Politicians and awkward photos: A brief history

Matthew Champion@matthewchampion
Saturday 31 January 2015 19:10
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And not a bacon sandwich in sight...

Labour leader Ed Miliband can at least take heart from the fact he is not alone - politicians have a long and august relationship with awkward photos.

Let's start with David Cameron: His trigger to look weird is apparently the president of the United States.

The (un)special relationship works both ways, with the normally photogenic Barack Obama reduced to channelling the Mouth of Sauron in Cameron's presence.

Things get worse when other world leaders get involved, this time with Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt at the Nelson Mandela memorial.

Obama doesn't need Cameron around to take bad photos, however. Just French political figures.

The awkward photo is an ever-present risk in the White House. George W Bush is perhaps the most famous exponent of the hallowed tradition.

Here he is holding hands with the then crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and recently passed king, Abdullah.

And trying to look inconspicuous alongside Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a summit of world leaders in Vietnam.

And although he never said those words, the banner is all that anyone remembers of his speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, marking the supposed end of major combat operations in Iraq.

Staying in the US, Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton and running-mate Al Gore tried and failed to bring short shorts back. Ironically their mission would be accomplished more than 20 years later.

George HW Bush meanwhile proved himself completely out of touch with normal life when he expressed amazement at electronic checkout scanners at a supermarket trade fair. The technology had actually been widespread in the US for at least a decade.

This attempt by Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis to appear like a credible commander in chief massively backfired meanwhile, as he succeeded in only looking a bit silly.

Which, as we know, was John Kerry's speciality for a time. Someone, somewhere, thought it would be a good idea for the Democrat to visit Nasa. And crawl around in a spacesuit.

Back in the UK, and love is in the air. Or a horrible, processed, political version of it. When looking at these post-conference speech photos, bear in mind that some politicos actually think these humanise party leaders in the eyes of the electorate.

Ed Miliband's failure to engage with the camera in a way that makes him appear human is well documented. But what has been forgotten is how his brother was just as good/bad.

And when you put them together...

Sticking with Labour, it may not have the same hand of history upon it as Bush's aircraft carrier speech, but the Tony Blair-Gordon Brown ice cream photo deserves to be treated with the same disrespect.

What emerged during research for this article was the mutual feeling apparently shared between former leadership rivals Andy Burnham and Ed Balls.

Ed Balls.

The coalition hasn't exactly been a golden age for awkward political photos, mainly because Cameron and Nick Clegg are acutely aware of how badly they look when pictured together.

Sadly, that awareness does not extend to when Cameron is pictured with fellow EU leaders.

There's still the odd gem, however.

And George Osborne can always be relied upon to look quizzical in a hard-hat/deranged when appearing alongside children (delete as applicable).

Finally, the most awkward political photo of recent times? It's not Ed Miliband and a bacon sandwich (no one looks good when they're eating), but Alex Salmond, trying to look down with the kids with a quick game of association power soccer, or something.

Eat my goal.

(Pictures: PA/Getty/AP/White House)

More: [22 awkward photos not of Ed Miliband]2

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