I love cartoons and comics, and I’m a big fan of Stephen Collins’s work. He does the cartoon in the Saturday Guardian magazine that appears underneath Lucy Mangan’s column, and he’s recently published a book entitled The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.
This week’s cartoon, pasted below, features a voxpop interview with a woman-in-the-street. (I’ve downloaded the image from Stephen Collins’s website, and am happy to remove it if requested to do so. This cartoon, and many others, can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/cartoon/2013/may/18/2.)
I wanted to write about this one because I think it’s about the seemingly inexorable rise of UKIP. When asked for her opinion on the ‘new government’, the woman-in-the-street replies that she doesn’t ‘follow politics’. Having ascertained that the ‘new goverment’ are the ones with the long legs and the guns, she says she quite likes them because: 1) their leader came over well on Have I Got News For You; 2) their leader seems to be more human than ‘that pink one’ David Cameron*; and 3) it’s nice to have a change. The backdrop to this interview is a War-of-the-Worlds-style zapping of innocent people, including someone walking past the café directly behind the interviewee.
Now, I laughed the first time I read this, but then I put the pieces together: the leggy gun-wielding zappers are the UKIP politicians, our new leaders in the cartoon world, and the woman-in-the-street is the average citizen who, out of a general apathy, condones their activities simply because they don’t impinge on her everyday existence. She barely knows who these new politicians are. She’s not the one being zapped.
It’s a funny cartoon, of course it is – Stephen Collins is always amusing – but the sub-text is one I find very alarming. I have to add that I was worried about publishing this post, for fear of reprisals from UKIP supporters – but if I take no interest and say nothing, then I’m just like the woman-in-the-street, aren’t I? If she had a life beyond this cartoon, I’d be willing to bet that she didn’t bother to vote. She probably sat back and said something along the lines of ‘I never bother, because they’re all as bad as each other, aren’t they?’
Well, no. Some are much, much worse than others.
*I think ‘that pink one we had. With the head’ may well be a nod to the very funny depiction of Cameron in the cartoons of the excellent Steve Bell. But ‘pink’ here could also refer to the derogatory term for Socialist politics, meaning that if Cameron and his crew can be described as Socialist, then UKIP by comparison are more Tory than the Tories.