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From the moment that Margaret Thatcher became a member of the Shadow Cabinet until she left office as Prime Minister, there was one man following her the entire time. And no, it wasn’t Ronald Raegan. It was satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. Scarfe’s drawings of the divisive Iron Lady spanned 22 years, from her early career until the end. Now, in a remarkable exhibition, many of these drawings are being displayed at the Bowes Museum.

Scarfe portrayed Thatcher in the most scathing of ways, picturing her as cunning, ruthless, vain, bullying, terrifying and altogether mean spirited. Using pen and ink alone, he drew Thatcher in some compromising positions as a sexual deviant, a shark, an axe, a chicken, and even a Torydactyl. Though the images may be shocking to some who revere Thatcher, they are a reminder of all the hardships of the eighties and are a testament to the hatred that Thatcher inspired in many. But Scarfe’s works are much more than simply an attack on Thatcher’s character; they’re also a satirical and deeply intelligent insight into a decade that parallels the world today in more ways than one.

Scarfe has since gone on to portray many other politicians, including current Prime Minister David Cameron, but this retrospective shows off some of his best creations. As we approach this May’s general election, it’s an almost poignant look back at the legacy Thatcher left on our political landscape.

Milk Snatcher: Gerald Scarfe The Thatcher Drawings is at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle between Saturday 14th March and Sunday 31st May.

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