|   December 31, 2013   12:34 PM ET

Britain has landed itself in a "constitutional mess" in the wake of the summer vote against military action in Syria, in which the Commons can be guaranteed to back intervention only to defend the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar, according to a former Foreign Office minister.

In his first interview on the Syrian crisis since losing his ministerial post in the autumn reshuffle, Alistair Burt said the failure of MPs in August to back the principle of military action against the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons had left the mainstream opposition forces "absolutely devastated".

American Politicians Finally Come Together -- But Can The Truce Last?

Paul Vale   |   December 20, 2013   11:44 PM ET

In the five years since Barack Obama became the American president, the government has virtually come to a standstill. The daily business of Congress has reached a stalemate with the Republican Party blocking nearly every proposal or policy put forward by the Democrats. Gridlock has become the norm in Washington.

But that appeared to change this week, when a rare moment of compromise allowed the two parties to come together to pass a budget for the country. The new deal loosens some of the painful cuts that were imposed due to the parties’ failure to reach a budget agreement in 2011. It also means the wheels of government can continue to turn for the next two years, with federal agencies assured enough funding to pay their employees.

Agreeing on a budget sounds like one of the most basic jobs of any government, yet the two parties in Washington have become so polarized that the deal has appeared to push Republicans into an all-out civil war.

For several years, the Republican Party has been divided between establishment Republicans, those who have long occupied positions in Washington, and the party’s very vocal, conservative right wing, often known as the tea party. The far-right faction has had great success at raising money, and as a result has increasingly influenced decisions made by establishment Republicans. This has led to some disastrous strategy agreements for the Republican Party, including taking the country to the brink of financial calamity because Democrats wouldn't agree to scrapping Obama's health care law.

However, it seems the establishment Republicans have finally had enough. After conservative groups attacked the budget agreement, John Boehner, one of the most high-profile members of the Republican Party, accused them of "using the American people for their own goals."

Tea party groups shot back, saying those who had voted in favor of compromise -- the majority of Republicans in Congress -- were not being "true conservatives."

So the battle lines have now been drawn, with the heavily funded tea party faction once again threatening to challenge members of its own party in upcoming midterm elections, while the establishment Republicans look to distance themselves from the far-right groups that have been responsible for much of the national deadlock in recent years.

The notion of a divided Republican Party is certainly nothing new, with tensions between centrist members and its more ideological wing evident as far back as the early '60s. Yet the tensions have now been laid bare for the public, with Republicans focusing their attacks not on the president or the Democrats, but on each other. Whoever comes out on top in this civil war will not only have a defining role in the next general election in 2016, but will determine whether the citizens of the United States have a fully functioning government anytime in the foreseeable future.

The long-term implications are more profound. Should establishment Republicans hold sway, the tea party will likely splinter and fade, becoming just another footnote in the history of American politics. Should the far-right come to dominate, the party of Lincoln, Reagan and Bush could well find itself a party of opposition for more than a generation.

Miliband Must Define Himself Before The Tories Do, Warns Obama Campaign Veteran

Ned Simons   |   December 18, 2013   10:14 PM ET

Ed Miliband needs to define himself in the mind of voters before David Cameron and the Tory election machine does it for him, one of the key architects of president Obama's reelection victory has warned.

Stephanie Cutter, who served as Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2012, said to win the next election Labour needed to communicate a positive message with a sense of "urgency" rather than just focusing on the coalition's failures.

"When you're running against an incumbent, whether it's an incumbent named Barack Obama or David Cameron, there's a temptation to turn it into a referendum on the sitting leader," she said.

"Elections are about choices. The election was not a referendum on the president but instead a choice between Obama and Romney. As Joe Biden likes to say: 'Don't compare to the All Mighty, compare to the alternative'."

The Tory reelection team have long thought that Miliband's comparatively poor personal ratings with the public compared to Cameron's may hold the key to victory. The strategy was behind personal attacks on Miliband and repeated continued attempts to paint the "Red Ed" Labour leader as too left-wing.

Addressing a group of Labour activists in Westminster on Wednesday evening, Cutter, who now works for CNN, said the party should learn from the strategy the Democrats used in 2012 - before the Tories used it against them.

"Mitt Romney thought all voters needed to know was his name was not Barack Obama. His campaign focused on making the case against Obama rather than making the case for Mitt Romney. That was a crucial error. What he should have been doing was defining himself as a candidate, presenting a case for why he was the better choice."

