The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is one of those larger than life personalities that is a gift to cartoonists, and there’s a display of the cartoonist’s work at the moment.
The exhibition, aptly at the Cartoon Museum looks back at the political career from MP through his years to the premiership and how he handled, or didn’t, the various calamities that struck.
The UK has a proud tradition of mocking its leaders in cartoons – and the Cartoon Museum has a large collection going all the way back to the earliest days of mass printing.
In other countries, mocking the leadership can be a dangerous thing. Authoritarian regimes clamp down on everything, but even democracies can be troublesome. India’s Prime Minister is notoriously prickly about slights to his greatness, and for someone who regularly uses offensive insults about his opponents, Donald Trump has a remarkably thin skin where caricatures of him are concerned.
The UK though seems immune to this. Yes, politicians are not always happy with how they are shown, but are often less happy with being ignored. Many of the cartoons that appear in a newspaper have ended up in the politician’s private collection as a keepsake. I noticed the other day, there’s a whole staircase of them at 11 Downing Street, a satirical mirror of the staircase lined with former Prime Ministers at 10 Downing Street.
To my mind, the best cartoons are the ones that provoke a wry smile about the absurdities of life, rather than the ones trying to provoke a political reason, often by being nasty about the subject. There are plenty of words to do that, and I turn to the cartoon for an unconventional look at the news of the day.
The Boris collection is a mix, as any political exhibition about so polarising a figure should be.
The difficulty with political cartoons is the lack of context. A book of cartoons I own is clever in printing a copy of the newspaper headlines of the day to remind us what the background to the cartoon is. Here, even though many of the events are recent, newspaper headlines would have helped a bit.
I still can’t work out why Boris’s arse is coming out of a tube tunnel when he made a Mayoral pledge about cancelling Ken Livington’s plan to close ticket offices. There’s a missing bit of news there I think.
Banx cartoons of a living room couple are a perfect contrast – complaining that he isn’t as much fun as he was — as many an electorate voted for the rabble-rousing populist — next to a similar image of them realising he’s a bit of a fraud.
Unsurprisingly, Brexit is here, and the Pandemic, and Ukraine. With BoJo bouncing from hero to villain and back again with gay abandon.
As an exhibition, it’s a way of looking back at a person, in the form of the cartoons, but also a review of the past 20 years in cartoon form as we’re reminded of news stories we might have forgotten.
The museum is £9.50 for adults to visit, which gets all the exhibitions as well.
There is also a small, very small, so small you can easily miss it – exhibition about a weekly comic based on Gerry Anderson’s TV shows.
The exhibition, Gerry Anderson’s Century 21 is open until Sunday 4th June.