“The Times” Top Cartoonist

Tory Michael Gove backstabbing Boris Johnston
Tory Michael Gove backstabbing Boris Johnston

Brooke’s cartoons impale Pollies… and Royals

By Tom Aitken in London

On the last day of 2016, The Times celebrated the award of a CBE to its political cartoonist Peter Brookes by devoting that week’s issue of its weekly colour magazine to cartoons produced by him during the year.

This act of celebration is in itself something to celebrate.

I will surely not be the only person who will keep the very handsomely produced magazine next to other volumes of political cartoons.

It provides an entertaining and, dare I say it, in its way a beautiful record of the British political year.

The cover choice of cartoon brilliantly sums up the political in-fighting that has followed the chaotic resignation of David Cameron after the British electoral public’s close-run decision to leave the Common Market. (This story, of course, has by no means run its course.)

British backstabbing

The brilliantly chosen cover cartoon sums up the chaotic hostilities that have kept all the members of the cabinet on their guard against each other.

Peter Brookes, CBE
Peter Brookes, CBE

It shows Michael Gove stabbing Boris Johnson in the back. But, appropriately for what actually happened, it shows Gove, in the previous days a close associate of Boris, wrecking his own chances of advancement as well.

Pictorially it is masterfully (and probably impossibly) comic. We are looking over Boris’s right shoulder at Gove, blood-red lipped and popping-eyed.

But Gove has miscalculated. He has reached over his target’s right shoulder to stab him with a sword rather than a dagger. This represents Gove’s somewhat melodramatic behaviour, and has very bad results for him.

The sword goes right through Boris’s torso (no mean feat considering its size and volume) but continues onwards and stabs Gove himself in the heart.)

All this pictorial manipulation takes advantage of the fact that you don’t need to see Boris’ face to recognise him. His blond mop and the tightness of hi jacket across the shoulders and large torso is all you need. A few weeks ago this cartoon won the award for ‘Cartoon of the Year’.

Turn the page and you find an even gorier spectacle. Theresa May, complete with leopard skin shoes and handbag is tiptoeing towards the open door of

British PM Theresa May and her departed colleagues
British PM Theresa May and her departed colleagues

Number 10. Through the open door we see David Cameron slumped on the floor, a dagger in his chest. On the path to the door are the bodies of four others who might have stood between Teresa May and the top job. All have been stabbed in the back.

There is copious blood on the path and the steps and floor on which Cameron is slumped.

And the title?  ‘RED CARPET TREATMENT’.

Hitting the spot

In a panel is a picture of Peter Brookes, the cartoonist himself, stroking his chin and telling us, ‘If a cartoon is doing its job, it’s being critical. You get up people’s noses. As for how all the subjects view them, there’s that old joke: politicians aren’t offended when they’re in a cartoon; they’re offended when they’re not in a cartoon.’

This might not be true of President Assad of Syria who is shown with a bolt through his neck, (‘it makes him even more like a monster’) alongside Vladimir Putin, carrying assorted weaponry: (‘Putin is often topless in my drawings: it gives him that ridiculous macho look.’)

I haven’t counted, but there must be something approaching 150 cartoons in this ‘Supplement’ and all of them repay close examination. Eleven examine the phenomenon of David Trump.

But I leave you with a splendidly rip-roaring ‘birthday boy’, the Duke of Edinburgh in full dress uniform, reading the Daily Excess. Most of the front page is occupied by the headline,


The Duke’s response?


The Queen puts her gloved hand over her eyes.