David Cameron: supermodel

Was the giant poster of the Tory leader airbrushed?

I'm sorry to bring up The Poster again, I really am, but bear with me (click here to see it in all its glory). The first thing that struck me when I saw it was not the pointedly presidential tone of the personal pronoun in "I'll cut the deficit", not the echoes of Margaret Thatcher in "We can't go on like this", not even the sheer size of it. I was utterly distracted by something else: David Cameron appears to be wearing foundation -- lots of it.

But it turns out I underestimated things. Today's Daily Mail gives us this nugget:

Tories denied suggestions that the photograph -- which will feature on hundreds of 15ft-wide posters as part of a £500,000 nationwide advertising campaign -- had undergone major airbrushing to enhance Mr Cameron's appearance.

But an official conceded there may have been minor touching up.

The accusations are flying thick and fast -- were his cheekbones enhanced? His colour changed? Some excess pounds shaved off? Sunder Katwala casts doubt on whether that bouncy black hair is au naturel, while Sam Coates calls for the original photo to be released in the interests of transparency, though he quotes a spokeswoman as saying: "I can confirm that nothing fiddled around with cheekbones, Adam's apple or slimming him down." (I love it -- so hard-hitting. I bet that wasn't what she thought working in politics would involve.)

But don't worry, Dave, you're not alone -- other politicians have been busted succumbing to the tempation of airbrushing, too.

Tony Blair appeared to have undergone the magic Photoshop treatment (or found the formula for eternal youth -- anything is possible) when he appeared on the cover of Men's Vogue in 2007 (picked up, again, by the airbrushing vigilantes at the Daily Mail):


And spot the difference here -- a photo of Nicolas Sarkozy sans love handles was printed in a magazine, coincidentally owned by one of his friends.


I must point out, though, that neither of these photos was actually used for election material. So I'll add my voice to the calls for the real photo. Come on, Dave, show us your Adam's apple!


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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while a free would be held, party policy would be changed to oppose military action - an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. In advance of the meeting, Labour released a poll of members (based on an "initial sample" of 1,900) showing that 75 per cent opposed intervention. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, those present made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbott and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet (I'm told that my account of that meeting was also raised). There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update on their phones from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

In a statement released following the meeting, a Corbyn spokesperson confirmed that a free vote would be held but made no reference to party policy: 

"Today's Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn's recommendation of a free vote on the Government's proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria.   

"The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.  

"Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.