New book goes inside Whitehall

Having their creative ideas rejected by politicians did not deter two East Sussex women from their ambition to “do something for their country”.

Julia Jeffries and Hazel Johnson this week released a book they say answers the questions everyone has in the run-up to the general election.

They had seven months to research and put together What Are They Doing In There? – having tried and failed to win over the “branding” department of the Conservative party.

“We were seduced by David Cameron’s Vote Blue Go Green campaign, and mounted our own speculative campaign for the Conservative Party,” said Julia, 59, a lecturer, designer and writer from Fairwarp.

A raft of unanswered emails, letters and phone calls later, Julia and award-winning photographer Hazel, 56, of Willingford Lane in Burwash Weald, found themselves before Shadow Women’s Minister and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Theresa May.

The pair, who form two-thirds of creative marketing company Fox and Angel, told the Courier: “Theresa May gave us the kind of welcome more usually associated with walking into a deep-freeze.

“Of course first glance was towards her feet, unremarkable that day, but she was wearing a strange diaphanous blouse with a ruffle that made her look a cross between King Charles I and Madame Arcati.”

The authors launched into how they could help her campaign, Women to Win: “She looked puzzled and then said she had enough women.”

As a final attempt they even made a film called Cameron’s Cat, filmed on the roof of Julia’s house.

“It was our own version of Touching the Void, to show David Cameron what lengths we would go to, to get a good shot.

“But, like so much lost Government data, it is presumably languishing at the bottom of somebody’s pile, unloved and unwatched.”

Anyone interested can see it on YouTube.

Undeterred, they set about writing their book on the Commons instead.

Julia said: “We researched on the internet, read every book we could find on the subject, interviewed MPs and interns, did the official tour, went to Prime Ministers’ Questions and viewed all the goings on from the public gallery.

“What we were looking for was not an insider perspective – we simply wanted to know how easy it was for ordinary members of the public to find out what was going on in the House of Commons.”

Peter Hain’s out-of-season sun tan aside, they noted observations from Gordon Brown’s “beleaguered” appearance to back-chat from MPs and a member of the public being hauled out of the building.

“Women’s voices were lost in the general hubbub; the acoustics certainly seem to favour the baritone.

“The women didn’t help themselves by sounding rushed and apologetic. In any case, few were hit upon by John Bercow in spite of the fact that they were jumping up and down as if they were in an aerobics class.

“The leaping up and down was led by Hazel Blears and her two accomplices, although in the end only Hazel got to speak.

“The men got up and down in a different way, more as if they were trying to avoid DVT, which by the look of them was quite likely.”

What Are They Doing in There? was launched at Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells on Wednesday.

This Is Sussex

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What Are They Doing In There? book cover
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