years

1980s politics blog from TV historian Tony McMahon

Anti Tory art from the early 1980s

April 17, 2017

The early 1980s witnessed a very productive output of anti Tory art from the Left and the labour movement. Go as far as to say it was a golden age of political satire in various formats: TV, theatre, film, pop music, paintings and postcards.

Hatred of Thatcher got the creative juices flowing! It seems like there was nothing better than a society deeply polarised and unsettled to produce top drama, plays, movies, songs and images. 1980s anti Tory art hasn’t been fully appreciated in my humble opinion – it’s about time there was an exhibition at the Royal Academy!

Personally, I think it’s no exaggeration to say you could compare 1980s anti Tory art to the explosion of creativity after the 1917 Russian revolution or the output of artists during the Weimar Republic. It had a distinctive look and feel. Plus there was that figure of hatred for it all to be focussed on – Maggie!

DISCOVER: New technology in 1983

When it came to music, bands fell over each other to stick the boot into the Tories. In 1985, several groups and artists took to the road to sing against Maggie. Red Wedge comprised such talents as Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and Jimmy Sommerville. I went to a Red Wedge gig in Liverpool at the Royal Court around the time the miners strike came to a sad end.

Below we have ska popsters The Beat singing their anti-Thatcher song ‘Stand Down Margaret’. I interviewed the late Ranking Roger at his home ten years back when I was working on the biography of Neville Staple.

He told me that they got in some trouble for singing a political song on a mainstream TV show. They might even have been denied airplay as a result. But he still thought it was worth it.

These were blu-tacked to my bedroom wall when I was a student – found them yesterday languishing at the bottom of a plastic bag unopened since 1984.  I am a terrible hoarder! Don’t know who the artist was or whether these are in any way collectable – your views or info appreciated.