Fraser Nelson

Spectator covers that almost were

A glimpse at an alternative universe

Spectator covers that almost were
From left: Corbyn wins the general election, 21 December 2019; Jeremy Hunt in No. 10, 27 July 2019; Madame President, 12 November 2016
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Sometimes The Spectator goes to press very shortly after election results have been announced. In those instances, Morten Morland, our cover artist, draws versions to cover for any outcome.  These have since been framed and hung at Old Queen Street in the lavatories. For our 10,000th issue, we're sharing some of them.

The last UK general election was on a Thursday and our cover went Friday morning: we had three versions. Boris winning, his being held to a hung parliament and (pictured) Jeremy Corbyn winning, depicted as an unlikely saviour with Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon (who were talking about putting him in power via coalition deals) depicted as the parents around the crib.  The Christmas issue is our biggest seller and the cover is always more detailed, more lavish. It can take days to draw. It's a sign of Morten's professionalism that he was ready to draw three such covers, two destined for the spike.

Morten went on holiday at the end of the Tory leadership contest so before he left, we imagined how the news agenda was likely to pan out. We guessed right. Morten drew four covers for three weeks: the spare was Jeremy Hunt winning. Unlikely - but, we asked at the time, when was the last time any UK election ended in a likely outcome? We printed this out and gave it to Hunt at the end (with some invented cover lines). I'm told it now hangs in his toilet.

Our "Hillary Wins" cover might look daft now, but at the time it seemed that our Trump wins cover (as Chaplin, spinning the globe on his finger) was the crazy indulgence. "It's so beautiful," Mary Wakefield said when she saw it, "that I almost want Trump to win." For Hillary, Morten drew a pastiche of the famous JFK picture with Bill Clinton playing under the Oval Office desk. Newsweek magazine went one further: it not only produced a "Madame President" cover but printed 125,000 copies - and gave one to her to sign on results night. She did so. That copy will be worth quite a bit now.

The last few years have been one where tiny swings have led to vastly different electoral results: our gallery of covers-that-never-were are a reminder of how much can ride on so little. And of the genius of Morten Morland.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is editor of The Spectator and columnist for the Daily Telegraph.

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