The politics of a kitchen photo-op: Can MPs avoid a roasting? By Emma Harrison BBC News
- 14 May 2019
A photograph of Housing Secretary James Brokenshire in his kitchen has caused quite a stir.
It seems he is being roasted for having not one, not two, but four ovens. (Or "two normal double ovens", he says).
The Tory MP told the Sunday Times that he and his wife Cathy had the appliances installed in their south-east London home because there was previously "not enough room" to cook for their family at Christmas.
He later tweeted a picture stood by said ovens with a Victoria Sponge and said: "Amazing what you can rustle up! Maybe some more hot potatoes next! #twoovens."
It's not the first time a politician has been pictured in their kitchen – or the first time it's cooked up a storm.
The opportunity to portray a warm, family-friendly, down-to-earth image – "look, I cook my own dinner just like you!" – is understandably tempting.
But maybe by inviting photographers into their home, it's easier to be caught off-guard.
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was photographed by the Sunday Times last week in his kitchen with his wife Erika Rey, to accompany an article on his party leadership ambitions.
Skip Twitter post by @MariaMillerUK
Great to see @DominicRaab focus on how he wants proper protection from redundancy for new/expectant mothers and the start of paid parental leave for dads-all issues raised by @Commonswomequ @MaternityAction @PregnantThenScrewed @WorkingfamUK https://t.co/utFxVzvvnk
— Maria_Miller (@MariaMillerUK) May 5, 2019
End of Twitter post by @MariaMillerUK
Cue eagle-eyed readers who spotted an open cookbook next to a plate of toast.
"Why do they need a cookbook to make toast?" was among the questions jokingly asked by readers.
Interestingly, a "word-cloud" poster was also clocked hanging up in the kitchen.
"BBQ", "Cooking", "Parliament" and "Blackberry and Google" were among the words that could be seen.
For Tory MP Grant Shapps, it was mugs specifically rather than his kitchen generally that got people talking.
He posted himself ploughing through the 585-page Brexit withdrawal agreement – with, bizarrely, 10 suspiciously clean-looking mugs, presumably designed to demonstrate his commitment to the task.
Skip Twitter post by @grantshapps
VERDICT: after 585 pages & copious cups of coffee, this #WithdrawalAgreement looks v. problematic. £39bn to get out of Europe, but run by Europe. -To support this, requires 2 key changes. 1.Unilateral method of leaving backstop. 2.Future trade deal fleshed out beyond flimsy 7 pgs pic.twitter.com/tKDHWjYb9H
— Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) November 17, 2018
End of Twitter post by @grantshapps
The tactic of being pictured at home in a kitchen was favoured by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was photographed, with pan in hand, a number of times during her career.
Being the first woman in Downing Street, and beating lots of men to the job, raised – as biographer John Spectre puts it – "the alarming spectre of a feminist harridan – the worst sort of woman".
Her advisers, therefore, sought to show that despite her achievements, she was still in some ways a traditional wife, cooking her husband's breakfast on the morning of an election.
Years later in 2015, in the relaxed atmosphere of his own kitchen, David Cameron famously dropped a political bombshell.
Sleeves rolled up and while chopping vegetables, he revealed to the BBC that he would not serve a third term as prime minister if the Conservatives remained in government after that year's general election.
He also tipped then-Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson as potential successors.
But that wasn't the first glimpse of the Cameron family kitchen – or more accurately, one of the Camerons' kitchens.
In 2011, an image released by the White House showed Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, and US First Lady, Michelle Obama, relaxing on a velvet sofa in the kitchen of the private flat above number 11.
They had had the kitchen refurbished to a fitted, handle-free design before they moved in in 2010.
And who can forget the furore over former Labour leader Ed Miliband's two kitchens?
Critics branded him "Two Kitchens Ed" after he was filmed by the BBC with his wife Justine in an austere-looking kitchen.
It then emerged they had a second, bigger kitchen in their London home, leading to claims he used the first to portray a more humble family life.
This then led to Mr Miliband issuing a statement to insist that the smaller kitchen was the one they used.
Finally, not one to miss out on the apparent politicians in kitchens photographic boom of 2015, then-Labour MP Austin Mitchell tweeted that his kitchen, in fact, was "what a real Labour kitchen looked like".
Skip Twitter post by @AVMitchell2010
This is what a real Labour kitchen looks like pic.twitter.com/HSVPumwFFa
— Austin Mitchell (@AVMitchell2010) March 13, 2015
End of Twitter post by @AVMitchell2010
So while politicians may find it hard to avoid a roasting, Mr Brokenshire's four ovens are unlikely to herald an end to the trusted culinary photo-op.