KEITH NEWBERY (July 4th): How to judge a politician’s true personality - look at their hair!

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THOSE whose thankless task it is to buff and hone the image of politicians until they begin to resemble the finished article tend to think of most things.

As well as focusing on basics like dress, deportment and voice projection, they offer further guidance on everything from carefully-prepared ad-libs to posing for family happy-snaps at regular intervals.

But no matter how much effort and expertise is employed to smooth rough edges and add that extra coat of gloss, there’s still one foolproof way to discover a politician’s true personality.

Just look at his or her hair.

It was obvious, for example, during Tony Blair’s recent appearance on The Andrew Marr Show, that he is involved in an increasingly desperate cover-up.

Diminishing strands are now carefully teased in all directions to hide the gaps, and his remaining locks seem to have acquired the type of subdued, auburn glow favoured by Paul McCartney during the Heather Mills years.

Boris Johnson would like you to believe his policies and thought processes are as chaotic and messy as his hair, but this is an obvious diversionary tactic.

He is one of the most astute and ambitious politicians in the country, and will not rest until he has cycled his way up Downing Street.

Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, opted for the Boadicea look by mercilessly lacquering her bouffant into a battle helmet.

This was in direct contrast to her bitterest foe on either side of the house – Michael Heseltine.

He used his lustrous tresses like a glamour girl from the Fifties, swinging, shaking and running his fingers through them for maximum effect.

The exception to the hair rule is Ed Balls, whose thuggish demeanour would probably be best represented by a severe razor-cut, in the style of a newly-enlisted US Marine.

Instead, he styles his locks to resemble a cheap toupee, while those who actually wear a cheap toupee (like the absurd Michael Fabricant) do their best to disguise the fact.

It doesn’t take a professional psychologist do deduce this reveals a perverseness in Balls’ personality which he probably regards as a strength, but which is perceived by most people as a weakness.

And David Cameron?

His hair, like his credibility, continues to thin and disappear before our very eyes.

ANYONE with a scintilla of compassion will have watched Jeremy Paxman’s mauling of junior treasury minister, Chloe Smith, from behind the settee.

The government’s youngest minister was sent defenceless into the Newsnight bear-pit to explain its latest U-turn (this time on the deferral of the fuel duty price rise) and the resident bully-boy cuffed her around like a tom-cat playing with a baby mouse.

She literally coughed and spluttered her way through the ordeal and was unable to muster one credible explanation for why (or even when) the decision had been taken.

The reason was simple. She had been tasked with defending the indefensible.

Ms Smith may have been battered and bruised – but her boss, George Osborne, has been terminally wounded.