Vanity, thy name is Dilyn – yet still we lap up the PM’s cheery brand of puppy propaganda | Catherine Bennett

Johnson’s entourage of tame photographers is there to convince us he’s a winner

‘A statesman,” Hitler told his official photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, “does not permit himself to be photographed with a little dog, however amusingly winning it may be.” Hoffmann, who records this precept in his memoir, Hitler Was My Friend, was never allowed to publish a picture of Hitler with Eva Braun’s Scottish terrier, Burli. His employer’s fear of ridicule was too great. “A German sheepdog is the only dog worthy of a real man,” Hitler said. Glimpses of his bare body were suppressed for the same reason. “From the moment he saw a photograph of Mussolini in bathing trunks he lost all respect for him as a statesman.”

Here is one respect, then, in which photographic propaganda has moved on, at least in the UK, since the 1940s. However conventionally phony Boris Johnson looks in the countless, continually multiplying official images that have chronicled his rise to power – from his pretend gun-aiming as mayor to his fake vaccine inspections today – he has not shrunk from adding a small dog to the mix. While Kim Jong-un defines pet dogs as capitalist decadence, and Vladimir Putin perpetuates Hitler’s commitment to the strong dog = strong leader fallacy, Johnson, possibly accepting that his terrier is the least decadent thing about him, has actively cultivated identification with the animal to the point that it can now substitute for its master.

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