What made you become a journalist? I wanted to be a political cartoonist from the age of 10 when I first came across drawings by Gillray, Cruikshank and David Low in my sister’s history text book – An Illustrated History of Britain 1780-1945.

What other job might you have or have done? My last proper job (when someone else paid my stamps) was in 1980. I was assistant chief cashier at Wembley Stadium until I got sacked for innumeracy.

What advice would you give someone starting in journalism? Combine arrogance with sloth: be convinced you’re bloody brilliant so are guaranteed to get ahead, and be far too lazy to get a proper job.

What’s the best place you’ve worked in? The Guardian, bless them, have allowed me to get away with stuff no other paper would. But I had more day-to-day fun on my first national, Today. It was a scream, in the day when papers were still noisy, smoky and boozy.

When did you join the NUJ and why? In 1997 and from shame. I was at the Labour conference and an old school shop steward delegate asked if I was in a union. I didn’t realise I qualified as a freelance. At the next conference, I reassured him I’d made good my error.

Are many of your friends in the union? I hope so. Whenever a cartoonist regales me with horror stories of managers or editors, I ask if they’ve consulted the NUJ. Then – depressingly often – I say ‘join!’.

Who is your biggest hero? Cartoonists don’t have heroes, or at least shouldn’t. I have a passing regard for the founding geniuses of my craft, Hogarth and Gillray, and later geniuses like Ronald Searle and Ralph Steadman.

And villain? The list is far too long to repeat here.

What’s been your best moment in your career? Tony Blair tried to write a complaint on Alistair Campbell’s computer about one of my cartoons. Campbell stopped it but, if he hadn’t, we would have been able to tear him apart as the PM who couldn’t take the ‘toons’ before he got round to doing any real damage.

NUJ & Me

Martin Rowson is a political cartoonist

What are your hopes for journalism in the future? Good journalism, like satire, is a human constant – we need to hold power to account.

What was your earliest political thought? When I was five or six: that for most people life just wasn’t fair, and the people in charge were hilarious.

And fears? That the bad journalism – the kind of obsessive, bullying, cranky self- righteousness beloved of too many newspaper titles – will prevail.

Which six people (alive or dead) would be at your dinner party? The English regicide Sir Harry Marten; Lucy the Australopithecine; Laurence Sterne; Emma Goldman; William Hogarth; Julia Langdon

How would you like to be remembered? David Montgomery once recommended me to another editor as “a difficult man but a good cartoonist”. It’s that or from a Daily Mail editorial about me: “Sick, disgusting, deranged and offensive.” That’ll do.

theJournalist | 19


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