Andrea Leadsom and Fresh Start

developing a caricature of Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire and now a junior minister in the Treasury

the new "treasury look"
the new “treasury look”

I had drawn a picture of Andrea Leadsom along with others who opposed Gay Marriage and the new cross country high speed rail link, HS2. While I share a concern about both the time wasted on the gay marriage debate- which seemed to me to be simply about re-branding civil partnerships and an opportunity for some very nasty people to pontificate about bits of theology they did not understand at all or to vent homophobic prejudice (often thinly veiled behind claims that “some of my best friends”, but Putin tried that one too!), and while I share concerns about the HS2 cost and proposed route, I am astonished that for all the noise she made, particularly about the rail link, she ducked out of the crucial commons’ vote.

Anyway, Mrs Leadsom has been elevated to the treasury and in the process has had a political make-over- the hair is straighter, and more boring so the the nose seems more pronounced and sharper. I fear she is trying to ape Mrs Thatcher but she quite lacks both the Lady’s charisma and that astonishing beak of a nose. the problem is that it simply makes her look as if she has a permanent cold: she seems to be forever trying to suppress a sneeze, poor dear! Still, it is good to see her making a Go of it. Above is my completed image and here are some rough sketches of her:

leadsom new flat

A few years ago, I fell into the constituency of Andrea Leadsom and I went to see her about student visas. I was concerned and remain concerned that a student is sponsored by the institution that both teaches that student and monitors his or her attendance. In effect, the institution acts as judge, jury and executioner and it cannot be right! In most cases there is no problem, but some “colleges” and “schools” are shabby and the system, as it stands, holds the student hostage. If they are paying for an education that was arranged by an agent in a far-flung country, they can have no idea what they have let themselves into and the process of legally changing from one institution to another is fraught with difficulties and requires expect advice and management. I was equally concerned about the rash imposition of sanctions against Russian big-wigs. I taught a few of their children and these same children repeatedly told me they were worried that- as their parents were on the “list”, they, too, as family-members, ran the risk of being expelled from the UK during their GCSEs or A levels or half-way through their university career should the Government sanctions become more draconian. I wrote to my current MP who, to his credit, responded promptly (in start contrast to Leadsom’s approach) and passed me on to a Home office lackey who, after a couple of months, bragged that there were no problems and that we had a record number of foreign students anyway. This rather missed the point: because students are well-documented, they are easy prey to anyone who wants to count student numbers and put the squeeze on one of the few groups that can be used to demonstrate action against irregular immigration. Students, by the sheer weight of their doggedly-devised paperwork, can be monitored and controlled in a way in which illegal immigrants and EU migrant workers cannot. What these various officials fail to take into account and what I have emphasised again and again is that the students who we attack today- and particularly those who come from wealthy, influencial families, will be the leaders of business and politics tomorrow and we will have to do business with them in ten years’ time. If we continue to bully them in the way we are currently doing, I cannot imagine they will be singing the praises of the UK or indeed want to deal with us when it comes to trade or issues of national security. We are squandering such a good opportunity! In the past, the students who passed through our educational system could be relied upon to think well of us and share our values. Today we are more likely to be breeding resentment.

Anyway, Leadsom used to lead the “Fresh Start” programme. This was a moderate Tory initiative to re-negotiate the EU commitments we signed up for in the early 70s under Heath. What is often neglected is that we only had a referendum about the membership of the Common Market which few parties want to quit. What we never had an option over were the hidden treaties binding us to greater political and financial interdependence and these are the bits of the EU that seem to have got out of control.

The Fresh start programme advocates a series of measures- to take back control of our finances, social and employment laws, to further opt out of those policing and criminal justice agreements not yet covered by the independence clause in the Lisbon treaty, to allow us to freely trade beyond the EU without discrimination, and to abolish the Strasbourg part of the EU parliamentary calendar.

This seems to be fiddling with the curtains while the Dining room burns. It seems, like the obsession with the Australian points’ system to be approaching the EU crisis in terms of bean-counting and penny-pinching, rather than to recognise that some of the treaties we have signed up for are simply out of date and dangerous. Whatever reservations one might have about the lady and her solutions, however, we cannot fault her blunt description of the problem in the forward to the Green paper, “Options for Change”.

Here it is:

Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 20.20.56

Here is my earlier cartoon of Andrea Leadsom, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others!


Winnie the Pooh


I was brought up on the book of Winnie the Pooh and slightly resent the red-jacketed Disney version. I remember, in particular, being confused by the identity of the Gopher who appeared at the start of “the Blustery day” but, of course, I was utterly charmed by the way the text blew across the page, or the way in which Pooh climbed the honey tree. There is also alot of charm in the detail of the animation- Pooh actually moves like a stuffed animal. It is joyous in a purely technical way!! Somehow, I associate the “Honey tree” film with “Mary Poppins” though it may have been screened with something like “That Darn Cat” and perhaps one of these early 60s films was screened together* (I’ve just been told it was “the Ugly Dachund” though I do not remember that film at all!). However, there are many incarnations of Pooh. There is EH Shepard’s original. Like Tenniel nearly a century before, Shepard had been plucked from the pages of Punch to do children’s illustrations and he was excellent at it. Indeed, his illustrations to both “Pooh” and “Wind in the Willows” are almost inseparable from the original text. In the early 70s, Shepard oversaw a colourized version of both books.

Shepard had come out of the First world war and pretty well straight into illustrating Pooh. During the war, when he was decorated with a Military Cross for valour at Passchendaele, ( “he continued to observe and send back valuable information, in spite of heavy shell and machine gun fire. His courage and coolness were conspicuous”), he was sending back cartoons to the British press. He continued as head cartoonist at Punch until Malcolm Muggeridge pushed him out in 1953. The pooh Shepard illustrated was based on his own son’s bear “Growler” and not on the bear owned by AA Milne’s son Christopher Robin. In time, he grew to resent Pooh, though that might have been because of associations with his son who died in the 2nd World war. 

There is a very respected Russian version of the “Pooh” stories, “Vinni Pukh” a link here:

So well-known are these films that many Russian children see this as the authentic “Winnie the Pooh”. It has charm certainly.

As curiosities go, here is a link to a version done by the puppeteers who provided “The Lonely Goatherd” in “The sound of music”. Just look at the length of the stings on the Pooh puppet when Christopher Robin is on set. This is a technical marvel! I also think it has just the right mix of reality and toy. Disney should have done a live action/cartoon mix for their “Pooh” films of course…. Maybe one day. “Alice” calls out for the same sort of treatment.

And lastly, here is a link to the Disney TV version- I am sending you to a Greek dub which might be amusing. It is certainly more fun than listening to the appalling dialogue in English!

Here is the singalong version (!) of the opening song:

Here, as an antidote to all the above is a truly splendid pencil test of Owl. I am not sure who did it but it is stunning work!