Sunday, 18 July 2010

Narrativewatch: Nick Clegg as a cartoon figure

Today's Observer has an interesting feature on how newspaper cartoonists are casting Nick Clegg as "David Cameron's fag", "Little Clegg Riding Hood" and so forth.

I have long thought that such simple portrayals can be vital in defining how the public sees leading politicians. The cartoons become heurestics - quick and easy mental shortcuts that help voters, especially those who are not all that interested in the policies and issues, to identify and appreciate the characters in the big tv show of politics.

The article recalls the way how, back in the days of the Liberal-SDP Alliance, Spitting Image depicted David Steel as a puppet in David Owen's pocket. The then Liberal leader's reputation undoubtedly suffered.

The article might also have mentioned the way cartoons of Ming Campbell using a zimmer frame helped to doom Nick's immediate predecessor.

How many times did Neil Kinnock fall into the sea at a Labour conference? Just once, but it was replayed on tv many times. And let's not forget the infamous Sheffield rally of 1992.

Don't panic, Lib Dems: none of the cartoonists' images of Nick has taken hold, at least not yet. Last week, UK Polling Report and YouGov observed that on ratings like being "decisive" and "charismatic" he is still seen considerably more positively than at the start of the year.

But if swing voters and soft Lib Dems start to see Nick as one of these pitiable characters, the fall guy in an everyday political cartoon, he will find that narrative very hard to shake.

Posted via email from Neil Stockley

1 comment:

Frenetica said...

I get the sense that a lot of cartoonists are liberal left and they are in a state of shock at the coalition with the Tories, bordering on hysteria. Bit like beloved Lib Dem power virgin dates big, bad, bonking Tory rugger player. They'll calm down but by the autumn conference we will probably see a more general and permanent characterisation.