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Airbrushing history

Peter Barron | 14:37 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2007

Michael Crick's piece about the strange disappearance from circulation of the photograph of David Cameron as a member of the Bullingdon Club and the discovery of the uncropped picture of Tony Blair's rude student gesticulation provoked a big reaction from viewers.

Newsnight logoMany thought we were wrong to delve into their youthful indiscretions, but that was not really what the item was about. It was about the suppression of photographs which could have proved embarrassing for our political leaders.

The issue is airbrushing from history - a big feature in Orwell and Stalin - and surely one for Newsnight.

Interestingly, it's not at all clear who has done the suppressing in these cases. The photographic company who own the copyright on the Cameron picture are adamant they weren't leant on, but made the decision for commercial reasons. The Conservative party say they didn't ask for it to be withdrawn, though they admit they thought about it when they feared Labour would use it in an election poster.

The unexpurgated picture of Tony Blair has been around for years, but apparently no-one has ever published it. Indeed one version I've seen has the offending gesture blacked out. How odd.


I saw the piece on Newsnight about the picture’s copyright being withdrawn. It’s certainly a story and I though it was covered well – not a particularly long piece, and nor should it have been, but covered the story. It is noteworthy because of the personalities that politicians try to paint themselves as having, and surely no-one would disagree that Mr Cameron is very keen on pitching himself as a person who understands the concerns of the ‘ordinary’ people. The picture certainly does have an impact on this image.

  • 2.
  • At 04:09 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Aaron McKenna wrote:

Well, perhaps the politicians want to bury the photographs because they know that the media will make a big deal out of it, if it suits them... A photo of a young Tony Blair making a rude gesture would be wheeled out every time he's trying to focus on yob culture, or similar.

The nice thing about the media is that we never focus on what the journalists did as youngsters; or we laugh at ones tales of excess and daring in school. Turn the same gaze to a politician and May The Lord Have Mercy on any who didn't spend their days and nights in quiet study and religious reflection.

  • 3.
  • At 05:55 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Andrew Kenneally wrote:

What about the blanket silence across the media of the recent uncovering of footage of the BBC's mysterious announcement of the unexpected collapse of hte Salomon Building, or WTC7, on 911? Air-brushing by ommission. Now if it was something truly important like a Big Brother contestant saying something racist, we all know what kind of coverage it would receive.

  • 4.
  • At 06:34 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Justin L wrote:

So why not do a real piece on cover-ups or the things that get airbrushed from history?

This, as you know is a hot topic on other threads...

Since WW2 propoganda has grown as a tool for organising a mass of movement.
Why don't you do a story on how it got sanitized into 'spin', I certainly find it fascinating how new metapors and meanings are created or should I say crafted...

Oh ha ha ha! Loved the dodgy Tony Blair pic - what an absolute delight! It certainly raised a giggle!!!!!:-)

  • 6.
  • At 07:42 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

"The unexpurgated picture of Tony Blair has been around for years, but apparently no-one has ever published it."

Somebody tell me again about the "right-wing press" Guardian letter-writers keep complaining that this country is dominated by.

  • 7.
  • At 08:50 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

It definitely should have been covered - any form of censorship by the parties is a 'slippery slope' to obfuscation and cover-ups and must be avoided. Witness the current obsession with managing the bad news coming out of Iraq and the NHS.

Huh. Makes sense to me. This is a company whose business is school and college photos.

Had they sold it, every Oxford parent would have been on the line to their school, saying that unless they chose a different photographer, please keep little Johnny (or Dave, or Boris) out of the school photograph.

Moral: no good ever comes from giving airtime to Peter Hitchens.

  • 9.
  • At 08:00 AM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • Joe, Maastricht wrote:

What rubbish, no-one cares, apart from people like Tom Page who must be a Labour supporter, it's a shame that he forgets to mention Tony Blair in his comments, what's good for the goose is good for the gander!.

We have always known that Cameron and Blair are both 'toffs', so what, plenty of other people are as well, this has zero importance when it comes to how well someone will run the country.

I suggest that Tom Page stop his class war and just laugh at the photo as it was just a joke between friends, and the same goes for Blair's photo.

God some people need to get a sense of humour.

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