Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 08:22 UK

Tin Thatcher sparks assembly row

"The Iron Lady" in a tinplate installation in Cardiff Bay

A giant tinplate portrait of Baroness Thatcher has divided politicians after it was unveiled at the home of the Welsh assembly in Cardiff.

The work by artist Dylan Hammond will sit alongside one of Labour figure Aneurin Bevan for three months.

Mr Hammond said both politicians had had influence on Welsh life and it was "up to people how they respond".

But one Plaid Cymru assembly member called the Thatcher portrait's location "an insult" to the people of Wales.

Each portrait, measuring 4.3m x 3m (14ft x 9ft 10in), hangs against the 67m Senedd building's glass facade so that it can be seen inside and outside.

Mr Hammond, who is based in Cardiff, said he put the founder of the NHS and the former Conservative prime minister together because "in a way, they represent a kind of polarity in a spectrum of political approach".

Artist Dylan Hammond talks about his tinplate portrait

"More than virtually any other politician, they've had an influence over the lives we all lead in Wales today," he said.

"It's up to people how they respond to them. I think a lot of time has elapsed now and it may be time for a reappraisal of the reputations of politicians who've had an influence over Welsh life, " Mr Hammond added.

There was cross-party agreement to display the work, but the decision has not met with universal approval from Cardiff Bay politicians.

'Decimation'

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins insisted that putting an image of Baroness Thatcher at the centre of Welsh politics was a mistake.

She said: "There is no doubt that it is important for us to showcase the work of Welsh artists at the National Assembly for Wales.

"But to have a portrait of Margaret Thatcher at the Senedd is an insult to the people of Wales considering that she facilitated the decimation of our Welsh coalfield communities."

Assembly minister Carwyn Jones, a Labour AM, said: "I think we all like to remind ourselves from time to time why this place was instituted in the first place - and an image of Margaret Thatcher is as good a reminder as any."

Conservative AM Alun Cairns, who has a poster of the former prime minster on his office wall, said she had brought about an "important transformation" in the Welsh economy.

He said: "It's easy to look back with nostalgia at the landscape during the industrial period but I am yet to meet a parent who would be happy for their son or daughter to go underground."

Presiding officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas said he hoped the installation would "encourage people to come in to the Senedd to learn more about what is done here in their name".

"If it provokes debate among ordinary people, that can only be good for Welsh democracy."

The display had support from Welsh historian John Davies, who said: "As architect of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan was a believer in socialism and the power of the collective.

"Margaret Thatcher was a determined enemy of both but, for good or ill, she's part of the story too," he said.

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