Politicians and face masks: the winners and losers – in pictures

Most politicians – indeed, most adults – have come round to the idea that putting up with having a bit of fabric on your face in exchange for saving thousands of lives is a good deal. (Except for Ann Widdecombe, who is continuing to be Ann Widdecombe.)

There were numerous examples of politicians, many of whom are the actual leaders of their nations, struggling to put a mask on. Given that most now have read the memo that there’s a raging pandemic, here’s how the political mask scene is looking.

Donald Trump


Donald Trump looking particularly presidential.

Donald Trump looking particularly presidential. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Trump’s mask is a rather smart one, with the White House logo on it. Presumably, this is: a) so he can find his way home, and b) because he may only have a matter of months left there, and he wants to make the most of it. I am not convinced he will leave the White House even if he is voted out, though. (I’m also not convinced he will be voted out, but that’s another piece.)

At least Trump is wearing a mask, after a phase of telling everyone he did wear a mask, while appearing in many places, in front of many photographers, 100% not wearing a mask. Thing is, it is quite easy to see with the naked eye if a person is wearing a mask, and Trump was not. Perhaps it went to another school. Still, good news for those who subscribe to the theory that Melania has a body double (it has its own Wikipedia page). Having half of her face covered in fabric is a body-double conspiracist’s dream. (I do not subscribe to this theory, I just massively enjoy it.)

Nicola Sturgeon


Nicola Sturgeon … style and substance.

Nicola Sturgeon … style and substance. Photograph: Reuters

The technical term for the above photograph is: A Vibe. Here we have the first minister of Scotland with her new look while literally posing in New Look. This is a photo op with an on-brand tartan mask to signal the reopening of Scotland’s high streets. But there’s also a touch of Succession-esque ballsiness, with a hint of fashion week and a shade of the first week of The Apprentice. There’s a woman on the left who has got the knee-flash down pat, but nothing is taking away from Sturgeon’s moment here. Shout out to the woman second from the left whose mask appears to be covering her entire face; it’s almost a balaclava.

Boris Johnson


Boris Johnson … leering.

Boris Johnson … leering. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AP

Just imagine, for a second, being so ill that you have need of an ambulance. That you are in an ambulance, very sick indeed. Then imagine Boris Johnson leering around the corner at you wearing his blue mask, which he has managed to make look like a corner-shop carrier bag hooked over his ears. Which, granted, could be seen as an improvement. Incidentally, the ambulance in the picture could well be one of the private ones the NHS spent £92m on last year. I honestly would be surprised if the password for his computer wasn’t creepingprivatisation123.

Jair Bolsonaro


Jair Bolsonaro … fruity.

Jair Bolsonaro … fruity. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

This is Brazil’s president. Brazil is second only to the US in terms of the number of people who have died – it has surpassed 90,000 – but Bolsonaro has described the virus as “a little flu”. His hobbies, until recently, included going to anti-lockdown rallies, mask-free – until the country’s legislative body ruled that all Brazilians have to wear masks in open spaces, and the president was not exempt. (He has attempted to dilute the laws since.)

Here’s the kicker: Bolsonaro LITERALLY HAD COVID-19. He has since deigned to wear a mask. The above photograph, which I have chosen because – well, look at it – he’s pointing at a banana, was taken when he “tried” to feed it to a rhea (Latin name: Huge, scary-looking bird). Footage shows that Bolsonaro was attacked by the bird. Not all rheas wear capes.

Michael Gove


Gove … steamed up.

Gove … steamed up. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

I can’t even openly laugh at Michael Gove here, which is a first, because I have also suffered the indignity of clouded spectacles when wearing a mask. A tip, though: place the glasses frame on top of the mask, to keep it airtight. Here, Gove (for international readers: Gove is part of the British government, serving as the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, which isn’t worth explaining) wears a rainbow-embossed mask – a nod to the NHS. Gove said that wearing a mask in shops was “basic good manners” and he trusted people to exercise “common sense”. He was then photographed in Pret a Manger without a mask. Common sense has never been Gove’s strong point.

Keir Starmer


Keir Starmer on a train to Falmouth.

Keir Starmer on a train to Falmouth. Photograph: Labour Party

I, too, thought this was an advertisement from the Cornwall tourist board. It is, in fact, a photograph of the Labour leader posted on Twitter. Quite apart from the beautiful sea and sky, and Keir’s dreamy far-off look, what I enjoy about this portrait is imagining how it was taken: the photographer repeatedly saying “excuse me” as they made an absolute nuisance of themselves in the aisle, narrowly avoiding decking people with a lens bag and holding up the drinks trolley by 10 minutes. The other thing of note is the table. Not a single empty Wispa wrapper. No wooden stirrer splattered with milk. Can we relate to someone who hasn’t paid £4.99 for an egg-and-cress sandwich a week past its sell-by date? Time will tell.

