British Conservative history in cartoons


This music video from Britain in 1983 is called Newton Neurotics “Kick Out the Tories”.

From British daily The Morning Star:

History’s biggest joke

(Tuesday 02 December 2008)

CARTOON: Tory Blues by Alan Mumford
(Political Cartoon Gallery, £19.99)

MICHAL BONCZA casts his glare over a history of the Conservative Party as seen through the artful eyes of Britain’s top cartoonists.

A CARTOON history of the Conservative Party? Well, could there be any other? So quipped Matthew Parris when he opened the book’s accompanying exhibition at the Political Cartoon Gallery.

Even more unexpected but highly gratifying, particularly for the cartooning fraternity including our own irrepressible Martin Rowson, was his intimation that Margaret Thatcher was quite “sensitive” and feared ridicule.

Well, most tyrants and dictators suffer a high intolerance to criticism as well as a notable absence of any sense of humour. It seems to go with the job.

In January 1977, artist Ralph Steadman produced a recruiting drive beer mat for the Labour Party with the slogan: “Upset her for as little as £3,” portraying Thatcher with trademark viciousness.

Three years later, Raymond Jackson, aka Jak in the Evening Standard, drew Thatcher holding the day’s newspaper asking: “I say, Denis. Have you seen this awful drawing of me?”

You cannot decipher the paper she’s holding, but Thatcher herself is the carbon copy of that Steadman caricature. This would support the assertion that, later in life, she became much like her many caricatures in appearance.

Alan Mumford, with tongue firmly in cheek, engagingly guides us through the 175-year history of the “natural party of government” and its ruthless shenanigans to maintain the political supremacy of the class that they unflinchingly represent.

Mumford lets the cartoons do all the talking – and they speak volumes.

Some have had far-fetched consequences. In 1990, Thatcher Cabinet member Nicholas Ridley’s indiscretions led to a Garland cartoon in the Spectator, showing Ridley legging it with a brush and bucket of paint after having added a Hitler moustache and fringe to Chancellor Kohl’s poster.

Ridley had to resign and fellow Cabinet member Kenneth Baker, who wrote the introduction to this volume, believes that the cartoon “did more damage than the article itself.”

Once upon a time, Michael Heseltine comprehensively and embarrassingly lost a debate in the House to Gordon Brown. As a consequence, Peter Brookes portrayed Heseltine in The Times as a tiger-skin floor rug with Brown’s two legs standing on top of him.

“Perhaps it was, in a sense, cruel, because it was so accurate,” came the surprisingly candid comment from Heseltine.

The book also includes a few Morning Star/Daily Worker cartoons. One of the most graphically eloquent by Gabriel shows a “workerist” Churchill in 1951 under a Tory Electioneering Union banner, wearing a cloth cap with a sly grin, spanner stuck behind his dungarees belt.

And Ken Sprague‘s portrayal of Harold Macmillan as a cricketer about to bowl with an H-bomb is as superbly succinct as it is superbly crafted.

On the subject of cricket, Charles Griffin in the Daily Mirror in November 1990 had Thatcher hit in the face with a Geoffrey Howe ball that tears her head off. The expression on her face says it all and it is a breathtakingly comic characterisation. Howe resigned the next day.

As one era ended, Kevin Kallaugher in The Economist charted Thatcher’s demise by morphing her from a provincial thug Iron Lady into an armoured knight and finally into a dustbin pelted with stones. Delicious.

As new Labour stole practically all the Tories’ clothes, it made it difficult for the Conservative Party to forge a separate identity.

It took a Norwegian to memorably depict the initial farcical attempts.

In 2005 in The Times, Morten Morland‘s David Cameron on a country walk says: “Me and my homies gotta get down with da inner cities, innit!”

Alan Mumford and Political Cartoon Gallery helmsman Tim Benson’s huge efforts have produced a unique record of British cartooning history past and present. Long may they continue.

Exhibition continues at The Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store St, London WC1, until January 17 2009. Phone (020) 7580-1114 for further details.

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