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Changing images of Margaret Thatcher

Critchell, Cecile (1996) Changing images of Margaret Thatcher. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86246) (KAR id:86246)


This thesis concerns the changing images of Mrs Thatcher presented in the press during the general election campaigns of 1979, 1983 and 1987. These benchmarks were arguably the times when the most diverse and concentrated verbal and visual images appeared. From 1979 onwards the nature of Conservative campaigns changed significantly. The public became 'consumers' of politics. A brand leader with style and personality became a necessity in the marketing operation. The presedential-style election campaign was relentlessly pursued by the Conservative Party, with media support and sometimes connivance. This helped to alter the content of media election news. The Press reported the new-style events in a partisan manner, using a variety of verbal and visual imagery to support, explain and criticise Mrs Thatcher and her leadership.

Mrs Thatcher was not the first Party Leader or Prime Minister to be specially tutored and packaged for media presentation. She was, however, the first to use the media so extensively as an integral part of her personal campaign at general elections. She lent herself completely to the image development deemed necessary by her advisors.

The concern here is not to develop a theory of images, but to focus on Mrs Thatcher's Premiership, personality and recent history. The work opens with a discussion of the notion of image and the particular way it is used. This use is then related to the verbal images found in selected articles, features and editorials, and the visual images drawn from cartoons and photographs at three chosen general elections. Factors which influenced the changes of image at particular times or for special reasons feature in the various related lines of enquiry. Influential colleagues and people who advised on presentation of the personality, central to the presidential-style campaigns, are also included.

The results of the analysis show that in 1979 many of the images were imprecise and not particularly critical since Mrs Thatcher was a contender for Premiership and not a previous incumbent. By 1987 very significant changes appear in the images, due to her length of time in office and her style of leadership. The analysis also revealed the range and diversity of images used. It becomes plain, not only how striking are the differences in the way Mrs Thatcher is portrayed, but how much she contributed to the process, and thus to her own image.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86246
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Political science; Margaret Thatcher
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women > HQ1236 Women and the state. Women's rights. Women's political activity
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:37 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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