Tara Hamilton-Miller: Bottoms up to our sense of humour

To the vast cool halls of Tate Britain for an exhibition, 'Rude Britannia', celebrating British comic art.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

There is an overwhelming theme - from the 17th century to the present day, the caricature or cartoon regularly has to feature 'bottoms'. I already knew that us Brits were buoyed by a peachy behind (especially in these austere times), but I had no idea we had been so obsessed for so long.

In 1789, our MPs were lampooned as grotesque, greedy fraudsters. There were scratchy, spiky pen and ink drawings with bum gags. Fast-forward to 1992 and John Major is leaning over his desk, phone in one hand, saying: 'Hello, Cone Hotline? I have a problem.' There is a large cone up the Prime Minister's derriere.

It is reassuring. The ooh la la French and the no-nonsense Germans have their skills. Ya, Fritz, we may be 'kacke' at football, but we do botty jokes the best. The bottom represents safe, seaside postcard, non-threatening humour.

The coalition bunch are all a bit too new to satirise and possibly a bit dull. In politics, you need a bit of a shelf-life to be recognised and a personality is helpful. My generation grew up with Spitting Image, recognising real-life puppets from their latex doubles. It is difficult now. Perhaps Boris, Osborne, Hague and Theresa May would do, but the rest could prove tricky.

Last week, the BBC showed Norman Tebbit's 'My father got on his bike and looked for work' speech.

He was brilliant, passionate and meant every word. Politicians no longer give speeches like that; they are too scared, too safe, nobody wants to offend and that makes for a duller world.

In Britain, we have wonderful, edgy, talented writers and cartoonists who are free to do as they please. In France, a car advert ridiculing President Sarkozy - 'Be like Madame Bruni, take a small French model' - caused a scandal and the couple threatened to sue.

Caitlin Moran in The Times describes Cameron as 'half a bottom with a face drawn on it'. How lucky that we live in a country with a national sense of humour. We should be pleased - we Brits are 'terribly good at rude'.

- Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team.

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