During the 1964 general election, Alec Douglas-Home was told by a make-up artist that he would never look good on television because he had a "head like a skull".
In the television age no bald party leader has ever won a general election. Michael Foot. Neil Kinnock, William Hague and Michael Howard join Douglas-Home in the ranks of baldies who have lost. Iain Duncan-Smith never got as far as a general election. In each case there may have been sound political reasons for their failure, but the fact remains.
Mark Oaten is known to have questioned whether the Lib Dems would elect a bald leader. They did, but poor Ming Campbell has had to bow out early too.
It’s hard to believe that John Smith would have lost to John Major in 1997, despite his shiny pate, and I don’t remember him being considered untelegenic. Perhaps it was because he had a pleasing oval-shaped head.
Much was made of Ming’s age, but was this really the problem? Had Paddy Ashdown still been in the Commons and returned for another stint as leader after Kennedy resigned, it is hard to believe his age would have been such an issue. He is older than Ming, but still has a fine head of hair.
Paradoxically, I wonder whether the fact that Ming is quite lean, fit and trim worked against him. It made him look thin and cadaverous on television. Perhaps if he had been a bit tubbier round the middle and chubbier in the face, he would have seemed a jolly gent and appeared easier on the eye, and less ghostly, on television.
Fortunately, this is unlikely to be a problem for any of the current contenders for the leadership.