The ADgenda: No. 7 discovers what colour your face is

Know thyself.

Adverts are designed to make us question the things we see as important, and enlighten us with what we actually need. We didn’t know that shiny new hot-plate holder was a matter of life and death, but it is, and if we don’t buy all those Swiss army-style attachments, our lives are purposeless. No 7 has put out a new gadget designed to tell you the colour of your skin. Of course; it’s so simple! This is what we’ve always needed. Finally, I can discover what colour my face is! They’ve made more than just a make-up product here: this device should be sold to the army and kept a national secret. For it has unfathomable power; No 7 have put an end to the human philosophical struggle of who we are, and cracked the code of the ancient message at the Delphic Oracle “know thyself”. We never know when humanity might need this to combat an existential crisis.

This is the message they employ in their advert. We see a woman working, looking agitated, bursting out of the enclosing walls of her office at the first possible opportunity, stumbling in her concealed excitement, until finally she unlocks the true meaning of her life – her face colour. The nation heaves a sigh of relief as she escapes the pointlessness of a job to receive the true enlightenment of perfect make-up. The fates smile upon humanity as they watch poor, deluded Woman finally achieve the goals of her gender.  Now, with the message unlocked, they transmit the epistle down, soon to be adopted by our omniscient No 7 PR agency: value female appearance before female careers

New gadget. Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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What the debate over troops on the streets is missing

Security decisions are taken by professionals not politicians. But that doesn't mean there isn't a political context. 

First things first: the recommendation to raise Britain’s threat level was taken by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), an organisation comprised of representatives from 16 government departments and agencies. It was not a decision driven through by Theresa May or by anyone whose job is at stake in the election on 8 June.

The resulting deployment of troops on British streets – Operation Temperer – is, likewise, an operational decision. They will do the work usually done by armed specialists in the police force protecting major cultural institutions and attractions, and government buildings including the Palace of Westminster. That will free up specialists in the police to work on counter-terror operations while the threat level remains at critical. It, again, is not a decision taken in order to bolster the Conservatives’ chances on 8 June. (Though intuitively, it seems likely to boost the electoral performance of the party that is most trusted on security issues, currently the Conservatives if the polls are to be believed.)

There’s a planet-sized “but” coming, though, and it’s this one: just because a decision was taken in an operational, not a political manner, doesn’t remove it from a wider political context. And in this case, there’s a big one: the reduction in the number of armed police specialists from 6979 when Labour left office to 5,639 today. That’s a cut of more than ten per cent in the number of armed specialists in the regular police – which is why Operation Temperer was drawn up under David Cameron in the first place.  There are 1340 fewer armed specialists in the police than there were seven years ago – a number that is more significant in the light of another: 900, the number of soldiers that will be deployed on British streets under Op Temperer. (I should add: the initial raft of police cuts were signed off by Labour in their last days in office.)

So while it’s disingenuous to claim that national security decisions are being taken to bolster May, we also shouldn’t claim that operational decisions aren’t coloured by spending decisions made by the government.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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