She added: "By the time he figured that out it was too late. Because while the Romney campaign failed to introduce or define their candidate, we decided to step up and do it for them. We launched a comprehensive campaign push aimed at acquainting voters with the real Mitt Romney. As you might imagine, the portrait we painted wasn't a very flattering one."

Cutter was speaking at the event organised by LabourList alongside senior Miliband aide Lord Wood, former Obama campaign staffer and now Labour digital campaign adviser Matthew McGregor and former Gordon Brown aide Kirsty McNeill.

Cutter, who also worked on John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign among other senior posts in Democratic politics including the White House, suggested Miliband needed to present a "positive vision" for the future rather than just focus on unpopular coalition policies.

"People gravitate towards those leaders that have positive vision for the future," she said. "Voters had no idea where Mitt Romney wanted to take the country. He was too busy complaining about the present to offer plans for the future."

She added: "Voters want to hear about the better future Ed Miliband has in mind for the UK. It can be easier to bash an incumbent than articulate the promise of a new candidate and his vision. Sometimes its more fun even. As both John Kerry and Mitt Romney learned the hard way, that's not a way to win an election.

Cutter said while it was important to highlight unpopular Tory policies, the case for where the country would head with Miliband in Downing Street needed to be made with a "sense of purpose and urgency".

In August the Conservatives scored a coup by securing the services of Cutter's former boss, Obama's 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina. Cutter warned that the Tories were trying to learn the lessons of the last presidential campaign.

Asked by the Huffington Post UK whether she was disappointed to see Messina work for the other side, she said: "That's a decision for Jim."

"Jim and I were colleagues. We haven't discussed the UK election at all or his decision to join Cameron. Or my coming here. We haven't discussed any of it," she said. "I do know that he is very skilled. There is a lot the Tories are trying to learn about what we did in 2012. And that shouldn't be proprietary information to just the Tories."

WATCH: Behind The Scenes Video Of Mitt Romney's Election Campaign

Ned Simons   |   December 18, 2013    2:32 PM ET

"Does someone have the number for the president?" Netflix has released a trailer for its upcoming behind the scenes film on Mitt Romney's failed 2012 presidential bid.

The documentary maker had access to the two-time Republican presidential candidate for six years and features interviews with Romney and his family. At one point one of Romney's son tells his father that if he loses: "We'll still love you. The country may think of you a laughing stock."

The trailer shows Romney preparing for debates, as well as admitting many voters view him as "the flipping Mormon" - a reference to his changeable positions on the issues. It also shows Romney ironing clothes he is already wearing.

Shop Til You Drop: The True Meaning of Christmas

Abby Day   |   December 17, 2013    3:04 PM ET

David Cameron's Christmas card shows that the man truly has his finger on the weakening pulse of the nation. Not a Christmas tree, baby Jesus or Santa in sight: 'It's not very festive,' tutted The Guardian (Saturday 7 December 2013).

How wrong is that? The black and white photo of the PM, wife Samantha, and daughter Florence perfectly captures the most prevalent meaning of Christmas - nostalgia for an earlier, probably imagined, time of happy families and domestic bliss.

President Obama was criticised two years ago for his Christmas video featuring the family dog wandering through the White House.

I'm always struck when I visit the United States in December by the lack of religious imagery surrounding Christmas. It's all about family, friends and presents. The angry Conservative Right will claim this is political correctness gone wrong in a time of aggressive multiculturalism but they are badly mistaken. If there's anything Americans sanctify more than their flag and their guns, it's their families.

The nostalgia is not just for family feasting and fighting, central though those are to the proper celebration of Christmas, but about gifts given or received. As we embed ourselves in the powerful memories of a social, secular Christmas and reproduce those actions we engage in the idealised drama once more and perform essential sacred acts. We go shopping.

Gift-giving is possibly the most sacred Christmas act we can perform, and not just because it's what the Wise Men did when they arrived at the crib bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Marcel Mauss (1872-1950) a French sociologist who specialised in religion, influenced the disciplines of sociology and anthropology through his original analysis that gift-exchange was a social act, binding people together in relationships of reciprocity, debt and obligation.

Rituals of gift-exchange are not based on utilitarian morality or market economies linked to private property and ownership transfer. Gifts are tied to the identity of the giver, usually representing a group to which the giver belongs. These social acts, argued Mauss, have the pretence of being voluntary, innocent trifles, when in fact they are loaded with meaning and expectation.

The need to reciprocate creates a relationship in anticipation of the gift return. As they prompt acts of giving in return, gifts create a relationship between giver and receiver and ultimately promote social bonding and cohesion.

