Anne Diamond on: politics and hanging out with Jeremy Paxman and Boris Johnson
PUBLISHED: 13:02 22 November 2013 | UPDATED: 13:02 22 November 2013
Copyright Junghee Choi
Bald men, those with extraordinary beards, what chance do they have of leading the country when image is everything and fuzzy faves haven’t reached the top in 100 years?
If I had my career all over again I think I’d like to be a political correspondent. Rather like the sports reporters who get paid for going to the best matches and then paid to talk about it, politics would be my game. After all, it’s just upmarket gossip, isn’t it - but it makes the world go round, and I love talking about it!
Thanks to my involvement with the Leveson Enquiry into press standards and ethics, though, I have been invited onto lots of political programmes recently - and it’s been brilliant fun hanging out with the likes of Jeremy Paxman, Kirsty Wark, Andrew Neil etc and tiptop political guests like Alastair Campbell, Boris Johnson, the late great Sir David Frost and the kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May.
Talk in the green room however rarely turns to politics. Last time we ended up talking about hair - with celebrity coiffeur, Nicky Clarke, who’d been invited in to pass judgement on politicians’ hairstyles. He and I remembered how we’d first started working together on Good Morning with Anne and Nick in 1991. Neither of us had aged a day, we laughed - thanks to hair colour! But I learned some fascinating sartorial facts about hair and politics.
For instance - when was the last bearded or moustachioed PM in this country? You have to go back more than a hundred years. The last British Prime Minister to sport a beard was The Marquess of Salisbury (1902-ish) and it was an enormous example of face furniture, reaching down to his chest. They just don’t make politicians like that any more. Or we don’t want them - it seems we just don’t elect fuzzy faces nowadays. And according to some experts, neither do we trust baldies in the top job either. Last bald PM was Alec Douglas Home - in an era where TV image or charisma certainly wasn’t a factor in a popular poll. In fact according to research, a bald MP would nowadays find it almost impossible to reach high office.
History is littered with those unfortunate prime ministers-who-never-were, simply because although brilliant and talented, they appeared at the wrong time. But perhaps, in these days of image, we will also lose out on some excellent leaders simply because their genes destined them to be hairless rather than hirsute.
We women are more fortunate. Less likely to lose our hair, we can still colour it and preserve the illusion of relative youth. Without my visits to the colourist, I’d be Miss Marple, and probably far less likely to be invited onto Newsnight or the Daily Politics shows.
Who would have thought hair and politics would be so inextricably intertwined?