Now seemingly the ultimate fashion accessory among hipsters, it wasn’t too long ago that the beard was considered a social faux pas. Until quite recently men with facial hair were believed by many to have ‘something to hide’ – not a desirable trait in the world of politics. As the debate rages on, let’s have a look at some bearded politicians.
David Cameron’s reshuffle last summer saw new Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb become the first Tory Cabinet member with a beard since 1905. Former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said she “wouldn’t tolerate any minister of mine wearing a beard”.
Ex-Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, won the Beard Liberation Front’s Beard of Spring Award in 2003 after he resigned from Tony Blair’s Cabinet over his opposition to the war in Iraq. Mr Cook, who remained a backbench MP until his death in 2005, received many plaudits for his powerful resignation speech in the House of Commons.
Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Julian Huppert, won the Parliamentary Beard of the Year award in 2013. On the possibility of his beard putting off potential voters he told University of Cambridge newspaper, The Cambridge Student: “I think discrimination against beards is absolutely outrageous.”
Charles Clarke sported a grey and stubbly beard when he was Home Secretary from December 2004 to May 2006. His whiskers, like his politics, drifted to the centre as he got older. The ex-Labour MP was known for his left wing views when he was President of the National Union of Students between 1975 and 1977 and wore a big, bushy, Marxist beard.
David Blunkett was Home Secretary for more than three years under Tony Blair. He was once described by comedian Linda Smith as “Satan’s Bearded Folk Singer”.
Bradford West MP George Galloway says he grew a moustache at the age of 15 in homage to Argentinian revolutionary, Che Guevara. In recent years he’s allowed his tache to grow into a full-on beard.
Labour’s candidate for London mayor in 2000, Frank Dobson, was asked by party strategists to shave off his beard as they thought the clean-shaven look would make him more electable. “I told them to get stuffed,” he said “because, quite frankly, I’m not in the image business – with me, what you see is what you get.”
One of Labour’s most left-wing MPs, Jeremy Corbyn, has won the Parliamentary Beard of the Year award four times and sometimes raises beard-related issues in the Commons. The Islington North MP’s white whiskers came in handy in December 2012 when he dressed up as Santa Claus for a Pensioners’ Christmas Party organised by Islington Council.
Irish politician Gerry Adams is president of Sinn Fein, which is the second-largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly. He once tweeted: “Dreamt I was eating Cream Eggs. Woke up this morn. Pillow & beard covered in chocolate & cream thingymebob.”