Taking a front-page picture of Jeremy Corbyn for GQ was “as difficult as shooting any Hollywood celebrity”, the editor of the men’s magazine has said.
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The Labour leader is the cover star of the monthly’s January/February edition, billed as a “2018 Election Special” under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn’s hostile takeover”.
He appears in a dark Marks & Spencer jacket and red tie, but editor Dylan Jones said his entourage initially did not appear to understand that he would have to be “presentable” for the shoot.
In his interview, Mr Corbyn rejected suggestions that he had avoided explicitly stating his support for remaining in the EU in last year’s referendum campaign and said he would be happy to meet US President Donald Trump if he became prime minister.
But Mr Jones - a biographer of former PM David Cameron - said interviewer Stuart McGurk found him to be a “Wizard of Oz” character who had a rock-star image but was “underwhelming” in person and appeared to be pushed around by advisers, including his director of strategy Seumas Milne.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the editor denied he had “fallen out” with the Corbyn team, but said he wanted to describe the “very intriguing” process of getting the cover photo.
Mr Jones said: “The actual shoot itself was quite torturous. It was as difficult as shooting any Hollywood celebrity.
“We’ve shot many politicians for our cover ... but never have we encountered such a ring. Obviously Seumas Milne and his crew are very particular gate-keepers.
“They didn’t really seem to understand the process at all, didn’t understand (a) that he would have to be photographed in the first place (b) that he would need to be presentable or that he couldn’t just turn up in his anorak.
“When he actually turned up for the shoot it was almost like he was being pushed around like a grandpa for the family Christmas photograph. He wasn’t particularly aware of what was going on. But we’re very pleased with what we ended up with.”
Asked what Mr Corbyn wore for the picture, Mr Jones said: “He’s wearing Marks & Spencer. He was very adamant he wouldn’t wear anything else, which is fine - we’re very keen on Marks & Spencer.”
The editor revealed that Mr Corbyn had turned down an interview with their regular political writer, Tony Blair’s former aide Alastair Campbell.
And he said McGurk had gone into the interview as “something of a fan”, but was “quickly disillusioned”.
“I think he started to subscribe to the theory - which lots of people do - that Corbyn is a bit of a Wizard of Oz character, that he does appear to be the weaker part of the relationship,” said Mr Jones.
“I think that the overriding thing that Stuart came away with was that he’s not fantastic on detail ... When he was pressed on who his business advisers were, he couldn’t name a single one.
“Also a strange lack of hinterland. He couldn’t name a single film that he’d seen in the last year, couldn’t name a book that he’d read in the last year. It was kind of strange.”
However, he acknowledged that this might reflect the Labour leader’s “air of authenticity”, saying: “I think it’s interesting that perhaps he hadn’t been given briefing notes about what it might be best to say.
“He is obviously the most divisive character in Westminster at the moment. But he does have an air of authenticity about him and I think that myopic view that he has is very, very appealing to people.”
In the interview, Mr Corbyn said it was “very unhelpful and unfair” for the head of the Labour In campaign, Alan Johnson, to claim that Mr Milne had repeatedly taken the line “That’s why I am campaigning to Remain in the EU” out of his speeches.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. I stood alongside him in St Pancras station and said exactly that,” said the Labour leader.
He revealed that he had never asked Mr Milne which way he voted in the referendum, but assumed that all his team backed Remain.
Asked if he would be willing to meet Mr Trump as PM, he said: “I look forward to meeting him and I hope we can work together to deal with the crucial issues faced in the world, on environment and climate change, on refugees, and on a longer trajectory for peace.”
And he also said he would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin: “I’m strongly critical of Putin’s government on human rights issues. Does that mean we don’t have a relationship with Putin? No, it means the opposite.”