Friday, 7 August 2015

A Hive of Activity

The cartoon blog has been absent of late. It was planning to take the summer off but as summer doesn't appear to be in any hurry to arrive, the blog is back.

The Westmorland Gazette had a splendid array of stories for consideration this week. The most serious of them was the Beloved Government's plan to allow privately rented housing stock to be sold off. With second homes pushing prices sky-high in the Lakes, what could possibly be wrong with that?

Elsewhere, two teenage boys were menaced by Mystery Animals on the fells. Tales of Mystery Black Cats thoroughly spooked them and they ran off into the dark (the boys not the Mystery Animals) and got lost. When Mountain Rescue caught up with them, they discovered the Mystery Animals had been sheep …

And to continue the animal theme, passengers on a local bus had to be evacuated when it was boarded by bees.

Here are the selection of cartoons which confronted my editor. Which would you have chosen?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

SKETCHBOOK - Buckingham Palace Garden Party

What could be more British than afternoon tea? Recently I attended the grandest of all tea parties where 400 waiting staff served 20,000 sandwiches, 20,000 slices of cake, and 27,000 cups of tea to the accompaniment of two military bands. This was no ordinary garden party; it was held in the grounds at Buckingham Palace.

The reasons for my invitation must remain a state secret but my tie was chosen by public vote. Garden Party guests came from all over the UK and beyond, all dressed in their best - tails or lounge suits for the gentlemen, hats and posh frocks for the ladies. I don't think I've ever seen 7,500 people in a more convivial mood.

Buckingham Palace Garden Parties are said to be one of the most relaxed royal occasions. Watching the Queen and Prince Philip chatting to people in the crowd made me realise it was yet another event where they were networking on behalf of the nation. One lady near me wondered whether to curtsey or shake hands if the Queen spoke to her. I suggested the accepted protocol was to give a high five.

Cameras were banned but the security briefing made no mention of sketchbooks. Here are a few of my sketches which capture something of the costumes and characters strolling about in the afternoon sunshine. 

(Click to enlarge the drawings.)

Saturday, 30 May 2015

SKETCHBOOK - Dulwich Picture Gallery

A few sketches made whilst people-watching at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on 29 May. They were seen during the rather fab Eric Revilious exhibition, which I strongly recommend you all rush off and visit.

These are directly from my sketchbook, photographed with the iPad, hence the rather grey quality.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Beyond bad

Sometimes in the life of a cartoonist, there comes a moment when you just have to give in to a bad pun.

This week's Westmorland Gazette was one such moment.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Moving North

This week's super, soaraway Westmorland Gazette features more fallout from the general election. Now that the Conservatives are in overall majority, the Countryside Alliance and others have emerged to demand that the fox hunting ban is repealed.

As usual, the Brits are brilliant at going over the same arguments again and again and again … fox hunting, European membership, whether we should have lost the Empire.  My own thoughts on this issue are pretty well known (leave the foxes alone, arm the lambs) so I tried for a more balanced approach with the ideas for the front page cartoon.

The other story which lay coquettishly across the Cartoon Desk was a survey which had 72% of participants in the north of England wanting to be affiliated with Edinburgh's Scottish parliament rather than the English on in Westminster.

Here are the ideas which my steamed editor had to choose from - and the final cartoon shown in color. Did he make the right choice? Have your say in the comments box below (which I say every blog but then people tweet me instead).

Friday, 15 May 2015

Post Election Blues

An interesting post-election week on the Westmorland Gazette cartoon desk. The ramifications of the general election result were still reverberating around the area, not least because we were one of only eight areas in the country to return a LibDem MP. And as the caring, sharing Conservatives have decided to flog off the remaining public housing stock, it seemed apposite that the local council has produced a Big Plan for new housing in South Lakes.

These are the cartoons I submitted to my steamed editor. The first batch of five met with a cruel response, so I followed it with a further three (always exciting with 35 minutes to deadline). I'm glad I did as it took until idea 8 to hit the idea I was edging towards.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Spoilt Paper 7 - vote count sketchbook

On Thursday night, 7 May, the Lonsdale Constituency vote count was held  at Kendal Leisure Centre. 

Tom Murphy from The Westmorland Gazette was live blogging and I had blagged my way in to chip in with comments and live cartoons. Follow the link for photos from the event. 

Here are my sketches, a mix of mix of media, election agents, the odd parliamentary candidate and anxious LibDems. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Spoilt Paper 6 - Last orders

It’s the last few hours of the election campaign and it’s getting nasty. This is the media’s fault. Politicians generally have their own interests at heart but it would be nice if the national newspapers didn’t pander to them.

