This show would not exist without the Tory brand-killer that is Tony Blair. A trip to this exhibition of cartoons of Tory leaders will remind you of how many Conservative leaders he has dispatched. The big guns of caricature love failure – nothing excites the pen more than a constant turnover of policy and faces. It makes the approach simple, if a bit unfair: Michael Howard as Dracula; William Hague as a small school boy. In reality, Hague is a tall, strapping Northern lad. But, when you are coming second, we cartoonists have no mercy. Oddly, given that he was always charismatically challenged in office, it is Steve Bell’s John Major that seems to stand out as an icon. Sad and exposed, covered only by a tie, as his trusty underpants rest nearby, the image expresses the vulnerability of public life. Likewise, in the Best Future for Britain, the haunted pallor of the finger-crossed cartoon of Major contrasts poignantly with the regular prospectus photograph of himself that he is holding. It’s vintage Bell. But the show is also a chance to assess the new bloke. Youth and poshness form the early lines of attack. Peter Shrank has David Cameron as a young adventurer running along the top of the ruins of the word ‘Tory’ towards the flame – now with added resonance, as the flame branding has since been axed in favour of a more cuddly tree. The new star of editorial cartooning, Morten Morland, has Cameron as a squired gent on a stroll with hounds and wellies, rapping a homie PR message. Promising, isn’t it?
From Major to Minor runs from 31 January to 17 March at The Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, London WC1