Peter Brookes, political cartoonist at The Times, is a savage commentator and the spiritual successor to the likes of Gillray and Hogarth. He spoke to Rod Gilchrist.
‘The thing to understand about politicians is that, much as they hate how I depict them, they’d hate it even more if I ignored them,’ says Peter Brookes, The Times’s savage and perceptive cartoonist.
‘What they don’t understand is that we’re the permanent Opposition.’
Each weekday, at the top of the newspaper’s leader page, Mr Brookes skewers Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump – or any public figure he finds vain, incompetent or duplicitous – with wicked wit and brilliant draughtsmanship, often with blood gushing from wounds inflicted by treacherous opponents.
The son of a squadron leader, Mr Brookes trained to be an RAF pilot but was asked to leave, which led him to take up art – his true vocation.
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That switch led him to a career as the most feared commentator on the Westminster vortex, a worthy successor to the great 18th-century satirists Gillray and Hogarth, able with a single brilliant image to expose the cant behind the spin. It’s a talent for which he’s been rewarded with a CBE.
Despite his corrosive commentaries, cabinet ministers pay handsomely to buy his original artwork, while former chancellor George Osborne begged the cartoonist to design his Christmas card.
Mr Brookes believes it’s harder to draw women because there’s a tendency to be kinder. However, the demonic relish with which he presents Mrs May, with a Shylock nose, might have prompted the Prime Minister to confess it’s the attribute she’d most like to change.
Only once has he been attacked for a cartoon – when he depicted Pope Benedict XVI with a condom on his head. Outraged cardinals led a delegation to The Times, declaring: ‘The Pope is infallible.’
The then editor replied: ‘That’s funny. To us, Brookes is infallible.’ Quite.
You can purchase Mr Brookes’s original artwork or his book, ‘Interesting Times’, from the Chris Beetles Gallery in St James’s, London SW1 (020–7839 7551; chrisbeetles.com)
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