The regional press is more circumspect. Not necessarily a bastion of impartiality (except for this blog, obviously) but local newspapers are closer to their readers and less keen to alienate a bunch of them. 

The local campaign perked up today (Wednesday) with the arrival of Nick Clegg. Rather oddly, he’s visiting one of the LibDem safe seats. Perhaps it’s because he needed a shoulder to cry on. Or maybe he was preparing Big Tim to take on the baton. Anyway, Nick visited some loaves but was careful not to point at fish as that’s Cameron’s holiday job.

Speaking of whom, no sign of “pumped up” Big Dave in the immediate area, although he did make Heysham. Perhaps it’s too windy in the Lakes and he’s afraid he’ll blow away with all that hot air inside him.

According to today’s super sordid Sun, Ed is too busy scoffing bacon sandwiches to visit here.

I’m guessing that Natalie Bennett is rightly too concerned about carbon emissions to travel this far north. I’m relieved someone in this wretched campaign is thinking about the environment.

But no Nigel Farage! What a disappointment when we have so many fine hostelries. Obviously he’d have difficulty being angry about the local immigrant population when most of them are from the south of England. 

I’ll be tweeting comments and drawings live from the Westmorland & Lonsdale election count in the early hours of Friday morning. Follow the #wgelection search tag. There is also a live blog on the Westmorland Gazette site.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Spoilt Paper 5 - A little bird told me

This is the social media General Election. So everyone says. Well, everyone on social media.

Last week Twitter was agog as party leader fan groups appeared. It began with the #Millifans, then some 13-year old swot started the #Cameronettes in retaliation. I never did hear if we got #Cleggers and #Faragoyles but it was all quite entertaining. A bit like the 1970s rivalry between the Bay City Roller and Osmond fans. (That's Donny not George.)

Away from the rarified depths of national politics, how are our local candidates doing on Twitter? 

The LimDem’s Big Tim is a regular Tweeter. He’s been on since 2009 and currently has 25,443 followers. He often pops up to interact or tell people what he’s up to. 

The Conservative’s Doctor Doctor (joined in 2014, 350 followers) is a bit sporadic. Her account name ends ‘2015'. A date in your Twitter handle is usually when you were born or an indication that the account is going to be thrown away at the end of the year. Guess which?

In 2010, the Tory candidate, Gareth McGareth, had two Twitter accounts. The first one was opened shortly after he was selected. It got 9 followers, then plunged into silence before a new one was opened. Who lost their password then? He hasn’t tweeted for 1,826 days so we can assume he finds his @votegareth handle less useful now.

The Labour (2011 and 193 followers) and Green (2014, 190) local candidates are moderately active, averaging a tweet a day. Green Chris has upped his rate recently, probably because it’s more ecological than showering locals with unwanted leaflets.

The local UKIPers don’t seem to have any Twitter account. Come on chaps, get a move on evolving those opposable thumbs.

Finally, 2015’s bookies’ favourite, The Apathy Party, has had a Twitter account since 2012 but only got 53 followers. 

Don’t go following them; you’ll only frighten them into thinking they have to do some work.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Spoilt Paper 4 - The Sock-o-Meter

The election is hotting up. All the parties have published their manifestos. The deadline for voter registrations has passed, leaving large numbers  of young people wondering why they get hit with tuition fees while more politically-active, older voters get all sorts of post-election benefits (do the math, chaps).  

And the leafleting campaign has gone up a gear with a further ONE leaflet flooding through my letterbox. This time it’s from the cheery Labour candidate. Appearing in a Kremlin-style hat might not be politically astute but he’s trying hard, despite knowing he hasn’t a chance.

So it’s time to dig out the blog Swing-o-meter for in-depth political analysis in graphical form.

In previous years we’ve had the Tim-o-meter (2005, when all the candidates were called Tim) and then the Grin-o-Meter (2010 when global warming took a dip due to sunlight reflected from the candidates’ teeth).

This time we’re honouring Big Tim’s repeated claim to work his socks off for the area. We present … the Sock-o-Meter™. Or Footsie Index, if you prefer. 

It’s more of a shoe-o-meter really but that name is less likely to get gratuitous hits from dyslexic porn enthusiasts.

As you can see, LibDem’s Big Tim is still in the lead. The Conservative’s Doctor Doctor is doing well. Greens and Labour holding up. UKIP practically off the chart as well as beyond the pale. There’s everything to play for (unless you’re Labour, Green or UKIP, obviously).
We’ll be returning to the Sock-o-Meter throughout the campaign, adding extra refinements as necessary (assuming I can find the allen key).

