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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 11:59 GMT
The Blair hair hunch
Tony Blair
To dye for: Is this the highlight of Mr Blair's career?
Tony Blair is not dyeing his hair blond - and that's official.

With the sort of robust rebuttal normally reserved for matters of state, Mr Blair's official spokesman has said rumours of the prime minister's dyeing are greatly exaggerated.

Tony Blair
Dark and brooding
He told reporters at a lobby briefing that the speculation - in two national newspapers - was "nonsense".

"I am 100% certain that the answer is no," the spokesman told reporters.

The stories stem largely from Mr Blair's television interview on Sunday with the BBC's political editor Andrew Marr.

Under the studio lights, Mr Blair's hair appeared much lighter than normal.

Tony Blair
Enter sandy-man
The image-change could have been put down to the bleaching effects of four days under the African sun.

But it has not stopped commentators speculating on whether the prime minister - conscious of his appearance at the best of times - is reaching for the peroxide.

Mr Blair's hair has thinned noticeably since taking office, with some commentators blaming the stress of the job.

Tony Blair
Chestnut Blair
He has also taken - self-consciously at first - to wearing spectacles in public.

But unlike Chancellor Gordon Brown - whose hair, some claim, has become mysteriously darker with each passing year - Mr Blair has never had to answer charges that he is a dye-er.

Still less a bottle blonde.

However, extensive research in the BBC News Online picture archive has unearthed evidence of alarming variations in the colour of Mr Blair's hair in recent months.

Tony Blair
Remember red wedge
Most of the differences could be put down to a trick of the light.

Mr Blair's political opponents may notice that in some pictures his hair appears to change colour to match the background he is standing against.

Whatever the case, students of trichology will be studying the Blair barnet very closely in the coming weeks.

As his German counterpart Gerhard Schroeder discovered recently - the whole subject can be political dye-namite.


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