In and Out

Recently, the political cartoonist of the Daily Telegraph, feared by many, revealed what his victims have said to him about his work.

Since the vanity of men in particular is highly sensitive, here is what David Cameron demanded to know from him, when they met at a function. ‘Why do you make me so fat? Look at Gove over there, he’s much fatter than I am and you draw him thin.’

Perhaps the PM failed to understand that cartoonists in general tend to take the mickey out of their subjects by presenting them in a contrary form, so as to make them look ridiculous in order to get the most impact for their drawings.

This is not, it seems, the first time Mr Cameron has objected to a caricature of himself.

Simon Hoggart, the late parliamentary sketch writer, used to tell the story of the time Steve Bell, the Guardian’s political cartoonist, was accosted by the prime minister who grabbed Mr Bell’s forearm in a bold move and asked him, with a veneer of unconvincing matiness, whether the time had come to stop drawing him with a condom stretched over his head. Given that Mr Bell is about seven foot tall and built like a bear the physical encounter between the two must have been breathtaking.

Although the idea of a condom was clever and rather risqué, the PM suggested that the joke had surely had its day by now. ‘After all,’ he said – and Simon swore they were his exact words – ‘you can only push the condom so far.’

That was, in my view, a brilliant parry coming from someone whose sense of humour has never struck me as endearing, to say the least.

However, despite this unexpected stroke of wit which should have floored Mr Bell, Mr Cameron’s riposte did not pay off. The cartoonist continues to draw him with a condom over his head to this day.

That’s what I call either a dedication to his art or proof that democracy in some form or other is still alive and prospering, and that the innuendo of sex is never far away.

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