On Friday we’ll look at some of the candidates’ claims in more detail. Join me then for the next exciting episode.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Spoilt Paper 3 - A Time of the Signs

After the excitement of last week’s Westmorland and Lonsdale parliamentary hustings, it’s time for rigorous, in-depth analysis of how the candidates are doing.

As usual, unimpeachable methodology has been used to arrive at statistically-valid results, i.e. I drove round in my car for a bit and counted posters.

Here are the findings:

LibDem - 20
Conservative - 16
Labour - 1
UKIP - 0
Green Party - 2 (both seen in Booths car park, Windermere, so it’s possible I misread the recycling notice)

I almost missed three Tory posters as they were hiding in hedgerows and looked like estate agent signs. (And heaven knows we wouldn’t want to elect an estate agent; they tell porkies.) The three signs read “Conservatives: Securing Britain’s Future” and ironically enough they weren’t secured very well and were falling out the hedge.

The Tories are big in fields. The Doctor Doctor candidate’s smile is currently frightening livestock all over South Lakeland. LibDem signs are more often in front gardens, usually on the fence.

As far as I can tell, there are no UKIP signs anywhere - you just can’t get a decent Polish sign writer when you need one.

On Wednesday (or possibly Tuesday if I get enthusiastic) I’ll be introducing the updated 2015 blog swing-o-meter, the envy of broadcasters everywhere. I just have to figure out how to fit the batteries.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Spoilt Paper 2 - Westmorland Gazette Debate

Last night was the highlight of the election campaign so far - the Westmorland Gazette live debate. It was held at Kendal College and chaired with steely resolve and Dimbleby-style discipline by Gazette editor Andrew Thomas.

It began extraordinarily well - drinks, nibbles and cakes for everyone attending. The drinks were served in blue glasses but in the interests of balance they swapped for them for red beakers half-way through.

For the five candidates, this was their 13th husting. At first I thought the table was aligned from left to right, politically speaking, but it turns out they were in alphabetical order. The Labour and UKIP candidates just happened to be at opposite ends.

The Gazette journalists were there in force and I was there in a nice jacket. It was my job to supply a sketches for the debate’s Twitter stream. (Any resemblance to candidates living or dead from the neck up is purely coincidental.)

Conservative candidate Ann Myatt

Green candidate Chris Loynes

Labour candidate John Bateson

LibDem candidate Tim Farron

UKIP candidate Alan Piper

Live tweeting an event is hectic. Last night, for example, I was drawing the candidates, taking photos of the sketches to upload to Twitter, adding comments and dealing with hecklers from the back who were being rude about my drawings. In general, I was undertaking my responsibility to report the event in a fair and unbiased manner. (OK, I lied about that last bit.)

Over 90 minutes, the candidates tackled a wide range of questions. A lot were on subjects you’d expect and some of the answers were pretty predictable too (the UKIP chap managed to blame the EU for something on the 2nd question, winning me a bet with another journalist). The Green and Labour candidates were particularly impressive. LibDem Tim was, of course, the star as he’s used to the Big Boy’s Shouting Club in Westminster. It didn’t all go his way though.

In terms of audience reaction, my count was

LibDem - 4 rounds of applause

Labour and Green - 2 each

Conservative - 0 

UKIP - a round of boos (he’s a pub landlord) and a cry of “shame” and “disgraceful”. (It was a job to tell if this upset him as he looked pretty cross throughout the whole thing.)

You can still find the Tweets (look for the #WGdebate tag) and the live blog. Pop back here on Monday for an in-depth, scientific analysis of how the parties are really doing …

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Spoilt Paper - election blog 1

When David Cameron became PM in 2010, it became law that the election would be held every five years on May 7th. No more tedious speculation from the pundits before the date was announced. What we got instead were four months of campaigning that has plunged most of us into a coma. By May 7th it’ll be surprising if voter turnout hits double figures.

Closer to home, things have been more restrained. 

A month ago, the Libdems sent me a jolly newsletter alerting me to the fact that my MP had done a Number of Good Things. Since then they’ve sent two more, plus a polite personal letter (not as polite as the ones my Nigerian bank manager sends). 

To date, the Conservatives have managed to squeeze out one leaflet. The others have produced nothing. Presumably the dog ate them. Or perhaps the messy pile of leaves in my front porch is a subtle message from the Greens.

I’m not entirely sure who all the candidates are. I know the Tory is a smiley woman, which was a surprise; I’m not certain many local Tories know that women were allowed to vote. She seems to be a doctor because she has her photograph taken in front of Westmorland General rather a lot. Come to think of it, the LibDem's Big Tim is there so much he’s probably a qualified surgeon by now.

