We don’t look at British political cartoons very much, mainly because we can’t think of a consistently good one. It seems to be a lost art since the long-gone days of Angus Og, devoted less to cutting insightful and acutely-observed satirical commentary than to the altogether baser pursuit of grotesque caricature.
Even the Guardian’s much-vaunted Steve Bell leaves us stone-cold 99% of the time, and often desperately scouring the news pages to work out what the joke is supposed to be about, let alone whether it’s funny. (He’s been drawing David Cameron with a condom on his head for a fair few years now, and we still have no idea why.)
But half-awake this morning, we clicked on a link in a tweet that led us to The Scotsman’s latest effort, and it’s a sort of masterpiece, in much the same sense that while murder is a terrible thing, Harold Shipman was undeniably really good at it.
We’re going to take the unusual and unpleasant step of reproducing the image here for the purposes of discussion, because it really doesn’t deserve the traffic. This is it:
Let’s just quickly walk through the most obvious bits, shall we?
1. It’s pretty insulting to Andy Murray, on at least a couple of levels.
2. Um, what’s it actually illustrating? While Murray did at least lose a match, what terrible travails did Alex Salmond suffer last week to leave him battered and bruised and broken? We’re having some trouble bringing them to mind – the consensus of opinion right across the political spectrum was that if anyone had a tough week last week it was David Cameron and the No campaign.
3. What’s the line about “the economy” supposed to mean? Has there been some dramatic new revelation about the diastrous effects of independence on the Scottish economy that we missed? (Again, it was David Cameron who was last week being lambasted for casting businesses and investors into five years of damaging uncertainty about Europe.) Is the implication that Alex Salmond has somehow lost a tennis match against the economy? We honestly haven’t a clue what it’s getting at. Can anyone help?
4. The image notes the “latest” opinion polling as showing 34% Yes to 47% No – a deficit of 13 points. But wait a minute – didn’t the same newspaper just three days earlier report figures of 23 to 61, a gap of 38 points? If we’re to take only Scotsman articles as our guide, between the last two Mr Salmond’s cause has gained a colossal 25 points in less than half a week. Blimey, if that’s got him weeping on the floor, how many would he win in a GOOD week?
Doubtless any Unionist purchasers of the Scotsman (ie presumably all of them) will be hooting with mirth at the cartoon anyway, because of its unflattering portrayal of the First Minister. But then, that rather reinforces our original point.