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Brexit, May and Trump gave political cartoonists plenty to draw on in 2018



The Brexit debate may have split the country amid fears of economic turmoil or concerns that the democratic will of the people is being usurped; but look on the bright side, at least it’s provided plenty of material for the most creative contributors to British newspapers – the political cartoonists.

In the offices of the Evening Standard, Christian Adams has chronicled the increasingly chaotic events at Westminster, caricaturing the key players.

He scratches an outline of Theresa May using a nib and ink. “She has this stoop…little bump in the nose…always looks unhappy. Not surprising…”

Theresa May 'always looks unhappy.  Not surprising...'
Theresa May ‘always looks unhappy. Not surprising…’

The prime minister begins to take shape. This year Adams has portrayed her as everything from a dog being wagged by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s tail, to a cricketer being battered by bouncers bowled by her own team.

With just under 100 days to go until Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union, he had her diving head first into an empty swimming pool.

Brexit turmoil has dominated the political agenda in 2018 but has provided the nation’s cartoonists and comedians with plenty of material.

He did briefly worry that he was going too far.

“There is a slight problem with Theresa May that she is a woman and at the very beginning when she was home secretary I did get complaints saying it was misogynistic.

“I said it doesn’t matter if she’s a woman or a man.”

He laughs.

“Anyway, she chose to be prime minister so I have no sympathy for her.”

Theresa May diving head first into an empty swimming pool
Theresa May diving head first into an empty swimming pool

His boss would appear to share that view.

But then one of her first acts as prime minister was to sack him from the job he had held for six years.

Which is why George Osborne is now the editor of the Standard, rather than Chancellor of the Exchequer.

His move from politics to journalism has put him in a unique position; where once he was the subject of Christian Adams’s cartoons, he’s now overseeing the way Adams is portraying his former Conservative Party colleagues.

“I’m always trying to encourage Christian to poke things up a bit,” Mr Osborne says.

“He’s an artist. He comes up with his own ideas and we discuss them every morning.

“They’re a very effective tool for poking fun at the politicians and now that I’m sitting in a newspaper office, I’m all for poking fun at politicians.”

He denies taking particular delight at cartoons about Mrs May, though he did seem to relish showing us the May dog being wagged by the Rees-Mogg tail.

“A very powerful image” he called it. “The thing about politicians is they complain about being in cartoons. But the only thing worse than being in cartoons is not being featured in cartoons.

“Sometimes my former colleagues and members of the Royal Family will buy an original artwork because they like to have a little memento of the day they were lampooned in the paper.”

It has been a rich time for political cartoonists like Christian Adams
It has been a rich time for political cartoonists like Christian Adams

Adams admits it’s “very strange” to be guided by a man he used to draw. “I don’t get any interference from the editor, but he is the editor.

“I’m not going to draw something which is the exact opposite of the political stance of the paper, but I don’t exactly toe the line of what the leader column is going to say.

Theresa May takes shape

“Ongoing chaos is brilliant for cartoonists. Brexit is the awful gift that keeps on giving. It’s been a very rich year, and if in doubt there’s always Trump to fall back on,” he added.

The orange skin and coiffed hair of the president provides endless material for cartoonists.

Adams turned him into a hamburger with his hair as the bun in one cartoon, and transformed the poster of the Oscar winning movie The Shape of Water into a version with a naked Trump locked in an embrace with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

He won’t be short of material in 2019.

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