Britain's political cartoonists hang Theresa May out to dry

Mocking political leaders is a fine old British tradition, and this week, the pens were sharp against Prime Minister Theresa May, who gambled the Tories' majority in Parliament by calling an unnecessary snap election and lost.

U.K. prime minister was easy fodder after an ill-fated election

The post-election plight of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who gambled the Tories' majority in Parliament by calling an unnecessary snap election and lost, delighted political cartoonists in the U.K. and around the world this week.  

The cartoons were sometimes acerbic, sometimes downright vicious, but it's tough to know exactly what, if any, influence such depictions have on public opinion. The Independent's Dave Brown says: "If we do, it's a sort of Chinese water torture. It's a drip, drip, drip — you know? We can accentuate the sort of prevailing mood and maybe influence a little how people look at these people."  


Some cartoonists are all about exaggeration.

Brown says May has a face that lends itself to lampooning.

"They're all these fantastic facial expressions she pulls, and it's wonderful for cartoonists — you can just exaggerate that, make the mouth bigger, rubbery-er, pull it all over the place," he says.

"I think politicians sort of gradually grow into their caricatures."

(Dave Brown/The Independent)

Artist Dave Brown gives us a peek at his process.

No one is spared the sharp point of the cartoonist's pen.

Veteran Sunday Times cartoonist Gerald Scarfe made May the star of his Sunday Times offering this week, but he didn't let Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn escape unscathed, portraying him as a mangy dog relieving himself on the PM's leg. Scarfe has been drawing political cartoons for 44 years and also created the instantly recognizable graphics and animations for Pink Floyd's The Wall (the record and the movie).

(Gerald Scarfe/The Sunday Times)

Mocking leaders is a favourite British tradition.

British cartoonists have been fearlessly laughing at leaders for hundreds of years. Another veteran artist with the Times, Peter Brookes, once drew the Pope with a giant condom on his head. Brookes had this take on May's reaction to the election result.  

(Peter Brookes/The Times)

Political cartoonists are not afraid to offend.

The hung Parliament that resulted from May failing to win a majority in last Thursday's election prompted some grim visual puns, such as Gado's cartoon showing May hanging from a rope, and this one by The Independent's Brian Adcock depicting May being dragged off to prison by Corbyn and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, May's biggest rival for the Tory party leadership.

(Brian Adcock/The Independent)

Public figures are fair game.

Brexit negotiations will be May's next challenge — if she is able to secure a deal this week with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support her government. Dutch cartoonist Tom Jannsen framed her prospects this way.

(Tom Janssen/Trouw)

'Trying to tell a greater truth.'

Dave Brown's latest drawing —  a play on the Laurel and Hardy comedy Another Fine Mess with May as Laurel and DUP Leader Arlene Foster as Hardy — appears in Wednesday's Independent. He says cartoonists "invent situations to put these people in, but all the time what we're doing is trying to tell a greater truth."

(Dave Brown/The Independent)