Thursday, 29 April 2010

Party Poppers

Despatch from the Westmorland Gazette office, Wednesday afternoon.
Everyone is working at this week's paper but there is an air of hushed expectation. Rumour has it that William Hague is in the building. This isn't a random, gratuitous occurrence. Hague is in South Lakes canvassing on behalf of the local Conservative candidate, Gareth McGareth.
A photographer is despatched to reception and the editor is wearing a jacket. Everyone adopts a busy, nonchalant pose. We've all met major UK political figures before, yawn, yawn. 
I'm feeling a bit shifty. The story I’m illustrating this week concerns a scarecrow festival. The temptation to tie that into Hague's visit has, regrettably, proved too much. 
"Second floor," says Stella the lift. The doors open and there’s a surge of dark suits and the impression of a fabulous, eight-legged political insect scuttling into view. Hague is much taller in real life. And narrower too. I must get the settings fixed on my widescreen television.
He's accompanied by a frightfully young chap who is someone important because he's clutching a Blackberry (the phone not the fruit, although I can’t vouch for the contents of his pockets). Gareth is third and a lady in a jolly jumper brings up the rear. I have no idea who she is; possibly the Biscuits Advisor. Biscuits have become a gigantic campaign issue ever since Gordon Brown refused to identify his favourite on Mumsnet.
Gareth smiles inclusively at everyone, baffling one journalist by asking "How are you? You're looking well." ("I've never met him before in my life,” she says afterwards.)
The party disappears into the meeting room. That explains the tray I spotted in there earlier. It had been set out with Kendal mint cake and Nestle's Blue Riband bars. I wonder what it will be if the other parties visit? KitKat for Labour, custard creams for the LibDems and crackers for UKIP?
The Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency is a key marginal. In 2005, Tim Thingie (LibDem) got in by 287 votes. It broke over 3,000 years of Conservative rule in the area. The Tory chap lost because he spent too much time being Mr Angry on Radio 4 instead of sucking up to the locals. Gareth is jolly careful not to make that mistake. He is much in evidence and it is all going GREAT, according to his Twitter feed.
Whoosh. The political party are out of the meeting room. I shuffle my drawings so the Hague cartoons are on top. They spurn the Cartoon Desk and head for the lift. That was brief but heady.
Later, I discover that Joan, the Gazette's splendid receptionist, insisted Hague and Gareth sign the visitor's book before she let them in. “Got to,” she said, “They could have been a fire hazard.”
I head out in the real world and discover that Gordon Brown has called someone a bigot. That sounds a little unwise. I can't imagine any of those nice Tory visitors doing that.


  1. Heh, I'm much enjoying these supplementary written pieces of yours, Colin - especially, in this case, the 'inclusive' smile and what came afterwards bit. "Blue Ribband', eh? I hope Mr Hague appreciated the gesture! I'd always thought of him as a bit on the short and solid side, too. Strange that.

    Now, back the cartoons...No 2 for me.

  2. On the biscuit front, a certain major supermarket is selling party political cup cakes on the outskirts of Kendal - buns, that is, to all proper northern types. Predictably and entertainingly all the ones with orange Tim type icing have been snaffled already. Lots of blue and green ones left......Maybe the orange ones were just prettier?

  3. Was there a UKIP cake with Guaranteed All-British Ingredients?

    Given Big Dave Cameron's answers to come of the questions on the Leaders' Debates, perhaps Jammie Dodgers would have been more appropriate.