The Genius of Steve Bell
A wonderful cartoon by Steve Bell on Wednesday on the subject of Cardinal O'Connor raising abortion as an election issue. I won't infringe copyright by reproducing it here so use the link. I don't usually scrutinise the details of Bell's cartoons which are broad brush and in your face. But with this one I only gradually noticed that O'Connor was squeezing Blair's balls, that Blair's toes were curling up in pain and that Howard's headgear was actually a bat.
One of my other favourite Bell cartoons is from 2001 when Blair tried to remove Gwyneth Dunwoody from the Chair of the Select Committee on Transport. Here he took his inspiration from early movies with Blair as the villain strapping Dunwoody to a railway line. Bell combines incredible imagination and intelligence with extreme coarseness, so here Blair is calling Dunwoody a "train loving bitch."
The other Bell cartoon that will stay with me for the rest of my life appeared at the time of the Dunblane school massacre. (I can't link because I don't think it's on the Guardian website).
How can you do a cartoon about a tragedy like Dunblane? Well Steve Bell did. And for me and many others it was the only time during that dreadful tragedy that we actually shed tears. If I saw it now I would cry. If I pictured it in my mind I would cry. And I don't cry easily.
Briefly, it showed a row of young children sitting on a school stage. The curtain was falling and only their lower legs and feet were visible. Some of the poignancy came from the detail of the drawing of their socks and shoes. This was an event that television could report but not show. We saw smiling family portraits of some of the dead children but somehow Bell's drawing of their legs and feet dangling from standard wooden school chairs made them more real. It's ironic that what I regard as the masterpiece of someone who daily makes us laugh should have been a drawing that made so many people cry.