UK Election Mappery: Will Maggie Ditch Marge?

Will Britain leave the EU? Would Maggie abandon Marge?

UK Election Mappery: Will Maggie Ditch Marge?

She may have shuffled off this mortal coil two years ago, but Margaret Thatcher's spirit seemed alive and well in Britain last week.

In a shock election victory, her spiritual heir David Cameron won an outright majority in the House of Commons, allowing him to continue his prime-ministership sans coalition partner — those pesky Liberal Democrats were wiped out anyway.

The surprise over the Tory win was all the greater because it had been missed by every single opinion poll published in the run-up to last Thursday's election. But there was one, rather oblique forewarning — spotted by Alex McLaughlan, a British Twitterer.

On polling day, he noticed a striking resemblance between a map of the predicted electoral outcome and Homer and Marge Simpson's youngest... Maggie. Could that have been a sign from that other Maggie, calling in from the Great Beyond?

Once you've placed both images next to each other, you can't un-see the similarities. The Scottish National Party won a landslide victory in Scotland, thus coloring the spiky top of Great Britain yellow. Most of England voted Conservative, hence that blue onesie beneath that yellow Scottish head. Labour held firm in its northern English heartlands, leading to that smattering of red, which could coagulate into Maggie's trademark pacifier if your mind's eye really wants to.

Cameron's victory might prove bittersweet. Scots may have rejected independence in a referendum last year, the SNP's massive victory will surely put the issue on the table again. At least in a political sense, the Scottish nationalist's yellow clashes with the "true blue" of the Tories, whose full and official nomenclature is the Conservative and Unionist Party.

In one of those nice ironic twists that few of those involved seem to relish, you could say that the Tories are the SNP of the EU: clamoring for more power for Britain, or else they're leaving the Union.

One of Cameron's election promises was a referendum on UK membership of the European Union. After a renegotiation of Britain's relationship with "Brussels," he would offer the electorate a “simple in/out choice.”

Cameron, and much of the business establishment that supports him, is loath to cut economic ties with the continent, which would be very bad for British commercial interests. For its part, the EU is reluctant to give Britain the renegotiated settlement it demands, lest other member states get the same idea.

The result of a referendum following a botched renegotiation could be something few on either side of the English Channel really want: a so-called Brexit.

Will it ever come to that? Again the magic of anthropomorphic maps may provide an answer. For Europe, as discussed in #459, bears a more than passing resemblance to... Marge Simpson, Maggie's mother.

Our money's on both discovering that they have more in common than they thought, and that they have no desire to cut the ties that bind.

Many thanks to Jeremy Hoogmartens for sending in this map, found here on Alex McLaughlan's Twitter feed.


Strange Maps #712

Please send your map suggestions to

What early US presidents looked like, according to AI-generated images

"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.

Abraham Lincoln, George Washington

Magdalene Visaggio via Twitter
Technology & Innovation
  • A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
  • "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
  • It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
Keep reading Show less

Catacombs of Paris: The city of darkness finds its new raison d'être

Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.

Excerpt from a 19th century map of the Paris Catacombs, showing the labyrinthine layout underground (in color) beneath the straight-lined structures on the surface (in grey).

Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain
Strange Maps
  • People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
  • They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
  • Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Keep reading Show less

Baby's first poop predicts risk of allergies

Meconium contains a wealth of information.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that the contents of an infants' first stool, known as meconium, can predict if they'll develop allergies with a high degree of accuracy.
  • A metabolically diverse meconium, which indicates the initial food source for the gut microbiota, is associated with fewer allergies.
  • The research hints at possible early interventions to prevent or treat allergies just after birth.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Big think: Will AI ever achieve true understanding?

If you ask your maps app to find "restaurants that aren't McDonald's," you won't like the result.