Dave Brown: I'm pleased when they hate how I draw them

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The Independent Online

Complaining to a cartoonist about the way you are portrayed is a very silly thing to do, because whatever you moan about is guaranteed to happen more often as a consequence.

Shortly before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, I ran into him in Lancaster House at a reception hosted by this newspaper. He was about to leave. In fact, he seemed anxious to reach the exit.

But before he was led out to his ministerial Jaguar, he went round the room shaking hands and saying how pleasing it was to have made each person's acquaintance.

I had no wish to be introduced – I prefer to keep my distance and stick to drawing the man – but a friend insisted.

"Good to meet you," the then-chancellor said, pumping my hand, with apparently no idea who I was.

I pointed out that we hadn't actually met and so introduced myself as the cartoonist for The Independent. He thought about this for while. "I know your work," he said. "You draw me far too fat. I'm not that fat."

A minder then quickly spirited him out the door.

Some time later I heard that he had said the same thing to Martin Rowson of The Guardian, so it's either something that genuinely upsets him or it is the stock response he uses when he meets a newspaper cartoonist.

Gordon isn't the only politician to have complained to me. I remember being at another party where John Reid, who was the health secretary at the time, was introduced to me.

It was around the time he had made a comment about smoking being one of the few pleasures that poorer people have. Because of this I had drawn him with a cigarette in his mouth. When we met he seemed quite annoyed about it and kept saying that he had given up smoking years ago. It was only meant to be a one-off but after I found out that it bothered him so much I put a cigarette in his mouth every time I drew him.

William Hague was another politician riled by his depiction. He used to complain that we drew him too small and pointed out that he was quite tall and about the same height as Tony Blair.

But because of his insignificance as Tory leader at a time when the party offered no genuine challenge to Labour, every cartoonist would always draw him much smaller than Blair and usually in the form of a child or schoolboy.

In a way it is quite nice to hear these people complaining, because the whole point is to do something that niggles at them.

When a politician phones you up to say how much he loved the cartoon and could he buy it, you feel that you should have been meaner to them. It makes you determined that the next one you draw will render them even worse.

A few words of advice: if you complain about being drawn too small we will make you smaller, if you complain about being shown as a smoker we'll stick a cigarette in your mouth every time.

And if you complain about being portrayed as fat, you can guarantee that you will end up holding the pies.