Political cartoonists – where would we be without them?

January 10, 2018 in General

© Martin Rowson


Rupert Besley writes:

It’s now a year since power-sharing fell apart in Northern Ireland and the province was left without government. An enviable state, a cynic might say, to be spared interventions from above and the awful consequences of bad decision-making. Maybe anarchy is the best form of government…

No, of course it’s not. Not if you’re stuck on a hospital trolley or left hours waiting for an ambulance. Not if you’re jobless and homeless. Minimal government is what the well-off always want. They have no need of taxes, regulation or provisions for the needy. They’re ok, thank you.

It’s the hard-up and harried who suffer most when government stalls. Paralysis above is not the way to general improvement. Without top decisions and strategic planning, no progress can be made on things like healthcare reform, education and employment provision, all much wished for in N Ireland.

© Dave Brown

This side of the Irish Sea things aren’t much better and we do have a government, of sorts. Wherever you look – two years of rail strikes, East Line fiasco, Grenfell and aftermath, hospital crises, climate change – there is a sense of inertia above and problems allowed to fester.

Some of the blame must lie with the predominance of Brexit, some with political ideology that wishes to see a rolling back of the State and to wash its hands of difficult issues. But this is not the place for party-politicking. The responsibility goes beyond one party. Where is the Opposition in all this? Why no thunderous voices? Who will speak up for those who can’t?

Two hundred years or so ago this country had in the likes of Gillray and his colleagues some of the finest cartoonists ever. Their clarity of vision, artistic genius and corruscating wit was just what the country needed. Happily, we have the same today – cartoonists of outstanding skill, with fire in their bellies and things to say.

So, rage on, Martin Rowson. More power to your elbows, Messrs Bell, Brookes, Brown (brilliant, all of them) and all the rest, too many to name. At least there’s somebody bothered.

Rupert Besley.

4 responses to Political cartoonists – where would we be without them?

  1. By the way, apart from not being an editorial cartoonist, James Gillray was bought off by the government. Also what of the great political cartoonists of the 19th and 20th centuries? Why have you dismissed them?

  2. I’m a bit baffled by this comment, as it appears to take me to task for things I have not ever thought or said. I’ll answer the question raised and defend what I put, but don’t intend to get drawn into further debate.At no point have I suggested that Gillray was an editorial cartoonist. (Nor was he ever, I think, an aircraft fitter, TV chef or Olympic pole-vaulter, which is why I haven’t mentioned these either.)I have not ‘dismissed the great political cartoonists of the 19th & 20th centuries.’ As was, I thought, clear on any reading, the piece above was not a history of cartooning. Of course the present owes everything to the past, but that was not the subject here.In one line I wished to connect present-day practitioners with the glorious tradition of political cartooning that this country has enjoyed for some centuries. Looking for just one name familiar to the general reader as point of reference, I settled on Gillray. I could instead have picked out any other from another time – but might then, presumably, have been accused of ignoring Gillray’s era.

  3. Sorry this all got squashed into one lump above, ignoring my paragraph breaks.I wonder if this (which I’ve just seen) is the way to do that?Clearly not. It just does lines. (And this was the 3rd time I had to type the above, the system having twice rejected my efforts as ‘403 Forbidden. A potentially unsafe operation has been detected in your request to this site.’ Never knew I was so harmful.)

  4. Cartoon stereotypes. Arguing with a Doctor ended badly for the Daleks. I’m moved to write even though it showcases my ignorance. I was shocked to see a gentleman of my acquaintance defending his views like a Jack Russell on heat & catnip. I remain a fan of his work but have had to review my mistaken impression of Ruperts character. I think the PCO may have found a ruthless Chief Whip disguised as a benign Victorian philanthropist educator. Who’d ‘ave thunk it. Respect.

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