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November 20, 2014 / C H Thompson

Politicians, Media and Image

thachter-chelseaIn democratic societies the mass media have been defined as the ‘fourth power’ due to their extensive societal influence. The extent to which the mass media shapes can be used by politicians to construct the ‘correct’ image has become increasingly significant. Harold Wilson, UK Prime Minister, is seen by some commentators as being the first media savvy politician because of the numerous techniques he used to get his point across. Similar process were used by Marget Thatcher as a means of creating an electable image. Gordon Green, her media advisor, masterminded the now famous picture of her doing the family washing-up . This distinctly non-feminist image of Mrs Thatcher as a housewife helped construct an electable image far removed from the reality of an Oxford-educated career women.

Green also used other strategies to stage-manage her appearance to the electorate. He picked her television appearances with care favouring Jimmy Young’s more gentle Radio 2 show to the more challenging environment of programmes like BBC’s Panorama which would place her thinking under greater scrutiny.

Since then other politicians have used the media to stage manage their appearance. In an attempt to shake off his stuffy intellectual image in the 1990s William Hague famously took to wearing a baseball cap; a far cry from the image he presented at his first ever Tory conference when aged 16.

In the 2010 general election campaign David Cameron aligned himself alongside Gary Barlow when visiting a school in order to project the right image. Similarly when being interviewed David Cameron like all politicians makes certain the interview is conducted in the setting most suitable to the topic under discussion.

Stage managing ones image isn’t confined to old-media, new media (or social media) is used by politicians in order to create the ‘right’ image. Numerous politicians have Facebook pages; Twitter addresses; broadcast on Youtube or publish images on Instagram style social media in order to portray the right image – something not so dissimilar to that which Harold Wilson was doing back in the 1960s.

Nevertheless despite the growth of social media political parties still broadcast Party Political Broadcasts to get their message across, nowhere more so than with Nick Glegg in the 2010 election.

feminist housewife (picture in top right-hand corner).


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