You don't have to be a church-attending, bible-believing Christian or even a "cultural Christian" to get swept up in the rush to give and receive. Times have changed from the days of 'Sunday Christians', when many people went to church but didn't otherwise practise, to 'Christmas Christians', when few people attend church apart from Christmas. Their attendance does not derive from their desire to observe a sacred moment of Christianity. Indeed, the only day of the year when Christians are strongly called, even required, to attend church is when the resurrection of Jesus is commemorated at Easter. Committed Christians attend then, but cultural Christians don't. Maybe it's time to invent Easter gift-giving.

So, holidays are coming and the shopping frenzy begins. Pour on the presents - for your dog, your sister, your neighbour. Make stuff if you can't afford to buy but give, receive and give some more. Remember, as you reach for the sticky tape, that isn't a best-selling book you're wrapping for your Dad - it's the glue that holds society together.

Dr Abby Day, Reader in Race, Faith and Culture in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths has been studying cultural Christianity for more than 10 years. Her latest book is Believing in Belonging: Social Identity in the Modern World, Oxford University Press 2013.

Obama's Lessons on Miracles From Mandela and Lincoln

Jon-Christopher Bua   |   December 16, 2013    9:02 AM ET

President Obama has been navigating some very rough waters this year with a more than rocky rollout of his key legislative accomplishment - Obamacare - and the constant threats of government shutdowns over the budget and the debt ceiling.

It seems that Obama could learn something from the two great leaders Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln when it comes to dealing with your enemies and winning them over to become allies.

Although the Republicans in Congress have tried to thwart almost every effort put forth by the President up to now, Obama has not found a successful and winning way to deal with them.

Perhaps his hero "Madiba" has a message in his life story for his young protégé Barack.

Instead of seeking revenge over his prosecutors and jailers, Mandela always took the high road finding a way to charm and disarm his enemies.

Mandela did not waste precious time demonizing his tormentors once he was released from twenty-seven years in prison.

Instead, he engaged with former President F. W. de Klerk to move South Africa forward together.

Mandela and de Klerk moved South Africa from apartheid to a multi-racial democracy - truly a miracle!

Our sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln also joined forces with his "tormentors" creating a "team of rivals" by bringing his most adamant critics into his government and finding ways to make his desired legislative outcomes personally appealing to them - truly a miracle!

Lincoln used his personal persuasion, power and charm to eliminate years of slavery and heal a divided nation.

Up to now Obama has taken a somewhat hands off approach to Congressional legislation when he believed his personal involvement might negatively impact a deal.

He has tried to ignore Congress - blaming the Republicans for gridlock - taking his case, campaign style, directly to the American people encouraging them to pressure Congress on his behalf.

This has done very little to break gridlock or to make friends with Congress.

This so-called "disengagement" may have had the unintended consequences of alienating both the Democratic and Republican leadership who must put their reputation on the line with every vote they cast.

As the year draws toward an end it will be time for the President to regroup and map out his strategy for the remainder of his term in office.

He may already be doing this.

Although the President clearly has the oratory skills to use the Bully Pulpit and lots of personal charm, it seems he has not used these skills to the fullest to win over his opposition.

This is not just about lunches, dinners and golf trips with the leadership in the opposition, it is about understanding their views and crafting a way to reach a compromise that can be a win-win for both sides.

This may be the reason that he has reached out to John Podesta, a seasoned former Bill Clinton political hand, to join his inner circle and help right the ship of state.

Podesta was Clinton's chief of staff during last three years of that administration and handled a broad portfolio including Congressional relations.

President Obama has three more years to serve his country and to leave his mark on history.

He will already hold a unique place as the first black president in the history of this nation but that is not the only accomplishment he wants to define his tenure in the Oval Office.

Obama passed healthcare reform where others before him failed.

He used his political capital to do this and now he needs to make it work successfully and prove that government can solve problems and not just create them.

This will require hiring a team of seasoned government managers who know how to make government work.

In recent days House Speaker John Boehner may have signaled that he is taking a new approach and is open to trying again.

The budget deal - although a small bargain as opposed to a grand bargain has shown there may be a glimmer of hope and a path forward.

Boehner. with House Budget Chair Representative Paul Ryan's help, may have shown he is willing to lead and stand up to the Tea Party.

The House of Representatives passed the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray compromise Budget Bill which will provide stability and prevent two potential government shutdowns over funding the day to day operations of the Federal Government.

The Senate is expected to pass their version of this bill this week before they leave for their holiday recess.