I do know that the original UKIP chap resigned - but then UKIP gets through candidates so fast it’ll soon have to start importing them.

It’s time I found out more. Who are they all? Do they have any policies? Do any of them have an original thought in their head? 

Tonight at 7.15 I will confront them all personally at Kendal College. Not on my own (the blog isn’t that influential) but as part of an audience at the Westmorland Gazette debate. I’ll tweet my impressions (@colinshelbourn) and you can follow along via the #WGdebate hashtag.

In tomorrow’s blog, we’ll look at how the candidates performed.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Election blog - Day Zero

By now I am sure most of you are consumed with election fever. I certainly am.

But it's even more exciting to discover that today is this blog's 10th birthday.

It all began with the election in 2005. Then editor of the Westmorland Gazette, Mike Glover, asked if I would like to do a blog about the forthcoming general election. "I know nothing of politics and hate politicians," I said. "Perfect," he replied, "the deadline is Friday."

10 years on and here we are again. My warped idea of election coverage kicks off on the Gazette site next Monday. Meanwhile, here is the very first blog:

Date: 2005-04-08 16:37:16 +0100
Topic: Election looming

The announcement of the election earlier this week came as a complete shock. I was convinced Tony Blair was teasing, getting the other parties excited and then putting the election off for a year. My excuse for being caught off guard is that I was still mourning the loss of a major world figure - namely Christopher Eccleston abandoning the role of Dr Who.

Some cartoonists are intensely political animals. They rage against politicians and are determined that their spindly drawings will change the world. It never works. Politicians enjoy the attention and the more you attack them the more they want to buy the original artwork. This is why so many cartoonists take to drink in their later years . I'm afraid I'm more a political legume than animal. My usual idea of political activism is defacing the candidate's photos in their election literature. But this election is going to be different. I've been lured by the promise of fame and glory into keeping an election weblog. This is a considerable blow - I was planning to hide the radio and unplug the tv for the next month but now I'm going to have to pay attention.

I began last night and at first it sounded promising; I caught the newsreader saying "we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness". At last, the Conservatives were making a clean start by atoning for the Thatcher years. But no, it turned out to be advance details of the royal wedding service. 

Time for some insightful political analysis. Locally, it looks like being the battle of the Tims. So far, in my view, Tim Farron is winning. He's first off the printer's block with a glossy leaflet full of pictures showing him annoying a broad range of locals. Three days in and Tim Collins's cheery face has yet to thrust itself through my letterbox. 

Turning to the Tim-o-Meter, Tim Farron is again in the lead: The last LibDem newsletter mentions his name 42 times, whereas Tim Collins's newsletter only managed to drop TC's name a paltry 34 times.

In the interest of balance, I have to tell you that there are two other parties campaigning locally but neither candidate is called Tim.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Gone away

Much as I enjoy drawing the weekly, front page cartoon for The Westmorland Gazette, I occasionally need a holiday. This presents the editor with a problem. Put in a little message ("Our cartoonist is on holiday. His home is currently empty and contains a load of worthless junk but you might find something worth putting on eBay.") or just fill the space with something else?

Some years ago, we hit on a couple of alternative solutions; remote cartooning and crystal ball gazing.

The remote cartooning works OK, if I don't mind the holiday being interrupted. It's a bit weird drawing about Kendal traffic whilst sat in Cape Town in view of Table Mountain, but I have done it. (There was a shooting outside the hotel as I sketched, just to remind me I wasn't in the Lakes.) But it is an interruption and sometimes, you know …

So back to the crystal ball gazing. This relies on two things (1) long-running stories or (2) a definite news event in the diary for the following week.

Last week I thought we had both CBEs (crystal ball events). The Lake District National Park had sold off bits of the Lake District and there was the chance it was going to keep the identity of the purchasers secret.

Excellent. Two cartoons done and sent as alternative options (one tying in with a then-current and, rather tediously, still current national story).

But news had other ideas and the focus shifted. So neither cartoon was used. You get the chance to see them below. Trust me, they would have been funny if the story had panned out …

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Thin Blue Line

Controversy in South Cumbria last week as a local councillor suggested that Kendal might be enlivened by a lap dancing club. He was quick to point out that it could be either men or women dancing on your lap but too late - calls for resignation followed.

Elsewhere a major crime initiative was underway. Several shops have installed cardboard policemen to deter thieves. The image on the cutout was modelled on a policeman from Whitehaven and has been dubbed PC Boardman.

These are the two stories which fell across the Westmorland Gazette cartoon desk last week. You can see my reactions to them below with the final choice shown in colour. 

Did the editor pick the right one? Have your say in the comments box and fame will be yours forever.