19th September 1963. One in the Eye is Worth Ten in the Ear.
Today David Low described as the most influential cartoonist of the 20th century died in 1963. He was particularly notable for his cartoons on the fascist dictators-Hitler and Mussolini-which pre-war didn’t enamour him with his Tory editors.
In September 1937 Percy Cudlipp editor of the Evening Standard started refusing Low’s work, as he said: ‘the state of Europe was extremely tense… and thought that tempers would be inflamed especially as pictures convey more emotion than news-press’, he asked Low, ‘to bear this in mind when planning cartoons’.
Then Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax on returning from a visit to Hitler, told Low that his cartoons were impairing the Prime-Minister’s [Chamberlain] Policy of Appeasement.
The press-baron, Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Evening Standard, said European problems were nothing to do with Britain, a warning to go easy on the dictators, so Low promptly produced a composite figure of fun, ‘Mussler’, which he said he later regretted. In truth owing to his opposition of Chamberlain and Appeasement, Low was regarded as a ‘war-monger’.
Times changed, and as an advocate of Churchill the cartoon (above), after his assumption of power on May 10th 1940, reflected the country’s thinking.
‘Send more machines’, it was evident that against the Nazi tank-plane technique, [Blitzkrieg] the Allies were handicapped by a shortage of both and resulted in our retreat from Dunkirk.
The cartoon above helped morale and the Dunkirk Spirit.
By 1942, with immediate peril receding, the coalition government was looking forward to post-war reconstruction with the publication of the Beveridge Report, but there was fear of back-sliding with a return to unrestricted free enterprise along with a ‘healthy’ dose of unemployment and the incentive of want.
However with the Labour Party landslide in 1945, there was little opposition to reform, except from the vested interests of Charles Hill, leader of the British Medical Association, and sections of the Press. The Daily Sketch regarded state medical proposals as a ‘socialist plot’ and said doctors were ‘standing against a socialist tyranny’. (1)
In the event the NHS came into being at mid-night on 1.4.1948, but not before Churchill had said Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan was a ‘curse to his country in peace, as he had been a squalid nuisance in war’.
In the cartoon below Churchill, with the Tories a year away from victory, is facing backwards with his hands on the wheel, whilst progressive minded, ‘RAB’ Butler is being squashed. In the back seat is Lord Woolton, Chairman of the Conservative Party.
By 1949 Low was coming up against Beaverbrook’s censorship so he moved from the Evening Standard, to the mass-circulation working class, Daily Herald in 1950; contracted for 3 cartoons a week at £10,000 year.
In June 1952 he moved to the Manchester Guardian to become their first staff cartoonist. A socialist throughout his life, Low refused a knighthood until a year before his death.
(1) Hill was the smooth-talking war-time, radio doctor. 4734 doctors voted for the NHS out of the 45,148 polled.
spartacus-ed.com/low/John Simkin. Sept.1997, later updated.
David Low. Years of Wrath 1949. Autobiography.