Jayne Dawson: Image is all – but it’s not just Theresa under scrutiny

HE'S GOT THE LOOK: Even Churchill knew the importance of props.
HE'S GOT THE LOOK: Even Churchill knew the importance of props.
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There have been some fun moments since Theresa May became prime minister. Not exactly comedy central but, you know, in and amongst.

I liked that spoof story which said that, on entering Downing Street: “Hubby stole the show by pouring his generous curves into a sexy suit.”

It wickedly echoed the kind of thing written all the time about previous prime minister’s spouse Samantha Cameron, and showed how laugh-out-loud absurd it sounds when applied to a bloke.

But Mrs May, as the nation’s second female prime minister, is currently getting a lot of that. Her clothes, her shoes, her hair: all are being more enthusiastically examined than any of her policies - possibly because her policies are far from clear.

So we know that she favours a playful shoe, a striking jacket and a statement necklace.

Above all, we know of her great fondness for a leopard-print kitten heel - most years she sends the temperature soaring in the Tory Party Conference hall with a ritual display of her signature footwear.

It seems a bit unfair, or even wildly sexist, that we know so much about her weakness for a fashion statement and so little about her political credentials - apart from the fact that immigration has soared during her six years heading up the Home Office, and that she has done little during all that time to help the “just managing” with whom she now sympathises.

But mainly it’s all about the style. Comparisons are inevitably being made between her dress sense and that of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a woman who favoured a sterner look, framed by rigid hair and handbag, as befitted the 1980s.

But before we get too much on our high horse about this attention to Theresa May’s looks, we should remember that male politicians are under scrutiny too and it isn’t just modern politicians. Image has always been everything.

In recognition of that, wartime leader Winston Churchill had a look as carefully cultivated as any Instagram star with his cigar and victory salute.

His American contemporary, president Franklin D Roosevelt was a wheelchair user after suffering polio, but he contrived things so that few of his citizens actually realised that.

A man in politics must not look as though his powers are waning - but the cut of his jib - or at least his jacket - is important too.

Some of you will remember the Row Over Michael’s Jacket, a debacle that haunted the Labour Party for years.

Leader Michael Foot, a man of the left, appeared at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday in what was instantly branded a donkey jacket. The fact that it was new, not a donkey jacket and bought from John Lewis made no difference. It wasn’t a long black coat and therefore he became known as the man who had not shown proper respect. It was a career-wrecking moment.

On Mr Cameron’s last day in office, there was banter with Jeremy Corbyn over the wearing of a tie - on such things careers really can turn.

And not only Theresa May’s hair is being scrutinised: during his time as prime minister, David Cameron’s bald patch was routinely examined, its growing dimensions measured by the millimetre; meanwhile George Osborne had his new combed-forward style ridiculed - and let’s not even get started on Boris. His wayward blond hair could have cost him the top job.

Over in France the question of president Francois Hollande’s receding hairline is taken so seriously that a hairdresser is on 24-hour standby to fluff his locks, at a cost of £8,000 a month. The man is said to have missed the births of his own children in order to keep the president looking as hirsute as humanly possible.

It must be small comfort but in an image-obsessed world it’s not just the women who suffer.

CLAUDIA, I’M WITH YOU

Claudia Winkleman had the right idea - somebody tie him down, she said, he’s actually not allowed to leave, she said.

Lovely Claudia was reacting to the news that Len Goodman has said the upcoming series of Strictly Come Dancing will be his last.

Co-host Tess Daly, by the way, tweeted something much more bland; something about how it had been a pleasure and she would miss him. It must be a tough job for her keeping up with the witty, endearing and so much more entertaining Claudia.

Whatever. The important point is Len is off and that’s a massive blow, because he is the very beating heart of this show.

Strictly is a little programme that has been blown up large. It’s gone all bling, all stretched to breaking point.

Before we even get to the dancing this year there will be hours of build-up: the names of the celebrities will be teasingly revealed; there will be pre-shows where no-one gets eliminated, hours of the contestants saying how excited yet terrified they are. All of that.

The antidote has always been Len. Len the real dance teacher, Len the old-fashioned gent, Len the man with a twinkle in his eye and a natty turn of phrase on his tongue.

Froth and sparkle is a key part of the show but he was the character who could cut through all that camp and give the series of bit of solid substance.

Strictly may have taken its first false step.

GO GRANNIES, YOUR THE BEST

We grannies march on, sweeping up ever more jobs as we go. Already we work, we care for the nation’s children, we host the nation’s family gatherings.

Now comes news that we have gathered another role to our capacious bosoms - from now on, youngsters step aside, we are taking over as the nation’s bridesmaids.

It has happened. Admittedly in America, but everything makes its way over here a nano-second later.

The grannies of this bride and groom rejected their traditional wedding role - cluttering up the venue - and decided to take centre stage - as bridesmaids.

They wore matching dresses and cute cauliflower perms and carried a flower basket between them, from which they tossed rose petals - America, remember?

I see this, minus petals, as the future. We grannies have proved our worth as backstops, catching those curve balls thrown by our families, now we want to lead the team.

Alexandra Shulman. PIC: PA

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