work:
Margaret Thatcher
artist:
Neil Simmons
location:
Guildhall Art Gallery , London, UK
date:
3rd, July 2002

A sculpture of Margaret Thatcher, who is often refferred to as "the Iron Lady" would have been better served if indeed the work was made out of iron when Paul Kelleher used a cricket bat and metal baluster to decapitate the head of the 8 ft marble sculpture.

The statue which was commissioned by an anonymous donor was on display at the GuildhallArt Gallery until it was due to be moved to the Members' Lobby at British Parliament's House of Commons after the next general election. However the imiminent relocation was cause for debate after it was revealed that parliamentary rules decried that no representation of a living former leader could be exhibited until after their death. The rules were subsequently changed, allowing images of politicians to be displayed in the main buildings of parliament after a minimum of twelve years have passed after they leave office, thus opening the path for the exhibition of the sculpture.

While this debate seemed to be of no concern to Paul Kelleher, it may have brought the sculpture to the attention of the 37 year old father who stated in court that he 'believed the values of leaders like Lady Thatcher were doing "irreparable damage" to the world which his two-year-old son was growing up in'.[1]

Kelleher, a theatre producer from west London first hit the sculpture with a cricket bat which failed to do any damage. He then swung one of metal balusters used to guard the sculpture and succesfully took the head off. He then waited for the police to arrive and claimed his act to be political protest.

In Court, prosecutor John Gilbert said "This was a vehicle to make sure he had his day in court to highlight his concerns about the future of the world and the future of his two-year-old son.People like Baroness Thatcher were the cause of capitalism and global problems, which meant the world was in danger of suffering irreparable damage. He said he would continue to stage such acts until this was remedied."[2]

Keheller agreed that he had damaged the statue for the reasons detailed by Mr. Gilbert but added that he could not enter a plea of guilty to the charge of criminal damage "due to the fact it is criminal damage, I'm not a criminal so I will have to enter a plea of not guilty." [3]

Keheller was given unconditional bail and instructed he then faced a crown court trial which at the time of writing had no set date.

Unfortunately, Thatcher was not quoted making any comment, however, the sculptor Neil Simmons said "It is tragic that something I devoted so much time and energy to should have been damaged by a few seconds of mindless violence..." [4]

[1] Thatcher accused says: I'm no criminal
Steven Morris; The Guardian, Friday July 5, 2002

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Vandal decapitates statue of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's Iron Lady
BETH GARDINER, Associated Press; Wednesday, July 3, 2002