THE other day, Matt in the Daily Telegraph was 30. Everyone was laughing, apart from the Labour Party.
That cartoon is the smallest and best item in the newspaper, a postage stamp of wit pasted on to the broadsheet acres. How can anyone not be amused by Matt? Politicians, cultural figures and broadcasting celebrities lined up behind the Duke of Edinburgh, a big fan, to praise the cartoonist in a feature for the Telegraph.
Mrs Maybe and “every former living former Prime Minister” joined the party, and the PM said Matt helped politicians to “laugh at ourselves” (she never looks like she does that, but never mind).
David Cameron said one cartoon poking fun at him was “mounted on the wall of his daughter’s bedroom” – an odd location, perhaps, but at least he had the goodwill to praise Matt.
Unlike the Opposition, according to the Telegraph, which reported: “Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, was also invited to join the anniversary celebrations. His team politely declined, saying none of the Matt cartoons they had seen about Mr Corbyn were funny.”
Oh, come on! Just about every Matt cartoon raises a smile, no matter what the subject. A recent one shows two spies on a bridge in Prague. One spy is saying to the other: “I met Corbyn. He told me his runner beans are doing well and he might plant some courgettes.”
This is typical Matt. It’s properly funny in a gentle, sideways manner, bouncing off the headlines in an unexpected direction. Matt does that all the time and that’s what makes him so joyfully amusing.
His spy cartoon mocks Corbyn, yes, but it’s also affectionate, playing with the notion that he couldn’t possibly have passed on any secrets as he is too boring.
As someone who usually votes Labour, reading that quote filled me with gloom. Oh, lighten up, I mumbled; get a life and a sense of humour. Matt is funny! If you can’t see that, what hope is there?
Saying that no Matt cartoons about Corbyn have been funny sounds so po-faced and miserable. You can be serious and still laugh at yourself. As the late actor Alan Rickman said: “I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously.”
Well, quite – and at least Corbyn only attracts gentle mockery from Matt. David Cameron truly suffered at the hands of Steve Bell in the Guardian, who always drew him with a condom over his head.
The late Simon Hoggart wrote in his diary for the Guardian in October 2010 that he was at a Tory conference party with Bell, the cartoonist with the brilliant cruel eye.
Bell and Cameron met again at a conference party, causing Hoggart to write: “The PM seemed very friendly. ‘Hello Steve, hello Simon!’ he cried cheerily, but moved straight onto the condom question. (One important issue is the teat on the end.) ‘You can only push the condom so far,’ Cameron said, which struck me as wise advice in life as well as political cartooning.”
Yes, you can only push the condom so far – but you should be able to take a joke. That’s something Jeremy Corbyn (or at least those surrounding him) should get their unsmiling heads around.
To return to Matt, the cartoon he drew to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s retirement from public life is one to cherish. It just shows the ceremonial curtain pulling away to reveal the words: “Unveil your own damn plaque.”