UK Politics

Ed Miliband: No more photo opportunities?

Ed Miliband eats a bacon sandwich Image copyright Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/eyevine

When this picture of Ed Miliband's battle with a bacon butty hit the news, the Labour team pulled a few faces of their own. So why is the party's leader talking about how he looks?

I am not from central casting

Image copyright Image courtesy New Statesman and The Spectator

Other people look less like the animated character Wallace, he said in a speech. The comparison has long kept cartoonists in business.

Getting the joke

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But Mr Miliband does a good line in self-deprecation in private, and he has decided to share some of that in public. You can find people who are more square-jawed, he said. More chiselled. No one argued.

So no more photo ops?

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It's hardly the end of Labour's once legendary image-management though. Mr Miliband admitted pictures still matter. After all, he was as keen as any other politician to get his photo taken with President Obama.

Tough job

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And Labour's not pretending image doesn't matter. Mr Miliband has his own PR people. Earlier this year Labour advertised for another one - a Head of the Leader's Broadcasting according to the job ad. The vacancy's still not been filled.

But he says there's a real problem at Westminster: what he calls "photo op politics", where politicians are more worried about their image than important issues.

Substance not style?

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The message from Labour is that David Cameron is better at smiling for the camera; Mr Miliband is a man of substance.

Nonsense says the prime minister - pointing out that this speech came on the day the economy recovered to the level it was at before the banking crash. It was extraordinary, he said, for Mr Miliband to talk about his image.

Will it work?

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Labour's leader is not the first politician to look odd in a photo. Sometimes it's accidental. Sometimes they plan it that way. Take William Hague, then Conservative leader, on his water slide, in his branded baseball cap.

The question for Labour: can Mr Miliband's speech about his appearance make voters pay more attention to his ideas?

"If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don't vote for me," he said.

That's not a risk-free strategy.

Any MP, photogenic or not, takes a gamble when he or she admits a weakness.

Mr Miliband's conceded he's got a problem. His critics will remind him of it again and again between now and polling day.

They'll certainly quote this speech back at him when he next poses for a photo.

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