The Independent Group's decision to be photographed at Nando's seemed designed to make people angry. But then again, a lot of us have very specific feelings about fundamentally bland restaurantsby Megan Nolan / March 6, 2019 / Leave a comment
Group pictures are usually taken at a celebratory meal, with everyone sat in front of the remnants of their food and with the dregs of their drinking all around. Like many other people, my go-to pose in this situation is to seize onto my near-empty glass or my plate of curry and tilt it enticingly toward the camera with a pleading look of manic good cheer. Look, the pose says with merry desperation, we are celebrating—and here are the tools with which we are doing it!
I know the pain of that awkward snap, so I couldn’t help but feel the tiniest bit sorry for the Independent Group members who appeared in a now widely-derided Nando’s group selfie. Anna Soubry is idly fondling her strange, sad order of salad and chips while looking at the camera with chillingly dead eyes. Chuka Umunna is leaning back with the mildly banterous acknowledgement that his mouth is full, giving us the thumbs up—what a laugh we have, he is saying. Heidi Allen is also looking at the viewer with a full mouth but she wears an apologetic, shamed expression, presumably having realised her mistake after ordering an entire wing roulette to herself.
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) February 25, 2019
The choice of Nando’s as setting for the slightly panicked portrait of the new not-quite-party was received universally as a strategic play, rather than where the motley crew just happened to end up at the end of a long day. A few commentators tweeted that it was a smart move, while most people cringed at the familiar sight of politicians trying to pose as ordinary folk. As Ed Milliband’s bacon sandwich attack and Theresa May’s attempt to eat chips proved, there is something eternally compelling about watching politicians fail to do things the rest of us do without thought.
Often these staged events are coordinated to illustrate the authenticity of the politician—as with Owen Smith’s ill-fated attempt to order the most working-class coffee possible (apparently believing that lattes and cappuccinos belong exclusively to the metropolitan elite, Smith received what he called a “frothy coffee” during his leadership bid in 2017, expressing shock at it being served with a saucer and biscuit). But Nando’s, famously, is a sort of class neutraliser. It’s not working class, but it’s not posh either. You’re…