The Art Of Politics: Saying Goodbye To The Plague Year

by Richard Bruton

Last Art Of Politics for the year, our monthly check-in on the best political cartoonists. Covid, lockdowns, so many tiers/tears, debates over scotch eggs, a US president on the out… the predictably chaotic nightmare for a chaotic nightmare of a terrible year!

Where to start?

Well, maybe a summary of how Christmas felt from Martin Rowson

Britain – well, Britain spent December handling everything as badly as we’ve come to expect – we started by arguing over what a bloody substantial meal was and ended the month (and the year) by getting first a Covid vaccine and then a brand-new super strain of Covid, plunging further into lockdown, cancelling Christmas for millions of people and, to top it all off, Brexit was every bit the shit show that was predicted way back about 200 years ago when all of this nonsense kicked off.

Or, to summarise via Chris Riddell

What is a substantial meal? That was the question the nation was asking at the beginning of December. And it was all because Britain had brought in the latest multiple tiers for Covid after the country came out of Lockdown 2 (Electric Boogaloo). And as everyone got used to them, there was the issue over whether you could go to the pub or not. If you happened to be in tier two it meant you could go to the pub – as long as you were having, “a substantial meal”. Cue everyone debating just what a substantial meal was, with government minister and utter waste of space, Michael Gove, coming on television and declaring that a scotch egg wasn’t a substantial meal at 7 am before coming on television and declaring that, no, actually, it was a substantial meal by 9am…

Steve Bell

And then, of course, we all got news about the vaccine, with the UK being the first country to approve the vaccine. But, given that this is Boris’ government, a lot of people questioned exactly how much we could trust them to roll this one out properly…

Steve Bell

And of course, it didn’t take too long before the jingoism came out…

The Oxford Covid vaccine was developed through The University of Oxford, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, by an international team of scientists from 37 different countries, all led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, who said this:

“The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by SARS-CoV-2,’ and ‘It has been a privilege to be part of this multi-national effort which will reap benefits for the whole world.”

But why let the international nature of modern scientific collaboration get in the way of making a cheap political point? Certainly not Cabinet Minister Gavin Williamson, who claimed that the UK was the first to announce they’d clinically approved a Covid vaccine because the UK has “the best medical regulator, much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. That doesn’t surprise me much at all, because we’re a much better country than every single one of them”.

And then health secretary Matt Hancock weighed in, saying that the approval had been so fast ‘because of Brexit.’

No, no, no, and again no. As June Raine, head of the UK’s Medicines and Heathcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) was quick to point out, the speed of the approval was actually BECAUSE of the UK’s last month as a member of the EU, because the UK was able to authorise the approval ‘using provisions under European law.

Peter Brookes

Dave Brown

Steve Bell


Instead, here’s David Rowe celebrating the scientist behind the project, Professor Sarah Gilbert –

And all through December, there was the prospect of the no-deal Brexit looming large, a bigger and scarier version of the Ghost of Christmas Future, a Dickensian nightmare for the modern age…

Peter Schrank

Martin Rowson

Chris Riddell

Ben Jennings on the possible threat of putting British Navy gunships in British waters to protect fishing waters.

Lorna Miller (after Holborn) on the whole ridiculousness of it all…

At the very last minute, Christmas Eve, the deal was finally announced, with the European Union claiming it was a fair deal and Boris saying this – ‘We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.

Yes, exactly. Slightly obscure grammatical references are all well and good, but to be honest we’d rather have someone with an ounce of common sense, empathy, or compassion.

Nicola Jennings on that…

Speaking of empathy, as Unicef stepped in to feed hungry children in the UK for first time in its 70-year history, we had the delightful sight of the ruling elite pouring themselves another state-funded glass of port and scoffing –

Martin Rowson on the response of Jacob-Redd Mogg, who called helping British kids ‘a political stunt.’

Peter Brookes


And then, in a move that surprised absolutely no-one, seeing what a shower we have in charge, the Covid tiers changed, we got a tier 4 in London and down South and Boris pretty much cancelled Christmas for millions and limited the rest of the country to having their Covid mixing Christmas for just Christmas Day rather than the five-day period it was down as initially.

Nicola Jennings

Martin Rowson

Peter Schrank

And of course, this being 2020, the year had one last kick to the groin in the shape of a new variant of the Covid vaccine, with early evidence telling us that it was just 70% more infectious than the original. And yay, Britain got it first…

Brian Adcock

Dave Brown

Meanwhile… over in the old US of A…

Well, let’s face it, if anyone could make more of a mess of things than Boris and the gang did – it’s President Trump. Massive Covid spikes following Thanksgiving and all the President really cares about is that he lost the election and seems to be responding to it the same way a toddler does when you take away their toys.

Martin Rowson on Trump getting the final verdict on the election from the US Electoral College –

And the same, David Rowe on Trump’s Electoral College graduation –


And then the news came out that “during a White House meeting including former national security adviser and convicted felon Michael Flynn, President Trump floats using the military to overturn the election results”. But seriously, after all this time, does that really sound like the sort of thing Trump would do? Oh yes, absolutely yes.

Ann Telnaes

And again

And this from Kal, celebrating Dr Fauci’s birthday on 24 December –

Of course, when things are this bizarre and the year has been so insane, it’s not just the political cartoonists who decide to take a stand with their art.

Here’s comic artist Will Simpson with his commentary featuring Dr Strange and John Constantine:


And Kevin Maguire with Uncle Sam doing what many would wish to do…

So, the end of the year, and yes, it all looks a bit bloody miserable doesn’t it?

But remember that it will get better, we can get through it, just talk to people if you need to, get help if you need to, and please, please, do the right thing, the safe thing.

Two to leave you with –

Martyn Turner

And this, from comic artist Rachael Smith, with words of wisdom, words that help, and words of hope – Samaritans UK, Samaritans USA, and around the world as part of Befrienders.

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