Battle for Britain (Private Eye)

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Battle for Britain was a comic strip cartoon published in the fortnightly satirical magazine Private Eye in the United Kingdom during the 1980s. It depicted Margaret Thatcher's second term of office as Prime Minister but with the politicians shown as British soldiers or Nazi officials, as in a World War II war comic. The strip was attributed to Monty Stubble, which was a nom de plume of editor Ian Hislop, and to his artistic collaborator Nick Newman.

Publication history[edit]

The name "Monty Stubble" is a play on the film-title I Was Monty's Double; the film being based upon the career of M. E. Clifton James, an actor who was employed during World War II to impersonate General Montgomery for the purposes of espionage and to confuse the enemy.

Battle For Britain appeared in Private Eye between 1983 and 1987. The series ended after the 1987 General Election; this was explained by Private Eye as happening because Stubble "was tragically lost in action in the last week of the war, believed to have been hit by a stray pencil sharpener".

The collected strips were then published in book form by André Deutsch.

Synopsis[edit]

In a tank Herr Thatchler leads the charge; Jock Steel and Doc "Killer" Owen are helplessly entrenched; and "Fatty" Heffer looks cynically on as "Taffy" Kinnock leads the retreat.

The strip is considered to rank alongside the best to appear in the magazine. It was a satirical presentation of the struggles of the Labour Party opposition led by Neil Kinnock against the Conservative government led by Mrs Thatcher. The style borrowed liberally from Fleetway's War Picture Library comic series, and also D. C. Thomson & Co.'s Commando. In such comics the Germans were typically portrayed as one-dimensional stereotypes, uttering phrases such as "Dummkopf", "Der Teufel", "Donner und Blitzen", "Gott in Himmel", "Schweinhund", etc. seemingly spoken in the accents used by Nazi villains in British war films. This was reflected in Battle for Britain.

The background[edit]

There were three groups of protagonists.

The humour[edit]

The humour in the strip relied heavily on puns and put-downs, with characters often making cynical and unpleasant remarks at others on their own side. "Taffy" Kinnock in particular is always mocked by "Fatty" Heffer's cruel cockney humour. Meanwhile, von Gummer and later Jeffroech Archer (Jeffrey Archer) are referred to by Thatchler's other henchmen as "Gumkopf" and "Archcreep schwein". Hislop and Newman skilfully portrayed events in contemporary political life in terms of the fictional battle stories as depicted in the comic-books:

Example[edit]

Cartoon from 1986

This particular example of the strip was published in Private Eye in July 1986 at about the time when Parliament was about to go into recess.

  • Labour had just won the Newcastle-under-Lyme by-election.[1] Kinnock (holding the flag) was in the middle of a struggle to assert his authority as party leader in the face of an attempted takeover by the entryist Militant group, and had recently managed to expel leading Militant activist Derek Hatton from the party.[2] Hatton (carrying the bag) is shown with fellow left-wingers (but not Militant members) Tony Benn (in the dress) and Eric Heffer.
  • The Alliance had failed to gain the seat by about 800 votes.[3] They had complained that the media were not giving them as much coverage as they felt their campaign deserved, which they alleged cost them a famous win.
  • Thatcher was being heavily criticised by other Commonwealth leaders for her mildly lukewarm support for sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa led by President P.W. Botha.[4]
  • As a result, half the eligible participant countries boycotted the 1986 Commonwealth Games being held in Edinburgh.
  • The Conservative Party was worried about its standing in the opinion polls, especially as speculation was starting to grow that a general election was likely to be held the following year.

Aftermath[edit]

When the series ended in 1987, it was replaced by Dan Dire, Pilot of the Future?, which took a similar comic book view of politics. This time the model was Frank Hampson's artwork for Dan Dare, in the popular 1950 - 1969 comic for boys Eagle. In keeping with the science fiction theme, Kinnock became "Dan Dire" (the questioning title was over whether or not he would ever be Prime Minister); Mrs Thatcher became "The Maggon" in reference to Dan Dare's arch-enemy The Mekon; and Owen became "Doctor Whowen", a reference to BBC sci-fi hero Doctor Who.

Book[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]