Undercover: behind the scenes of our Lib Dem Special Issue

Featuring Martin Rowson's sketch of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable.

One of my favourite things about working for a print magazine is choosing the front cover every week. There's still something weird (in a good way) about sending an image to the printers in the New Statesman offices on a Wednesday, and then walking past it in the newsagent the next day.

Every autumn, the NS does three issues with extra content, timed to coincide with the party conference season. This year, we decided to use a flap on all three issues, so that we could have an illustrated cover with no words. It gives us a chance to commission something beautiful without worrying about putting "sells" all over it.

For the Liberal Democrat issue, we turned to Martin Rowson, a Guardian editorial cartoonist and longtime NS contributor (you can read about his first commission for the NS in my piece here). He has drawn Nick Clegg as Pinocchio for some time now, and we wanted to riff on that. We also knew that the position of the cover flap, down the left-hand half of the page, provided the opportunity for a "reveal" - who was pulling Clegg's strings.

Here is Martin's rough outline sketch for the cover, which shows how he traces the basic positions of the figures. He also told us at this point that he planned a rich, "Disney workshop" background colour, which would work with the Lib Dem colour, yellow.

At this point, we had a chat about whether the strings trailing under the flap would ruin the "reveal", and what Vince Cable's Geppetto should be doing. We decided he should be cutting, rather than pulling, Cleggochio's strings.

So Martin went away, wished upon a star, and came back with this painting: 

... which I hope you'll agree is absolutely beautiful. 

All that remained for the finished cover was adding a few details - that's "Lords Reform" burning on the fire there, and Jiminy Cricket has what looks to me very much like a Bullingdon waistcoat on. 

And here's the version with the flap (as you can see, the finished colour has ended up moving from orange to yellow a little):

 

Martin Rowson's artwork for the NS cover.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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To stop Jeremy Corbyn, I am giving my second preference to Andy Burnham

The big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Voting is now underway in the Labour leadership election. There can be no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is the frontrunner, but the race isn't over yet.

I know from conversations across the country that many voters still haven't made up their mind.

Some are drawn to Jeremy's promises of a new Jerusalem and endless spending, but worried that these endless promises, with no credibility, will only serve to lose us the next general election.

Others are certain that a Jeremy victory is really a win for Cameron and Osborne, but don't know who is the best alternative to vote for.

I am supporting Liz Kendall and will give her my first preference. But polling data is brutally clear: the big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Andy can win. He can draw together support from across the party, motivated by his history of loyalty to the Labour movement, his passionate appeal for unity in fighting the Tories, and the findings of every poll of the general public in this campaign that he is best placed candidate to win the next general election.

Yvette, in contrast, would lose to Jeremy Corbyn and lose heavily. Evidence from data collected by all the campaigns – except (apparently) Yvette's own – shows this. All publicly available polling shows the same. If Andy drops out of the race, a large part of the broad coalition he attracts will vote for Jeremy. If Yvette is knocked out, her support firmly swings behind Andy.

We will all have our views about the different candidates, but the real choice for our country is between a Labour government and the ongoing rightwing agenda of the Tories.

I am in politics to make a real difference to the lives of my constituents. We are all in the Labour movement to get behind the beliefs that unite all in our party.

In the crucial choice we are making right now, I have no doubt that a vote for Jeremy would be the wrong choice – throwing away the next election, and with it hope for the next decade.

A vote for Yvette gets the same result – her defeat by Jeremy, and Jeremy's defeat to Cameron and Osborne.

In the crucial choice between Yvette and Andy, Andy will get my second preference so we can have the best hope of keeping the fight for our party alive, and the best hope for the future of our country too.

Tom Blenkinsop is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland