|Its a mugs game
Martin Rowsons devastating caricatures are the best antidote
to todays culture of slick spin, writes Lord Kenneth Baker
Mug Shots by Martin Rowson
IN the 18th century Charles James Fox made Brookss Club
in St Jamess the rallying point for the Whigs. In the late
20th century Michael Foot made the Gay Hussar Restaurant in Greek
Street, Soho, the rallying point for Old Labour. You could find
Michael there with Nye Bevan, Tom Driberg, and Sidney Silverman
tucking into delicious goose and good Hungarian red wine. Utopias
were dreamt up; plots hatched; manifestos written; and faint hearts
coruscated. As a Tory I enjoyed dropping into the Gay Hussar from
time-to-time to have a peep into the enemys camp.
Former Labour leader Michael Foot drawn in March 2000
Jon Snow TV presenter and journalist drawn in May 2002
Former deputy leader of the GLC and the New Journals
literary editor Illtyd Harrington drawn in December 2001
The Gay Hussar was founded by one of the great bon-viveurs, Victor
Sassie, and it is now under the imaginative leadership of John Wrobel.
John had the idea of having his most celebrated clients cartooned
by Martin Rowson. From 1999 to 2005 journalists, editors, Trades
Union leaders, spin doctors, TV interviewers and politicians have
all been captured by Rowson and the result pinned to the walls.
Most came from the Labour Party there are only five Tories
of which I am very proud to be one and no Liberals. It is
a remarkable gallery that captures a generation of political activists.
Martin Rowson, who draws for the Guardian as well as several other
magazines and papers, was an inspired choice as he is one of the
most gifted cartoonists in Britain today. He can quickly capture
the characteristics of his target whom he then makes unforgettable.
There is Greg Dyke with his pugilist hands; Jeremy Paxman unusually
covering his mouth with his hand before he talks; John Mortimer
re-telling old anecdotes; Michael Portillo with his large lips and
less recognised, rather hooded right eye; Lord Longford looking
like an Old Testament prophet and spilling his food onto his trousers;
and the caricaturists bad dream, Charles Clarke, whose appearance
is naturally so exaggerated beard, big ears, balding and
fat what more can a caricaturist do?
Rowson has also provided very interesting comments on his targets.
Robin Cook admired his caricature with large, exaggerated forehead
as it implied there was behind it a large, exaggerated brain.
On a smiling Norman Lamont Rowson managed to affix a pro-Europe
cufflink which the ex-Chancellor didnt notice. Michael Howard
will not thank Martin Rowson for his caricature which captures the
eyes and lips in a sinister way. Michael Heseltine boasted of his
collection of caricatures hanging up on the stairs of his home but
complained about how much cartoonists charge for their work.
Ken Livingstone complained that Rowson always drew him too fat but
that did not prevent the Mayor appointing Rowson as the Cartoonist
Laureate for London so that he could follow him everywhere
whispering in his ear, Stop looking so f***ing smug.
Rowsons fee is a pint of London Pride per annum hes
owed two pints.
When a politician is caricatured it means he has arrived
a sign of recognition. The vast majority of MPs in this present
parliament will never be caricatured in a national newspaper, or
even in their own local paper, but I bet they would love to be.
However unfair the portrayal it is a form of public recognition.
My comment on my caricature was A truish likeness. Roy
Hattersley had perhaps the best defence of any of us by saying to
Rowson: theresh more of you than me in thish cartoon.
A nice way of disowning the image but the fact is that the cartoons
are there, lining the walls of the Gay Hussar Restaurant.
I would urge you to go there and while having an excellent meal
try to spot if any of those cartooned on the walls are dining there
too. In Browns hotel in Mayfair there is a room filled with
pencil drawings of the politicians of the early 19th century who
used to meet there for dinner. This book is result of the Rowson-Gay
Hussar version and it will provide endless
entertainment for generations to come.
The Rt Hon Lord Baker of Dorking is a former Conservative
MP and collector of political cartoons. He served as Home Secretary,
Education Secretary, and Environment Secretary during the 1980s
and early 1990s. He was Chairman of the Conservative Party at the
time Margaret Thatcher resigned in 1990.