Copyright: John Frost Newspapers
The newspaper: The Daily Mirror
The date: July 5, 1945
The news event: The first General Election after World War ll
What you see
This dramatic front page re-uses a classic cartoon by Zec, first drawn to illustrate VE-Day – May 8 1945, the end of the war in Europe. Just as it is unusual now to have a cartoon as a main image on a front page, it was unusual then. The cartoon is a powerful drawing which helps turn the page into what amounts to an election poster.
Two months earlier, the Allied forces had defeated Germany: WWII was over in Europe. The fight against Japan continued in the Far East until August 15, 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The aftermath of war was bleak: millions of Britons were dead or missing in action; hundreds of thousands of troops were being brought back to Britain from where they had been fighting; almost every family had lost loved ones, or knew of a friend who had.
Winston Churchill, who was the conservative Prime Minister from 1940- 1945, had played a major part in helping the Allies to win the war. But the people of Britain wanted a change of government. Many remembered the terrible economic depression before the war, and the resulting poverty and high unemployment. The war had helped to create full employment, and there was a determination that the country should not fall back into old habits. The Labour party promised a "total war on bad housing, unemployment, poverty, ignorance and ill health".Twenty-one days after this front page appeared, Labour under Clement Attlee won a huge victory over the Conservatives and Liberals. Churchill resigned immediately, still a war hero.
The front page
During WWII, and for several years afterwards, British newspapers had to cope with newsprint rationing. This meant that they could only print a few pages each day. So this front page showed a bold use of its limited space. Who was Zec? Philip Zec was the greatest and most controversial cartoonist of World War II. He was the political cartoonist for the Daily Mirror between 1939 and 1946. His cartoon on this front page is thought by some to be the most significant cartoon of the twentieth century. Most national newspapers today still have a political cartoonist who is usually asked to illustrate the main editorial page. This front page has become an ‘editorial’ page where the journalists are writing what is really a political speech to their readers, rather than reporting a news event as such. The paper calls on its readers to: ‘Vote on behalf of the men who won the victory for you. You failed to do so in 1918 [end of World War I]. The result is known to all. The land “fit for heroes” did not come into existence.’ Without once mentioning the Labour Party by name, the article cleverly just calls on people to vote, knowing fully well that their readers are very likely to support that party.
This design is simple and dramatic. Why? Because the eye is immediately drawn to the cartoon figure of a wounded soldier striding over a land destroyed by war. The cartoon carries a powerful message that is then reinforced by the simple but strong lines of text next to it. The message brought out through the typography and the image is straightforward: Vote for the men who fought and died in the war and for those who survived.