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):

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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.

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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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The Brexiteers have lost battles but they are still set to win the war

The prospect of the UK avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

Before the general election, the Brexiteers would boast that everything had gone their way. Parliament had voted to trigger Article 50 by a majority of 372. The Treasury-forecast recession hadn't occurred. And polls showed the public backing Brexit by a comfortable margin

But since the Conservatives' electoral humbling, the Leavers have been forced to retreat on multiple fronts. After promising in May that the dispute over the timetable for the Brexit talks would be "the fight of the summer", David Davis capitulated on the first day. The UK will be forced to settle matters such as EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before discussions begin on a future relationship. Having previously insisted that a new trade deal could agreed by 29 March 2019 (Britain's scheduled departure date), the Brexiteers have now conceded that this is, in Liam Fox's words, "optimistic" (translation: deluded). 

That means the transitional arrangement the Leavers once resisted is now regarded as inevitable. After the eradication of the Conservatives' majority, the insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer credible. No deal would mean the immediate return of a hard Northern Irish border (to the consternation of the Tories' partners the DUP) and, in a hung parliament, there are no longer the votes required to pursue a radical deregulatory, free market agenda (for the purpose of undercutting the EU). As importantly for the Conservatives, an apocalyptic exit could pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership (a figure they previously regarded as irretrievably doomed). 

Philip Hammond, emboldened by the humiliation of the Prime Minister who planned to sack him, has today outlined an alternative. After formally departing the EU in 2019, Britain will continue to abide by the rules of the single market and the customs union: the acceptance of free movement, European legal supremacy, continued budget contributions and a prohibition on independent trade deals. Faced with the obstacles described above, even hard Brexiteers such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove have recognised that the game is up.

But though they have lost battles, the Leavers are still set to win the war. There is no parliamentary majority for a second referendum (with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats still enfeebled), Hammond has conceded that any transitional arrangement would end by June 2022 (the sceduled date of the next election) and most MPs are prepared to accept single market withdrawal. The prospect of Britain avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.