This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats, they always seem to be having fun with it.

There’s nothing like a ridiculous campaign picture, and there’s no-one like the Libs Dems for providing one. Former Scots leader Willie Rennie was, of course, the master of the art. Over the years we witnessed him sitting in a giant deck chair, dressed up like Harry Potter, learning to kickbox, feeding penguins and wrestling with a sheep.

He may no longer be leader but his noble legacy lives on, with the general election campaign seeing UK leader Ed Davey become something of an online meme for his eye-catching campaign stops including, but not limited to, losing to a child in a giant game of Jenga, going down a water slide with the candidate for Frome and East Somerset and falling off a paddle board. Current Scottish leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is no stranger to a comic photo op himself, just today getting his hair cut in a fairly ostentatious manner.

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The Lib Dems may be the masters of it but politicians of all stripes know that looking a bit silly now and then can actually be beneficial in terms of attention for your campaign – people still remember Alex Salmond’s infamous Solero photo, whether fondly or not is another matter entirely, and Boris Johnson may have looked a buffoon stuck on a zip wire holding a pair of Union flags but only years later he managed to bumble his way into Downing Street on the back of his ‘loveable buffoon’ persona.

The key, though, is having the knowledge you’re going to look a little silly and harnessing that to your advantage. Things can go very wrong if you accidentally end up looking like a plum.

Perhaps the most famous case is the infamous 2014 photo of Ed Miliband attempting to eat a bacon sandwich and making a right mess of it, to the extent his handlers attempted to stop the media scrum from capturing the moment. They failed, and one photograph of a man eating a bacon sandwich now has its own Wikipedia page.

The Herald:
The following year Nick Clegg filmed an entire campaign spot parodying the music video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘I Really Like You’ with the Lib Dem leader in place of Tom Hanks. It cost a reported £8,000 but was immediately deemed so cringeworthy it could never be released. Presumably the tapes were subsequently destroyed, but just on the off-chance, Unspun would like to urge Lib Dem HQ: release the Jepsen cut.

What happens, though, if your PR team don’t step in? Indeed, what if it seems like they’re actively encouraging a candidate looking like a dolt?

Looking at the campaign being run by Rishi Sunak at the moment it’s difficult to escape the sense someone is stitching up the Prime Minister.

He’s done a TikTok in front of a blank piece of paper to “explain Labour’s plan for the country”. The opposition, of course, edited it to include their six key pledges.

The Herald:
A riverside stop to chat to voters in front of the TV cameras coincided with a Lib Dem barge, photos emerged of him looking as though he had Mickey Mouse ears, the first campaign video had the Union flag upside down – indicating distress – and while images of him in a Morrison’s, his head obscuring the branding so that it read ‘MORON’ were doctored, it seems a bit remiss to have had him positioned there in the first place.

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At this point you have to genuinely wonder if Tory staffers, faced with a lame duck Prime Minister who is unpopular with his party, are simply having public schoolboy fun at his expense. Ed Miliband’s aides at least tried to stop the bacon sandwich incident; Sunak’s didn’t even manage to prevent him being snapped under an ‘EXIT’ sign, easily the most basic of optical gaffes. To be that incompetent stretches credulity, to the point you really have to wonder if they’re at it.

One could almost feel sorry for him, were it not for the near-certainty that after the impending thrashing at the polls he’ll be taking the family millions to the U.S for a lucrative life in the private sector.

Maybe he can ask Willie Rennie to borrow his deck chair.