Classic Cartoons: Martin Plimmer on Philip Zec

THERE'S NO reason, of course, why a cartoon should be funny. Some are very serious. This one (`The price of petrol has been increased by one penny - official') which appeared in March 1942, was more serious than most. Winston Churchill's wartime government threatened to close the Mirror because of it.

Ostensibly it drew attention to the fact that the Government's authorisation of one penny rise in the price of petrol was an inadequate response to public wastefulness when thousands of tanker seamen were losing their lives to U-boats.

Churchill, who saw The Mirror as unpatriotic and "malignant" for criticising him for keeping on Chamberlain's elderly and appeasement-prone cabinet, interpreted Zec's cartoon as an accusation of fat- tening the petrol combines at the expense of British lives ("Worthy of Goebbels at his best," said the then Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison).

The Mirror survived, however. Zec, a socialist cockney Jew, became a director of the newspaper, and later editor of the Sunday Pictorial.