Political cartoons as we know them have been around for more than 300 years, from Hogarth’s images of London life to the golden age of Punch magazine, to the busy caricaturists of today. There are examples dating back to ancient Greece and Egypt, and satirical art has been found in places of worship from the Middle Ages. The drawing and publishing of cartoons is an activity that not all cultures enjoy or permit. Yet this visual commentary vividly documents the political and social world we live in, and holds those in power to account.
The events of 2020-21 provided remarkable fodder for the cartoonists who so cleverly satirised them. Brexit havoc, Tory sleaze and the brutal reality of Covid restrictions become colourful and witty works of art in the hands of those who translate them for the country’s national newspapers.
Tim Benson’s Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2021 (Hutchinson) features more than 190 cartoons published during the year from September 2020, taking in the interior decoration of 10 Downing Street, sausage wars, gun laws and Jacob Rees-Mogg, fittingly depicted as Scrooge.
That cartoonists have so little time to interpret events –and that they still manage to execute their illustrations with such conviction – makes their work all the more impressive. It would have been easy to fill the pages of this magazine with their scabrous wit twice over, but sadly, we don’t have the space. Here, instead, is a selection of some of our favourite cartoons: images that tell the story of another tumultuous year.