Spitting Image was an ITV satirical comedy programme that at one point seemed to be watched by every single soul in the UK on a Sunday night. It really was for around five or six years the only real game in town for political satire on television. It’s peak for many was the 1987 Election Special.
This was broadcast just after the polls closed as not to interfere with broadcasting regulations, so it’s got to be seen in the context of people having cast their vote, sitting down and Spitting Image telling them that the next four or five years are going to be horrible because the Tories were dreadful and the Labour opposition was hopeless. For myself, I was still a fairly bright eyed 20 year old watching in awe as it forced me to question the Labour Party, something not done if you grew up in a strong working class part of Glasgow.
What’s great about the special is the sheer brutality of it. The entire thing is a red rage by it’s writers and performers with it’s spotlight aimed squarely at Margaret Thatcher and the Tory government that caused so much damage to so many in the 1980’s. Neil Kinnock’s Labour also gets skewered for being singularly unable to take advantage of the fact that for the Tories winning the election, that didn’t mean vast parts of the country found them palatable or popular. In fact one could easily draw upon this as a source for anyone wondering when the collapse of Labour started as it failed to defeat Thatcherism, and in the end adopted her ideas and adapted it to Balirism in order to succeed in the South of England.
Mostly though what’s marvelous is the last four minutes or so. For a while there’s not been a clear, good version on Youtube that’s contained a complete ending to the programme, but this version does and it’s glorious. It even has the original adverts from what looks like the North of England Tyne Tees region in all their horrendous 80’s glory.
So here it is, Enjoy one of the finest bits of comedy/satire to ever be broadcast on British television.