Muck-raking is a pastime not often celebrated in the House of Commons, apart from in the press gallery.
So it was a bold move for Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to agree to pose with bin bags and litter pickers, especially just days after their past actions and future motivations had been picked over at such length by the media when both announced they were joining the leave campaign for the EU referendum.
The mayor of London and the justice secretary donned hi-vis jackets and purple T-shirts at the launch of the litter collection campaign Clean for the Queen. Run by Keep Britain Tidy, it is calling on people across the UK to voluntarily tidy up neglected areas to mark Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday.
The environment minister Rory Stewart and the Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick also posed with the litter pickers, though organisers seemed acutely aware of not offending the diligent Westminster cleaning staff, and brought in their own supply of brown paper “litter” as props for the politicians.
While there may be much mud-slinging in the weeks to come as ministers and MPs air their deep divisions over Britain’s future in the EU, the nationwide cleanup will be a cross-party effort.
Nearly 100 MPs have pledged their support for the more official litter-picking events in their constituencies over the weekend of 4-6 March. They will also receive support from community groups, local authorities, housing associations, schools, children’s clubs and high street retailers.
Of course, it is far from the first time Johnson has demonstrated his willingness to participate in less-than-flattering photo shoots for the sake of patriotism. Few could forget the time he was left dangling 20ft in the air, waving a union flag in each hand, after getting stuck on a zipwire at an event for the London 2012 Olympics.
David Cameron joked later that only Johnson could get away with getting stuck on a wire. “If any other politician anywhere in the world was stuck on a zipwire it would be a disaster. For Boris, it’s an absolute triumph,” the prime minister said.
It is advice the mayor’s political litter-mates might have chosen to remember before agreeing to their purple poses.
This article was written by Jessica Elgot, for theguardian.com on Saturday 27th February 2016 14.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010