Narendra Modi


An Indian man wears a mask with a picture of Modi

Narendra Modi … invisible man. Photograph: Sanjeev Gupta/EPA

I couldn’t find a picture of India’s prime minister wearing a mask, which rather seems a mistake when his country has the fastest-rising number of Covid-19 cases in the world. To be fair, India has infrastructure problems, which has meant it is starting at a disadvantage to other nations. Modi apologised for a rise in homelessness and food poverty as a result of his rapid and draconian lockdown strategy. But since then, he has reverted to his usual self, saying that India’s response to the pandemic has “defied global expectations”. Anyway, here’s a dude wearing a mask with a photograph of Modi on it, showing his support for an awful job well done.

Angela Merkel


Angela Merkel … on message.

Angela Merkel … on message. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

This is how I imagine the studious Angela Merkel was in school, patiently waiting with her hand up to give the correct answer, and possibly even anticipating the next question. It’s how I imagine Merkel timidly asking her teammate in netball for the ball, absolutely not wanting it at all. It was never in doubt that the German chancellor would get behind masks, because she is a former scientist. I’m pretty sure she could deliver a moving speech on the unity of masks and how they are an opportunity to bring us all together as we fight for a better Europe.

Priti Patel


Priti Patel … outdoor look.

Priti Patel … outdoor look. Photograph: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

Word is that Priti Patel keeps wearing a mask outdoors, and then taking it off indoors, which is so stupid that it is entirely in keeping with what I assume Patel would do. Here, the home secretary stands, arms crossed, taking the same pose as French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, with French police, who she no doubt referred to as “plees”, because that is how politicians always pronounce police. (I don’t know either, but show me one who doesn’t.)

Andrzej Duda


Andrzej Duda and his wife … keeping it simple.

Andrzej Duda and his wife … keeping it simple. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Here we have the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, casting their ballots in the presidential election earlier this month. Kornhauser-Duda has gone for an on-brand red-and-white combo – the colours of the Polish flag. Her husband presumably didn’t have time to consider such sartorial matters because he was campaigning to rip away the rights of LGBT people. Which worked, incidentally, because he has been re-elected. It’s a bit like how Mark Zuckerberg says he wears the same T-shirt every day because choosing an outfit would distract from his focus: which is turning the world into a fake-news, surveillance-hell trash fire. I’m paraphrasing, but only a little.

Rishi Sunak


Rishi Sunak … a good run.

Rishi Sunak … a good run. Photograph: Anthony Upton/The Daily Telegraph/PA

Competent Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, reporting for duty; the one person in the government who seems to have a basic level of proficiency. Sunak, when approaching a lectern, doesn’t suck all of the optimism out of a room. Here, Competent Rishi is wearing a mask with a valve; a mask that, according to scientists, is more harmful than not wearing one at all, and has been banned in many countries. Oh, Rishi, you had a good run. Except for the freelancers, who would very much argue that you didn’t.

Emmanuel Macron


Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron … priorities.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron … priorities. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/EPA

The French president there, wearing his mask. Brigitte Macron absolutely not wearing a mask. Do you think Brigitte is going to wear a mask? Have you met Brigitte? Brigitte will be wearing shoulder pads eight times the width of her knees; she’ll be wearing shades that protect her from the blinding light of her own teeth, thank you very much. Do you think – for even a second – that Brigitte is going mask-shopping when she’s in the middle of more important things, like hanging out with Rihanna? If you think Brigitte is going to detract for even a second from being the best-dressed first lady in politics you are wrong.

Xi Jinping


Xi Jinping … culture war.

Xi Jinping … culture war. Photograph: Xie Huanchi/XINHUA/AFP via Getty Images

Finally, the Chinese president wearing a flattering teal number. This colour hovers somewhere between hospital scrubs and the Maldives, but I assume he’s going for the former. Mostly, I don’t want to think about the Maldives because it seems as if far-flung beach holidays are a long way off. I am having to stay put in a country in which a “culture war” has erupted over a bit of fabric (and not for the first time: see the niqab). I do not like wearing masks because I find them claustrophobic. But I also do not like mass death. Hmm, it’s a tricky one. But, and good God, I hate to say it: I now have something in common with Trump and Johnson.

The Guardian

Leave a Reply