Museum to review description of Margaret Thatcher as ‘contemporary villain’

Late British prime minister was mentioned in Punch and Judy display in V&A exhibition on British humour

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher has previously appeared in seaside Punch and Judy puppet shows as a 'villain'.

A London museum has said it will review text at an exhibition labelling former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a “villain” alongside Osama Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler.

The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum featured the text description in an exhibition on British humour throughout the ages.

A display on Punch and Judy performances featured a description reading: “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.”

Children and their parents still crowd around to see Joe’s traditional Punch and Judy show (Joe Burns/PA)
A traditional seaside Punch and Judy puppet show. PICTURE: JOE BURNS/PA

However, the mention of Mrs Thatcher, who heavily divided public opinion in the UK during her premiership between 1979 and 1990, in the text has angered some Conservative MPs and right-wing commentators, despite the text referring to her as a villain only in the context of the puppet show’s character roles.

Belfast-born Bournemouth MP Sir Conor Burns, a former Minister of State for Northern Ireland, said: “Whoever wrote that caption should be called out publicly, or perhaps more usefully sent to read a Ladybird book of modern world history.

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

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

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: of those behind the text: “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.”

The exhibition also featured a puppet of Mrs Thatcher from the popular former ITV satirical comedy show Spitting Image.

A Margaret Thatcher puppet from Spitting Image
A Margaret Thatcher puppet from Spitting Image.

Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for the V&A said it was “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,” they said.

The museum had sparked criticism after turning down for display a selection of handbags and clothing worn by Ms Thatcher in 2015, two years after her death at the age of 87.

However, in 2021 a grey handbag belonging to her was included in a V&A exhibition on iconic bag accessories spanning 500 years.