“Surprisingly refreshing” – Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2020 ed. Tim Benson

Provided you’re not one of those people who claim to be uninterested in politics (who I always want to bark at and say, “what? You’re not interested in roads? Street lights? Education? Health?” etc), there will be much in Tim Benson’s latest anthology of political cartoons to amuse and infuriate you.

“Amuse” because here you will find political cartoons that get right to the heart of the matter, that lampoon the pompous, that hold up the hypocritical for a good old lambast and hoist those in need of a good hoisting by their own petards. “Infuriate” because Benson is bipartisan in his choices. There is equal ridicule afforded to both right and left.

Which means that, yes, you’ll get a fair old number of cartoons directed at the flatulent corruption of our gasbag in chief and his cronies in arms as they dole out money to their friends and make u-turns and mistakes a-plenty resulting (hilariously) in the deaths of thousands of people. But you’ll also find Corbyn and Starmer and their ilk getting a bashing too (Corbyn is an anti-semitic communist, Starmer is posh and claiming not to be etc).

It may be that certain issues remain red button issues (like Corbyn’s alleged anti-semitism) and so you’ll find it hard to chuckle. Similarly, for this reader at least, a lot of the Times’ cartoons (particularly cartoons by Peter Brooks) are pretty damn loathsome and typical of a political point of view (bloody Government handouts! Bloody “Socialist” distancing) that I find abhorrent. So there are times when it’s not just a case of finding something unfunny – it’s a case of finding something ugly and prehistoric. (Brooks’ angle seems to be very much that held by the Sweaters, Grinders, Diddlums and Rushtons of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists).

But don’t let that distract you from the achievement here. Benson treads a careful (and balanced, irrespective of your respective persuasion) path through the year, giving each cartoon a short accompanying paragraph of context and helpfully on occasion pointing out where a particular cartoon has nodded in the direction of another work of art (which happens more frequently than you’d expect). There are cartoons in here that I’d not seen, cartoons that I like a great deal, cartoons that I’ve turned back to frequently as I write this, cartoons I wouldn’t have likely seen without the existence of this book – cartoons by Rebecca Hendin, Morten Morland, Chris Riddell, Steve Bell, Patrick Blower, Kevin Kallaugher and Ella Baron to name but a few.

So, provided you’re not so rabid that you can’t acknowledge that there are other points of view (even if the other points of view make you mad), Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2020 actually functions as a good overview of what has, by any stretch of the imagination, been a mad year. And if you’re one of those people who think the craziness of the world puts comedy beyond the reach of satirists, think again. There are cartoons here that have upset the great and the good – and for that alone, the world needs these people more than ever.

Any Cop?: I didn’t quite expect to like this as much as I did. Surprisingly fun, surprisingly challenging, surprisingly refreshing.

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