Even the innocent can be caught unawaresThere’s quite a hoohah afoot – pardoning the implicit biological condundrum – about the PM’s photographer. Various people – in The Guardian and The Observer, for example – are making remarks about the public purse paying for those who manage the personal image of public servants. The indignation is understandable, but I’m wondering if it’s actually the most relevant point. Like any significant leader (whether of a country, a major organisation or an enterprise), the PM will be aware of the importance of managing his public image. Most of us will rarely, if ever, experience his personal charisma and magic (making the assumption that these are amongst his possessions) first-hand, so our opinions, reactions and responses are to ‘the PM at one remove’ – his pubic image. Like anyone who has an image to maintain, he will be acutely aware of this. Hiring a personal photographer, whoever foots the bill, is not something that happens by accident, after all.

The harder question with many people who are carefully managing their image is the extent to which they are aware that we are also aware of the managing. Any audience – whether the general public, an electorate or a workforce – is increasingly media aware. I’m not sure how ironic it is that we have the media itself to largely thank for this, but a diet of programmes about make-overs and print and web reporting of spin doctors and their activities is only ever going to make the veil a little more transparent. We know a make-over when we see one, not least because a lot of us have ourselves been ‘done’. (How much you want to look up the variety of meanings of ‘done’ in a dictionary at this point might have some statistical correlation to the cost of the doing, but I’ll leave that one for a media-savvy research student somewhere.)

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