Margaret Thatcher steals the show at Saatchi 40th birthday party

She may be 84 and struggling with dementia but former prime minister Margaret Thatcher stole the show at the joint Saatch & Saatchi/M&C Saatchi 40th birthday celebrations at Charles Saatchi’s Kings Road, Chelsea, art gallery.

No sign of Charlie though.

Judging by these pics there seems to have been a hot competition between Maurice Saatchi and Tim Bell (both ennobled by Mrs T) to see who could grab the most screen time with the ex-PM. Their lordships were once colleagues at Saatchis (the pre-1994 version) but when Bell left, initially to join Frank Lowe, rivalry kicked in, particularly as far as the then Tory government’s advertising was concerned.

Bell, then MD of Saatchis, had been the driving force behind the celebrated ‘Labour isn’t Working’ campaign for the 1979 election that brought Thatcher and the Tories into power. Charles Saatchi actually argued against handling the Tories, saying there was no guarantee they would win (Charles hated losers) and he thought it would bring the agency the wrong sort of publicity.

He was wrong of course and little brother Maurice then tried to remove the departed Bell from Maggie’s counsels as Saatchis still had the Tory account.

Bell wasn’t having any of this and 10 Downing Street began to resemble the set of a Feydeau farce as Bell disappeared through the back door as Maurice, clutching his artwork, appeared through the front. Matters were further complicated as Young & Rubicam chairman John Banks tried to get in on the act.

Y&R handled some of the big Tory privatisations of the 1980s, most notably British Gas, and Banksy thought that entitled him to help run the Government. Alas he was ejected by his big beast rivals and ended with neither knighthood or peerage, or the ear of Mrs T.

The party was awash with old Tory dinosaurs like ex-PM Sir John Major and Lord Howard (former Tory leader Michael Howard). Tony Blair’s former spinner Alastair Campbell also blagged a ticket.

Quite what co-hosts Saatchi & Saatchi got out of this is open to debate. Or indeed the staff of both agencies, most of whom were told to come along afterwards after the nobs had departed.

One notable absentee was former Saatchi finance director Sir Martin Sorrell, now boss of WPP of course. Sir Martin was observing the Jewish New Year which clearly Maurice wasn’t (or not as much of it anyway, it goes on for two days).

Maybe that was why Charlie didn’t make it? No, didn’t think so.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.