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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2005, 16:26 GMT
Blairs give 'presidential' message
By Jackie Storer
BBC News

Gone are the relaxed family poses - a gaggle of children standing with their proud parents outside Number 10, or Tony and Cherie dressed casually in a doorway at Chequers.
Tony and Cherie Blair
The Blairs' 2005 card is more formal than previous years

This year's prized Christmas card from the Blairs is "presidential, almost royal" in tone, claims social commentator Peter York.

The festive missive depicts Mrs Blair standing behind her suited and seated husband in a formal setting at Number 10.

Cherie, wearing a blue silky jacket, puts her left hand - fingers outstretched - on Tony's shoulder. A chandelier can be clearly seen in the background.

There is something about the dynamic of Tony and Cherie and that restraining hand - I find it terribly uncomfortable
Peter York
Social commentator

York, who perused cards sent by leading politicians on BBC's Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman, says of the couple: "They are very presidential - they are almost royal.

"There is something about the dynamic of Tony and Cherie. There's something about the tail end of presidential life and 'stand by your man'. And that restraining hand - I find it terribly uncomfortable."

York contrasts this year's card with the one they sent last year. That saw Mr Blair casually dressed in a blue striped sweater, one hand in his pocket, and his wife holding his other arm, dressed in a long loose cardigan at Chequers.

'Perfectly composed'

"Last year is sort of Boden," says York. "It's the smart mail order catalogue and it's saying 'we're fixed. We've put down roots - here we are very much at ease'."

David Cameron and a schoolgirl
Mr Cameron's card is dubbed 'very, very slick'

But what of new leader on the block - the Conservative's David Cameron?

His 2005 offering - a tightly-cropped picture of himself, tie-less and smiling, next to a little girl holding a Christmas card with stars in the background - is "very, very slick" and "perfectly composed", says York.

"It's been very well cropped and he's looking his usual creamy buttery self and informal," he says. "It's content free and entirely derivative."

Festive effort

The idea harks back to a similar pose Chancellor Gordon Brown used in 2004, when he stood next to a child holding a Christmas card.

York says Mr Brown looks "much less comfortable in his skin" than Mr Cameron. He looks like he is "thinking, 'when do I get away', says York of Brown.

Here is an insurance company card - it's the sort of thing the Norwich Union used to send out before it went groovy
Peter York on Charles Kennedy's card

"Somebody has looked right across the contact sheets and expertly picked the one that works best," says York, commenting on the Cameron card.

Then there is Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy's 2005 card - a watercolour of Parliament Square c1826 by Augustus Charles Pugin - which can be purchased in the House of Commons shop.

Charles Kennedy's card, depicting Parliament Square in the 19th Century
Mr Kennedy's offering is 'an insurance company card', says York
"Here is an insurance company card," says York. "It's the sort of thing the Norwich Union used to send out before it went groovy. It's absolutely impersonal and when you want to be impersonal, you go to the 18th Century.

"You're out of it - there's nothing about current Parliament. There's nothing about him."

Last year Mr Kennedy sent an image of a cottage in the snowbound Highlands.

"That's some sort of Highland trust and it's sort of saying 'I come from a snowbound and sober place altogether," says York.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, US President George Bush has taken a leaf out of Mr Kennedy's book and sent an equally impersonal card.

George and Laura Bush's card
There is no sign of the US president on his Christmas card
Here the snow is falling on the White House. There is an American flag on the roof and two little dogs in the foreground.

"It's very 1920s. It's very smultzy. There's no George Bush," says York. "Last year there was George and Laura against the tree. This year they are deflecting a bit of animosity.

"They have just got the two little dogs in there. Americans can take a whole lot more smultz than we can."

"It's rather like the Kennedy change - it's moving from the direct target, the people themselves, to a bland, generalised familiar image and a period image too."

Festive Blairs choose celeb snapper
07 Dec 04 |  UK Politics
The politics of Christmas cards
22 Dec 03 |  Special Reports
Greetings from Westminster
20 Dec 02 |  Politics
Christmas cards show home truths
13 Dec 01 |  England


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