You know the cartoon I mean.
Complaining that Steve Bell is offensive is pointless.
Steve Bell has been offending people for decades.
The problem with Steve Bell’s foggily unfunny attempts to satirise the SNP / Sturgeon / Salmond, is that cutting-edge political satire depends on an intimate knowledge of the political scene: and too-evidently, Steve Bell is too ignorant of Scottish politics to be able to provide any of his usually fine satire.
The Guardian readers’ editor thinks that Bell is satirising “the roots of nationalism, not people, and he uses 18th century weapons of caricature”, and the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent tweets “we also defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to offend and @GdnScotland should not censor @BellBelltoons either”.
When discussing a political cartoonist who used to do cutting-edge satire that was funny because it was true, the key issue is not “is he offensive?” but “is his satire any good?”
Steve Bell isn’t coping with the change that requires him to learn about Scottish politics in order to satirise them. It would be kinder to let him go on sabbatical, rather than let him display his copelessness in public, but as Bell himself was never kind, why demand kindness for him?
This isn’t about censorship. This is about quality.
Afterthought: the alarming thing for those of us who are (or were) Steve Bell fans is that if the polls are borne out and 40+ SNP MPs go to Westminster and Labour is perforce obliged to enter a Lab/SNP coalition, there will be unprecedented opportunities for satire – all of which it seems Steve Bell plans to throw away because he seems to think “ha ha Scottish people” is sufficient for a joke.
Does Lesley Brennan stand a chance as the Labour PPC in Dundee East?
Electoral Calculus says no – Stewart Hosie has both the benefit of being the incumbent MP and the candidate on the rising tide of SNP votes. Maybe in 2020: Lesley Brennan has represented Dundee’s East End ward since 2012.
Nevertheless, Dundee East has been selected as one of 106 Labour “battleground seats”, and thus Brennan’s campaign became the recipient of £1000 from Tony Blair, who is donating £106,000 to the candidates in those seats, or so the initial publicity made it seem.
Steve Bell’s shtick is picking a comparator for a politician whom he knows he’s going to have to draw a lot. Nick Clegg as cardboard figure with massive chin. Edwina Currie as giant chicken. John Prescott as a toothless bulldog. Nicola Sturgeon has just become one of those politicians, as the very-soon-to-be First Minister of Scotland.
Edwina Currie said of him a few years ago:
He’s never kind, never affectionate. So it can feel hurtful. Afterwards, you realise it’s very funny and clever, but at the time you feel miffed that your enormous contribution to the country is not being recognised. Does it make you feel better when you see your political rivals skewered? Oh yes!
Steve Bell is a remarkable talent. I’m not in the least surprised at his longevity. Long may he continue.
So, Steve Bell might have picked something offensive, it might have been funny, it might have been clarifying or illuminating or silly, but the shtick Steve Bell seems to have chosen for Nicola Sturgeon is… Hitler.