Undercover: behind the scenes of our Tory Special Issue

The evolution of the New Statesman's Blackadder cover.

Roll up, roll up, for the third enthralling instalment of Undercover, behind the scenes of the NS party conference covers. (Read about Martin Rowson and Ben Jennings's covers by clicking their names.)

I've thought for a while that George Osborne has the "English rose" complexion of a rouged Regency fop. Behold:

So when we came to deciding our third illustrated cover for party conference season, I wondered whether David Young could do something based around an image from that time. David has been a freelance illustrator for 18 years, and is a great photo-realist painter. I met him at the Mail, where we needed to illustrate a series of pieces about Downton Abbey in a creative and not-copyright-infringing way. 

For the New Statesman, David has done two great covers already. For last Easter, he did a pastiche of Manet's Le dejeuner Sur L'Herbe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is known in the office as the "green" cover, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, The Economist liked the idea so much they did it themselves a few months later, with Sarkozy and Hollande:

This Easter, David Young did a version of Cameron on horseback, mirroring Van Dyck's famous portrait of Charles I. 

We mucked around with this a fair bit, lightening the background, adding in Rebekah Brooks and so on. For a while I thought that David had drawn the horse's head too small, then I checked back with the original. Were horses' heads smaller in the 1600s? Or was Van Dyck just bad at painting them?

Anyway, I digress. This time, we knew that we wanted to have a pastiche of David Cameron and Boris Johnson in there too (as they were the subject of the cover story) and we found this picture online:

Here's David explaining what he did next:

"My brief here was to base the cover on a photo from Blackadder the Third, but replace the faces of the Blackadder cast with those of Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Boris Johnson. As I paint directly from photographic reference I first needed to find the right images to use. This is probably the most critical part of the whole process as I needed to find photos of the politicians that not only were at the same angle as the Blackadder image but also with similar expressions. 

David adds:

"Although my paintings are traditional I embrace modern technology so I used Photoshop to blend the new faces onto the reference photo, and then used this as a visual to make sure everyone at the New Statesman was happy with it. I then produced a painted version of this using acrylic paints on board. On this occasion I painted it in a fairly photographic style, where as previous New Statesman covers I've done have been a pastiche on known paintings where I emulated their painting style."

The finished painting is, I hope you'll agree, a work of art. The general consensus on Twitter was that George Osborne might quite like it (cue many jokes about him having "a cunning Plan B". 

My only regret is that there wasn't room for Danny Alexander as MacAdder:

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.

Carl Court/Getty
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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