What Spitting Image did to British politics

As Spitting Image returns to our screens, its original impact has not been forgotten 

It’s February 1984 and English television is still ruled by just four stations. Regular political programming consists of the evening news, Panorama and a new debate show called Question Time, while television cameras are not yet allowed into the House of Commons.

Into this world burst a show that would add an alternative dimension to the political discourse of the 1980s. At its peak it claimed to have more viewers (fifteen million) than it took to elect the Thatcher Government (thirteen million). That show was Spitting Image and this week it finally returns after a twenty-four-year absence.

No politician could claim to have ‘made it’ in Westminster without being parodied on the show

Politicos have long clamoured for the return of Spitting Image, which established itself as a permanent fixture of Sunday night television between 1984 and 1996. Becoming a cultural institution, the show even spent three weeks at number one with the “Chicken Song”. No politician could claim to have “made it” in Westminster without being parodied on the show. Jeffrey Archer even went to the trouble of sending the producers a videotape of his voice to ensure an appearance.

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