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    Sunday, 8 March 2009

    Watch Out! It's the Image Police...

    What is going on?  Westminster seems to be in the grips of some investigation by the image police… again.  First is the news that David Miliband spent £6,700 on ‘the presentation of foreign policy issues', Whitehall speak for some sort of image makeover, (I use the term ‘makeover’ in the loosest of senses).  Fine, but to be honest, £6,700 seems a little steep.  I could have done it for a lot less than that.  ‘Don’t present foreign policy issues with fruit’.  There.  See?  Just stick the cheque in the post.  The £85 of ‘IT training’ – blogging to be more accurate -  seems slightly odder.  I mean, typing?  The man is intelligent, surely he can type?  I smell the image police again.  The blog-o-sphere is just another outlet through which ministers can go ‘off message’; ‘the message’ and the current ‘buzz words’ must be reinforced.  That’s before you even start on things like ‘tone’ – ‘engaging with the voter in an accessible yet informative manner’.  I’m surprised it was only £85.  For once it seems that taxpayer has a bargain.

    The police investigation seems to be spreading, from King Charles Street to Downing Street.  Again I ask, what is going on?  Every photo on the No. 10 website of Brown’s speeches seems to depict what can only be described as a ‘Messiah Moment’, arms stretched, upwardly turned palms.  One cannot help but wonder if they know something we don’t.  The image police have been at work.  That, however, is nothing.  If the media ‘dessert’ that was the Washington trip was garnished with Brown’s ‘credit crunch tantrum at 30,000 feet’, then the ‘cherry’ had to be the detail that the Prime Minister was ‘jacketless’.  Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate its significance, after all, this is the man who sunbathes in a suit.  Realistically, however, I don’t overly care whether or not he is jacketless, I’m more interested in what he is planning to do about the economy.  

    Yet, what is most worrying for the sanity of our government (and us, as the taxpayer, for these ‘makeovers’ are not cheap) is that the remit of the image police seems to be growing.  Brown’s Congress speech – the whipped cream on top of the stodgy sponge of the previous day’s press conference – bore the unmistakable signs of image police involvement as soon as the first word was uttered.  Slow delivery, precise enunciation, deep open throat.  Classic.  What was not classic, however, was the new phenomenon of physical punctuation.  This seemed to constitute superfluous full stops in the form of vigorous nodding.  A partnership.  Nod.  Of.  Nod.  Purpose.  Nod.  No.  Nod.  Power.  Nod.  On earth.  Nod.  That can ever drive us.  Nod.  Apart.  Nod.  I was waiting for something to drop off.  Indeed, such was the vigour of the punctuation that the usually unshakable hair was displaced from its sweep.  At this point alarms must have gone off in image police HQ for in today’s Northern Ireland statement, the physical punctuation seemed to have been downgraded to vigorous blinking.  One wonders what will be next?  One wonders who will be next?  Harman and that ‘giraffe’ suit?  Mandelson’s ‘Blair’ hand gestures?  Above all, when one looks at the immense problems we, as a country are facing, and then one looks at the government, one wonders what, precisely, is going on?

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