Cartoonist Martin Rowson on His Four Favourite Works
Having satirised government for decades, the award-winning journalist and illustrator appraises his own work ahead of a visit to the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
I think this may be my favourite cartoon of mine ever. It's from the 1997 election, the day New Labour published their manifesto, and so far as I'm concerned contains everything a satirical cartoon could ever aspire to: animals, metaphors, a good gag and toilet humour (plus nice caricatures of Blair and Thatcher).
Published at the time of the Queen Mother's funeral – when it was exposed that Alastair Campbell was putting pressure on Black Rod, the palace official in charge of the event, to give Blair a bigger role in proceedings – this is another toilet joke (make what you will of that). It was inspired by Tory Cabinet minister John Biffen's description of Thatcher's press secretary, Bernard Ingham, who was briefing the press against Biffen and his colleagues on Thatcher's behalf, as the 'sewer, not the sewage'. This cartoon was described on Radio 4's Today programme as 'sulphurous'. Job done.
Cameron & Clegg
I gladly confess that as far as I was concerned, the Coalition Government of 2010-15 was the foulest administration of my lifetime. Yet, weirdly, I absolutely loved drawing its main protagonists, almost entirely because of the way I recreated them through the magic of cartoons. Aren't these two just addrable? Cameron as Little Lord Fauntleroy (because that's who he is), and Clegg as Cleggnocchio, the little wooden boy who wanted to be a real politician.
Haiti and the Banks
This cartoon isn't funny, but funny is only one of the ingredients of a satirical cartoon, and by no means essential to the brew. This one, though, overbrimmed with fury, inspired by the BBC, who, a day after the 2010 Haitian earthquake killed a quarter of a million of the world's poorest people, led their news bulletins with stories about bankers on Wall Street, upset they might not get a bonus just over a year after their greed and hubris crashed the global economy.
Martin Rowson gave a talk on the history of visual satire in the Black Box, Belfast on May 6 as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.