For the prime minister of a car-crash nation to boast on the sheets of American Vogue is not as out of contact as it might seem
The obvious thing to say about Theresa Mays decision to allow herself to be seduced by the glamour of a Vogue way shoot is the fact that it gazes irreducibly horrid. Tone-deaf, self-indulgent, frivolous whatever the inclination , not one of them is flattering.
This is the narrative: not even Annie Leibovitz, mistress of digital manipulation, can rehabilitate glory to a prime minister who chooses to take part in a manner shoot while is president of a car-crash society. A lead anxious to look as if she is in touch with her just-about-managing fellow citizens fighting with austerity and Brexitwill be painted flaunting clothes that will certainly not be available in your average Marks& Spencer.
Its no apology that the relevant recommendations was conceived in the pre-Trump epoch maybe even in the exhilarating epoches when it must have seemed a reasonable bet that by the time the pictures appeared in April, Hillary Clinton would have joined May herself and Angela Merkel in a trilogy of female dominance unprecedented in its own history of the western world.
If that had been the entreaty( and that we are able to but mourn its loss) then the smart thing to do on 9 November, following the end of the call to Trump Tower, would have been an urgent email to the editors place in New York.
Now it seems likely that on her first see to Washington as “ministers “, she will have prepared the floor for her meeting with a serviceman notorious for reducing wives to objectives by presenting herself on the pages of American Vogue as, well, an object.
And that is not the end of it. Even more detrimental is that her decision to submit before the eyes of the nations of the world to the narcissism of manner is likely to be become one of those defining moments: like Margaret Thatcher in the cistern turret looks a lot like a cross between Boudicca and Lawrence of Arabia, this one misjudgment might readily become a signifier of all that is flawed in her prime ministerial mode. Here is a woman already perceived to lack tactical nous, a prime minister with no mandate from their constituencies, a legislator who, even if she says the right thing, carries on doing the incorrect one.
Where was the sage-green admonition that it would not be a good look for soft-focus epitomes of the prime minister to be in the information at the beginning of a financial year that will remove several hundreds of pounds in taxation recognitions and dwelling is beneficial for the incomes of many thousands of class? What part of a prudent prime ministerial strategy might include juxtaposing austerity with an impression in the pages of the global handbook of conspicuous consumption?
And hitherto, while all that is true, she is on to something important. First, British style is big business and the US is a big market. That is at least part of the reason why American Vogues British editor, Anna Wintour, was made a dame in the New Year honours.
Second, style is on to current trends: the world has just got serious about politics. Last-place month Teen Vogue had a smash hit with a scalding lead about Donald Trump gaslighting the country( to gaslight, it helpfully interprets, is to psychologically manipulate a person to the spot where they question their own sanity ), which far outstripped the second largest most-read peculiarity of its first year, on the right way to apply glitter nail polish.
A generation ago, UK media strategists realised Dame Hour and the Jimmy Young Show were a more effective road of reaching everyday voters than the broadsheets and political Tv. But this is something different. After Brexit and Trump, voters who for years rarely had cause to hassle a polling station has now become passionate. The business of fad periodicals is recognise the progress and this year, at least, politics is fashion.
That is not the same as saying that manner is politics. Yet it is slowly becoming so, as the business to seeing how women in capability express their political identities disappears mainstream. Leibovitz, the portraitist who did the American Vogue shoot with May at Chequers, is always very interested in men and influence and the power of women. She has rescued the Queen from societies grandmother status and returned her regal presence. She takes Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, both regulars in American Vogue( Obama has been on three clothes) and makes them softer, and more traditionally feminine, than parties would expect from their public existence as special representatives and accompanies of power.
Clinton was open about the conflicting pressures of superpower and appearance, and accommodation by adopting the invisible androgyny of the Angela Merkel trouser suit. But May “ve never” acknowledged her interest in fashion to the demands of political convention. She set out to normalise the idea of serious maidens being serious about fashion too. She was in the pages of British Vogue before she had even been elected an MP.
She has developed style as a word of political communication. Where her male colleagues might brief select correspondents to trail a policy development, May affirms her goal with a fashion explanation that is often flashier than what she eventually says. Where she works prudent politically, she is bold( at least, fashionistas might croak, by Maidenhead touchstones ). Like the vicar, the vicars daughter gowns for the number of jobs. In a nature where policy debate is conducted by tweet, a way shoot in Vogue might be read as a manifesto. If the prime minister has a future, it will need to be a good one.