Margaret Thatcher had disdain for Spitting Image, says Sir Bernard Ingham as show returns

A woman takes a photo of a Margaret Thatcher puppet, as the archive of Spitting Image was handed over to the library at Cambridge University in November last year. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
A woman takes a photo of a Margaret Thatcher puppet, as the archive of Spitting Image was handed over to the library at Cambridge University in November last year. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Boris Johnson's Brexit, Donald Trump's America, Extinction Rebellion's fight to stop climate catastrophe and the Royals' battle with the media - to some it's a satirist's dream, to others an age beyond parody.

Either way, the modern era of chaos has inspired Roger Law, co-founder of Spitting Image, to bring back the legendary British political puppet show Spitting Image.

Sir Bernard Ingham President of the TRIC (Television and Radio Industry Club) talks to Sir Denis Thatcher (far right) and Baroness Thatcher during the 1998 Television and Radio Industry Club Awards in London today (Tuesday). Photo by Tony Harris/PA

Sir Bernard Ingham President of the TRIC (Television and Radio Industry Club) talks to Sir Denis Thatcher (far right) and Baroness Thatcher during the 1998 Television and Radio Industry Club Awards in London today (Tuesday). Photo by Tony Harris/PA

It was announced last month that the savage satirical take on current affairs would return 23 years on from it ceasing in 1996.

The first time round, late former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher looked upon the show with “a bit of disdain”, her former press secretary has said.

Following the announcement, The Yorkshire Post spoke to Sir Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher's former press secretary.

During the original run of Spitting Image, a masculinised Mrs Thatcher was voiced by a man and portrayed shaving and using male urinals.

In an early episode, she was cast as a domineering school teacher, bashing her cabinet members with sticks and throwing Geoffrey Howe's apple out the window because it was French.

Last month, former Conservative MP Edwina Currie told The Guardian: "Margaret Thatcher loved Spitting Image as well, because she realised very quickly that their image of her as the best man in the cabinet was one to pursue. From then on, she deepened her voice, she wore dark suits – basically she conformed to the image that Spitting Image had broadcast."

But this not how Sir Bernard remembers her reaction.

"She looked on it with a bit of disdain," he said.

"It's just making fun for the sake of making fun."

Describing it as cruel, he nevertheless added: "I think she felt it was just the sort of thing you have to expect but didn't take it too seriously."

Mr Ingham even came own for his own lampooning, cast, as he puts it, as "absolutely frightful, trying to call everybody to order".

He said it was "no more and no less than you would expect" from people who have "very little in their own life" who resort to making fun of others.

The show went on to have 131 episodes across 18 seasons, with a Spitting Image at 30 special also broadcast in 2014.

In the beginning Law was creating plasticine caricatures with co-creator Peter Fluck - Martin Lambie-Nairn also founded the show - for a Sunday newspaper when they were invited to devise a satirical puppet-based programme, later steered by comedy producer John Lloyd.

Spitting Image started on ITV in 1984 following Thatcher's second general election triumph and featured various members of her political team.

The new version, however, is set to take on international affairs, with early promotional pictures revealing puppets for Donald Trump, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Russian President Vladimir Putin with a 'Thug Life' tattoo across his torso.

Previous forays into global politics saw the show portray then US President Ronald Reagan, cast as a doddering farce in his White House bed."