For over a decade and a half Ann Widdecombe has been a cartoonist’s dream come true. On top of the way she looks, she’s an avowed virgin endlessly pontificating about sexual morality, a woman politician self-consciously eschewing image self-consciousness and with a voice that could crack a font at 50 paces. For all those reasons and many more, she seemed to be the perfect choice as the first subject for this series of ‘Cartoon Interviews’, in which I’m hoping to pull off a kind of ‘double whammy’ by interviewing the victims of satire while drawing them at the same time. What I’m after is an understanding of how it feels to be on the receiving end of all that mockery, and then compounding it with another nasty cartoon.
I really ought to have known better. As well as all those other qualities, she’s also a consummate politician. Cartoonists secretly know that politicians, if they’ve got any sense at all, respond to our scorn by just laughing it off, and quite often buy our original artwork and hang it in their lavatories, the better to defuse the bad magic.
As I started drawing Ann Widdecombe in her office overlooking the Palace of Westminster one hot afternoon last month, I asked how she felt about being caricatured.
‘I suppose it depends entirely on what the caricature is like,’ she said, a reply which hinted at some deep inner hurt I might be able to pick away at. But she deflected any hope that I might be about to expose her scarred soul by telling me about her ‘vast collection’ of cartoons of herself from throughout her parliamentary career (I foolishly didn’t ask if they were all in her toilet), and how she’s often phoned Steve Bell to ask for an original, even though she wasn’t meant to like the drawing.