Steerpike

Margaret Beckett isn’t for the Commons people

Margaret Beckett isn't for the Commons people
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Back in October the House of Commons gift shop announced some exciting news: copies of the parliamentary art collection would now be on sale as prints on demand. At last, politicos across the nation could take a little bit of Westminster's heritage home with them with prices starting at £15 for a William Wilberforce or Baroness Hayman print and rising all the way up to £100 for one of the magnificent Water over Westminster artwork. Mr S thought it would be fun to find out who the public wants hanging on their walls and establish which of the nation's politicians came top in the Christmas sales. 

It sadly appears that the voters have more discerning tastes than their elected masters as just 66 of the prints were recorded as being sold in the first eight weeks since they went online. According to Commons records, landscapes outside personal portraits with Water over Westminster being the most expensive print and the best-selling with eight copies sold. The silver medal was taken by the maritime painter William Adolphus Knell's Battle off Cape which sold four while third place was a six way tie between The Trial of Charles I, various paintings of Parliament and a magnificently sinister portrait of Tony Blair, all of which sold three copies. Lord Adonis buying for his friends perhaps?

Other artworks unfortunately did not fare so well. A handsome portrait of jazz lover Ken Clarke replete with a stork in the background just sold a single copy, as did a striking image of onetime Cabinet minister Baroness Amos. Some of her former New Labour colleagues could not muster even that with Margaret Beckett, Paul Boateng and Ming Campbell among those who failed to find a home under a Christmas tree last year. Sir Thomas More, David Lloyd George and the Duke of Wellington all managed one apiece compared to zero sales Neville Chamberlain, George V and Pitt the Younger.

At least though all these were judged worthy of inclusion by parliamentary bigwigs. Despite Steerpike's best efforts there was no sign of Paul Benney's artwork of IDS with his hands on his hips that hangs in Portcullis House nor Richard Stone's one of Michael Howard looking like a cheesy gameshow host. Maybe next year...

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk.

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