Peter Bromhead on cartoonistsby Peter Bromhead
Why are politicians drawn to cartoonists?
Their conceit was often amusing. I usually left them disappointed, and my excuse was always the same. “I’m sorry, Minister, I’m not actually an artist, that’s why my cartoons are so badly drawn.”
One minister suggested I take art classes, while another wondered aloud how I managed to get a job at all.
“I have friends in high places,” I whispered, conspiratorially. That wasn’t true, but it was a response a politician understands.
Hugh Watt seemed particularly worried that I was giving his Labour Government a hard time. “I know your parents well,” he muttered. “Your mother would be so ashamed of the scurrilous doodles you’re producing!” I reassured him that my mother and I had not been particularly friendly after she threw me off a double-decker bus when I was aged just three.
But my most memorable meeting was with Sir Keith Holyoake. He pretended he had never heard of me, then effusively praised the cartoons of my rival at the NZ Herald, Gordon Minhinnick. He also made a point of mentioning Minhinnick’s recent knighthood.
“Ah yes,” he noted grandly. “We all have a sense of humour in the National Party. That is, if it’s real family humour – not just malicious, spiteful stuff.”
Looking him in the eye, I responded: “Do you think my work’s spiteful?”
Holyoake looked surprised. “Let me assure you, young man, I’m not even aware of your cartoons.”
At that point, he abruptly stood, indicating the meeting was over, but once I reached the door, he called me back to his desk and casually offered me a box of Beehive matches.
“A small memento of the building being completed next door,” he said with a patronising smile.
In the corridor I ran into one of the press secretaries. “The bastard just gave me a box of matches as a gift,” I muttered.
“Don’t worry,” the flunky responded. “He’s given the same thing to foreign dignitaries. You’re privileged, particularly as he absolutely loathes your work.”
“But he told me he’s never heard of me!”
“Trust me,” the flunky smiled. “He follows your cartoons daily.”
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