Cameron laughs off selfie criticism

Cameron laughs off selfie criticism
Picture: Roberto Schmidt/AFP

David Cameron has defended himself against criticism for posing for a “selfie” photograph at the memorial service for former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

The Prime Minister was pictured with US president Barack Obama and Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt – the daughter-in-law of former Labour leader Lord Kinnock – as the three bunched together and smiled for a cameraphone snap in the FNB Stadium in Soweto.

Some reports suggested that Mr Obama’s wife Michelle was unimpressed by their behaviour, judging by her stern expression as she sat by her husband’s side.

And many Twitter users were scathing about the light-hearted snap, as it went viral on the social media website.

Mr Cameron was challenged over the photo at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons by Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood, who cheekily asked him: “Has the Prime Minister had the opportunity to discuss international mobile phone usage with any other European heads of government over the last day or so?”

To laughter from MPs, Mr Cameron replied: “You could say, in a roundabout way. Perhaps in my defence, you should always remember that the television cameras are always on.

“But in my defence I would say that Nelson Mandela played an extraordinary role in his life and in his death in bringing people together. So of course when a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes.”

At a daily Westminster media briefing, Mr Cameron’s official spokesman was asked whether the PM felt his actions were appropriate to the occasion.

The spokesman said: “I think what the PM would say about yesterday is it was very much a celebration of Nelson Mandela and his life and his achievements.

“I am sure many of us were watching the pictures from it and I think it did come across, and rightly so, as a marking and a celebration of Mr Mandela’s life. You had plenty of words from the Prime Minister and leaders from around the world that attest to that.”

Asked if the PM regretted distracting attention away from the tributes to Mr Mandela, the spokesman said: “What the media may choose to report is a matter for yourselves and your colleagues.”

The photographer who took the picture of the three leaders posing for the selfie, Roberto Schmidt of news agency AFP, said that he felt the trio were “simply acting like human beings”.

Writing on the AFP correspondent blog, Mr Schmidt said: “I took these photos totally spontaneously, without thinking about what impact they might have.

“At the time, I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings, like me and you. I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony-faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium.

“For me, the behaviour of these leaders in snapping a selfie seems perfectly natural.”

More in this Section

You've got mail: UN passes motions by email in coronavirus-hit New YorkYou've got mail: UN passes motions by email in coronavirus-hit New York

New York appeals for coronavirus reinforcements as Asia warned to stay alertNew York appeals for coronavirus reinforcements as Asia warned to stay alert

Blood test ‘can detect more than than 50 types of cancer’Blood test ‘can detect more than than 50 types of cancer’

Harry and Meghan leave royal life with pledge to help in coronavirus crisisHarry and Meghan leave royal life with pledge to help in coronavirus crisis


Lifestyle

Interiors voyeurism will never go out of style – not least when we’re all confined to barracks and eyeing up neglected corners of our own residences that could do with TLC.Home of the Year: Three doors swing open tonight to offer us a welcome distraction

With (hopefully) better weather on the way along with the longer evenings, gardening and nature offer a nice distraction to the news cycle.Podcast Corner: Green fingers and creature comforts

From Kaia Gerber to Oprah Winfrey, why not let a famous face choose your next read?The 4 best celebrity book clubs to virtually join

The tips and home treatments to stop your skin from backsliding.The Skin Nerd: How can I maintain my skin results at home?

More From The Irish Examiner