Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Let It Worry You, Cherie, If the Media Pulls Your Hair

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Let It Worry You, Cherie, If the Media Pulls Your Hair

Article excerpt

I had intended to return to the Rusbridger affair this week, but the morals of the Guardian, dodgy though they are, will have to wait. I must deal with Cherie Blair's hair. Why so? What is the matter with it? Nothing; it is delightful hair. That is why the media will not leave it alone. On the whole, journalists have behaved well towards the Blair family since they moved into Downing Street. It is a wonderful thing to have young prime ministerial children there, and it has never happened before. The only other prime minister I can think of with children of that age while he was in office was Rosebery in 1894-5, and he and his family continued to live in his own house in Berkeley Square. The young Blairs, I can report, are happy in their new home, and the staff -- there are few people more good-natured than Downing Street servants - are delighted to have them. The press, for once, is being decent: no harassment. But with Cherie it is a different matter. They meanly went to town over the news that, during her husband's official visit to Washington, she took her own hairdresser with her at a cost of 2,000.

Why the fuss? Margaret Thatcher always gave her hair top priority. Sure, she was prime minister and Cherie is not, but these days the wife of a national leader, especially if she is young, pretty and vivacious, is just as much on show. During the visit, Cherie had a constant succession of engagements, with photographers present at all of them, and that meant her hair had to be done four times a day. It made sense to take her own expert. She is an exceptionally hard-working, well-rewarded lady and she paid for him out of her own (after-tax) money. The alternative would have been for the embassy to provide a local man, paid for out of public funds. Hence the taxpayer actually benefited from Cherie's insistence on looking her best for Britain. So in future, ladies of the press, stop pulling Cherie's hair!

Women are particularly sensitive about their hair. Few have the courage of Mo Mowlam, who did not mind taking off her wig in America and showing her bald head to the cameras. Most women like to keep attention away from their hair, as so many things can go wrong. It was always thus. I have been looking through the material I collected when I wrote my book on Ancient Egypt, and observe that high-born ladies then either covered up their hair completely with elaborate hats, like Queen Nefertiti, plaited it tightly into dreadlocks, or wore a wig. Wigs are an easy solution to the problem, but a treacherous one. Elizabeth I, about whose personal appearance I know quite a bit, usually scorned wigs because they were hot, smelly and itchy. She had fine, red-gold hair, just like my mother's, and like mine before it went its present weird champagne colour. My mother kept her hair very long, so that it came well below her waist when down, but she plaited it elaborately and piled it into a bun at the back of her head - then she felt safe. Queen Elizabeth dyed her hair or used red or blond wigs, festooned with ropes of pearls for posh occasions, but she sometimes kept it au naturel, elaborately curled by her maids, using old-fashioned hot irons, and extremely nice it looked (according to the portraits: the reality may have been different).

Barbara Castle, who also has fine, red-gold hair, and who keeps it that way, bless her heart, used to complain bitterly about the problems of getting through public appearances on a bad hair day. …

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