Politicians stripped bare


Nothing like a good lavatorial joke to make its impact or to bring public figures down to earth.

It is said that if you ever feel over-awed by anyone in authority, take Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for example, you just have to imagine her sitting on her other, much more private, throne and some of the mystical trappings of royalty go down the pan with…well, any way.

Here is Brian Cowen, the Irish Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, as he didn’t really want to be seen.

An anonymous so-called guerrilla artist had the nerve to walk into Dublin’s National Gallery and, quite freely hang his satirical portrait of Mr. Cowen where it stayed and was admired by amused onlookers for some time before security guards noticed that it was not meant to be there.The artist then, with equal sang froid, hung an equally disrespectful portrait of the great man in the nearby Royal Hibernian Gallery showing Mr. Cowen, naked again but this time holding up a pair of voluminous y-fronts.

It was a brilliant piece of satire, coolly delivered. Brian Cowen will never be quite the same again as far as his Irish electorate is concerned.

These pieces of image assassination just stay in the mind.

I always remember his defaced statue now, whenever I think of Winston Churchill, great though many of his achievements undoubtedly were. Some brave pranksters calling themselves the Guerrilla Gardening Group, unremarkably hung some green balloons on his imposing statue near the House of Commons in London, that was pretty dull – it actually distracted from their genius of an idea. Their brilliance was in the simple piece of grass turf put on the great man’s head, transforming him instantly and permanently, as far as my mind’s eye is concerned, into an elderly punk rocker.

Now I am not sure why they were criticising Churchill’s Green credentials, he has been any way, a long time dead but the image remains…and it is an image of Green.

The Irish leader, apparently, is not very popular at the moment, but which leader is during this period of economic depression? Even the shiny new President of the United States seems to be out of his euphoric honeymoon period.

One of the differences, of course, is that Mr. Cowen is fat and, if he will excuse me, not very good looking. In fact, his wife might look at those portraits and think: If only!

If a similar portrait was painted of Barack Obama standing there naked holding his underpants, then I suspect most people would think: In good shape there, Mr. President.

Undoubtedly, just like his Irish counterpart, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, would cut an equally unattractive figure in his altogether, as would the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The President Sakozy of France,however, small but perfectly formed, has probably already posed in the nude with his glamourous new wife for some glossy and stylish Parisian magazine and he is now awaiting publication with a wry smile.

The others though, must be relieved that it was Mr. Cowen who was ridiculed and not them. The joke has now run after-all.

It is a long tradition using obesity and nudity as a satirical weapon; nothing this brave new artist has done compares with the merciless cruelty of 18th. Century political cartoons some of which, even now, would be considered obscene and unsuitable for public display.

It was a great prank, of course, this unveiling of Mr. Cowen, but I did wonder whether it was really helpful in a World where Hollywood good looks are celebrated above intelligence and where designer clothes are preferred to nudity on all but the most perfect human bodies.

In our increasingly tabloid democracies, we truly are in danger of voting for the beautiful and sexy and rejecting the ugly but capable.

We are not there yet – look at Mr. Brown, as yet unelected, and Frau Merkel about to stand for reelection. However anyone who has listened to Hollywood stars trying to string two words together must shudder at the thought of being governed by them. Even Ronald Reagan was considered not good-looking enough to get promoted out of B-movies and are we really sure if we want Arnold Schwarzenegger as President?

So, Mr. Cowen, I advise you to wear your beer gut and man boobs with pride and take comfort that those who elected you must have been attracted to your mind not your body. Beauty can be a curse, you know, look at Marilyn Munroe and James Dean. I would suggest though that you take up a bit more exercise -it looks like you will soon have plenty of leisure time.

But well done to the anonymous guerrilla artist on a brilliant job well and bravely done. I wonder what he looks like on the bog.

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