But voters take little pleasure in a dome

In one crucial respect, the new Tory leader is a match for Winston Churchill. But in the TV age, a bald pate has little chance against a head of hair ...
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The Independent Online
The election of William Hague has focused the minds of Westminster spin doctors and image-makers on the vexed question of his pate.

Mr Hague lost his hair at an early age. Sometimes that is a positive boon. People think bald men are older than they really are, and, perhaps, accord them greater respect than they otherwise would.

There are secondary benefits: Mr Hague does not need to spend much time or money at the hair-stylist; he will not have to endure commentators analysing the way his locks are parted, as Tony Blair must; Mr Hague has no cause to worry about any coded signal his hair is sending; he can pose for pictures, safe in the knowledge he will not have flyaway hair; the concept of a bad hair day is foreign to the Conservatives' new leader.

Unfortunately, the PR advisers and image-makers who inhabit Westminster and its environs fail to see the obvious advantages of baldness. They have begun to mutter already: since politics in Britain and in the United States entered the television age, no follicularly challenged contender has won serious office.

Think about it. The last bald Prime Minister in this country was Sir Alec Douglas-Home. In the US, Gerald Ford was the last bald occupant of the White House. But Ford was appointed not elected, and when he ran for the presidency in 1976, he lost. Presidents Johnson and Nixon may have been thin on top, but all the rest of the recent prime ministers and presidents have had a good head of hair.

In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev was bald, but that was before credible elections took place, and Boris Yeltsin is most definitely not. Thinking back, the last golden period for the bald politician was in the Fifties, a period when Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister. Dwight D Eisenhower was President of the United States, and Nikita Khrushchev took power in the Soviet Union. None of them gave a toss about television.

As television became the predominant medium in influencing voters' impressions, baldies have found it difficult to get a look in. Neil Kinnock was aware of the problem and went to great lengths to try to disguise it by doing a "Bobby Charlton" and combing great long strands across his head. In many eyes that served only to draw attention to the problem.

Perhaps it is the studio lights reflecting off their domes, perhaps it is simply that bald men do look older and the fashion is for our leaders to appear younger and more dynamic. Nobody is sure what causes them to turn the modern voter off.

There is some consolation for Tories as they contemplate fighting a general election under a bald eagle. Even though Labour hates to admit it, it is a self-evident truth that Tony Blair is also losing his hair. Mr Hague's advisers are taking heart from the thought that in five years' time the two men ought to be more evenly matched. No kidding.