Two weeks ago, Anthony McNicoll, reporter of News of the World, broke the news that Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of Exchequer, has been using shoe polish as makeup to "enhance his manly brows." Not to be outdone, the Sun, on the following day, ran a front-page article under the title "Politicians Polish Image with Shoe Polish?"
The news sent shock wave throughout the public. Makeup for man, long a taboo subject, was brought to the fore and caused heated debate on several talk shows (Trisha Goddard, Jeremy Kyle). Mr. Darling was even invited to the Friday Night with Jonathan Ross show to clarify the situation, but he declined the offer, according to BBC News 24.
Shoe polish has been hurtling off the shelves in all major department stores in London since the controversy started. Jane Harriman, head of the cosmetics department of John Lewis, told reporters, "There's a long queue of customers at the cosmetics counter wanting to buy shoe polish. We send all of them to the shoe department." Kevin Dowd, head of the shoe department of John Lewis, was not amused. During an interview, he said, "We are swamped! Shoe polish is out of stock! We've contacted our suppliers in Wuhan, China. But we're back-ordered for at least six months." The Daily Telegraph also reported a sales spike of black leather shoes. "This could represent the tipping point for white trainers to finally go out of fashion," wrote Emma Jones-Bingley, the senior fashion editor.
Gordon Brown, on a state visit in New Delhi, India, refused to comment on the story. But David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, has jumped into the fray. "The Labour government must be straight with the British people," he told reporters outside the parliament.
After delivering his budget speech to parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Darling was caught off guard by a reporter who shouted, "Sir, are you wearing any shoe polish?" After giving an uncomfortable chuckle, he cleared his throat. "This accusation is completely and utterly false," he said emphatically. "I have never used shoe polish in my whole life on my face." A wave of disbelieving laughter rippled through the press corps. Mr. Darling waved his hand dismissively. "I must go to another meeting now," he said. He left the podium and was quickly escorted away by his aides.
Today, Trevor Letts, senior political editor of the Guardian, shed new light on the situation. In an article entitled "Shoe Polish or Hair Dye?" he wrote, "a reliable but anonymous source has confirmed that indeed Mr. Darling is telling the truth." He went on to reveal the real reason for the apparent disharmony of Mr. Darling's face -- a whitening hair dye based on hydrogen peroxide. Mr. Letts wrote, "It is perfectly understandable for men of Mr. Darling's age to dye their hair, although white is not a common choice. But let's not forget that at one point of our glorious history all politicians wore white wigs." Mr. Letts speculated that Mr. Darling's white hair, an apparent sign of experience and intelligence, was the main reason of Mr. Darling's "meteoric rise" in the Labour government.