This is good news for both the US economy and world financial markets.

Representative Ryan and Senator Murray met many times and worked hard to understand each other's points of no compromise - as well as their common ground.

It could be that "the adults" in Congress are taking back control.

With historically low approval ratings some Members of Congress may be realizing that the American people are not happy with gridlock and dysfunction - so they are actually trying to get something done.

Unfortunately, this deal does not address the need to vote to raise the debt ceiling which is scheduled to occur in early February just after the President's State of the Union Address on 28 January.

On his upcoming family vacation in Hawaii, the President will have time to reflect, recharge and re-examine his approach.

When President Obama was first elected in 2008, he promised he would come to Washington and "CHANGE" the tone and the way that business is done here.

It might be worthwhile for the President to create his own "team of rivals" from the key Congressional players in both parties to actually get some important things done - economic growth, jobs and immigration reform.

Normally nothing would get done on the eve of the Mid-Term Elections.

However, this time it could be different.

Incumbents really need to show the American people that they can compromise and do their jobs or they could all be looking for a brand new ones.

If the President takes a different, somewhat less political tact he might just have some success in changing the tone in Washington to get something done for the American people.

If he succeeds it will be - truly another miracle!

A Selfie Too Far?!

Edward Adoo   |   December 15, 2013    2:42 PM ET

In a new age or era of self promotion I often wonder whilst in the middle of my DJ set seeing people on the dancefloor standing in the corner taking photos of themselves, also when travelling across London and watching people pappin' themselves on the bus, train or tube. Yes they have an addiction and are all part of the Selfie generation.

Selfies are mainly associated with social media and teenagers who want to be cool amongst their friends. They are now an integral part of society and mainstream culture. With instant access to smart phones, along with the continual growth of technology Selfies are here to stay and no doubt will be done at every Christmas and New Years party. But why would someone take a photo of themselves? Surely it should be the other way round? It's the materialistic search for self gratification.

At Nelson Mandela's memorial Barack Obama, Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schimdt and David Cameron took a Selfie. Michelle Obama did not seem impressed by the whole affair. I wonder if Obama got a stern telling off from Michelle afterwards? It ended up as the main headline and front page on many of the tabloids, broadsheets and was more news worthy than the memorial itself.

Was that moment a turning point in expressing our thoughts and feelings at an event or just playground type childish behaviour? Ed Milliband has jumped on the Selfie bandwagon and took a Selfie with reality TV star, Joey Essex. Is this self promotion gone wrong and heading for a schizophrenic demise? It does sound a tad nauseating and seems uncontrollable. It made me wonder and question why we have become obsessed with Selfies.

Brought up in a fairly strict catholic environment, at funerals or memorials if my mobile phone was ever switched on it would be a sign of disrespect to the deceased. I was brought up to the respect the dead and in that moment that should be reflected throughout.

Have we have lost all our morals and dignity? I was curious to find out whether I was over exaggerating and decided to ask my friends on Facebook what they thought of the selfie taken by Obama and Cameron. The general view was mixed with many saying "it reflected what Nelson Mandela was all about and capturing that historical moment of joy and togetherness". And "it was also a significant moment seeing world leaders taking a selfie."

Is this a new trend? Will we now see Selfies being taken at memorials and funerals? Nelson Mandela's memorial to many was viewed as a celebration therefore in some sense it was essential to capture that special moment and Selfie to remember the time, moment and it's significance. I doubt we will see more Selfies taken for high profile or political gatherings. Who knows it may happen but it's outlined one thing we are in a new era of self promotion.

  |   December 15, 2013   11:12 AM ET

When Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish prime minister, took a photograph of herself with Barack Obama and Cameron at the Nelson Mandela memorial service last week, many thought the move was in bad taste.

But now it appears that Cameron has intervened to ensure the picture is preserved for posterity.

Thorning-Schmidt was so embarrassed by the furore that she secretly pledged to destroy the image. But Cameron has pleaded with her to auction it for charity.

During a private conversation last week, Cameron suggested to Thorning-Schmidt that it could raise a substantial sum.

  |   December 13, 2013    4:32 PM ET

From Mandela's Memorial to the Jingle Ball - there's hopefully something for everyone in this week's round-up...


Barack Obama, David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Their 'Selfie' Behaviour

Daniel Warner   |   December 12, 2013    8:27 AM ET

I guess if you hold a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in a football stadium you're bound to get people attending who may not behave properly or be dressed correctly.

Some may take their tops off and dance around in the rain.

Others may boo and jeer their President Jacob Zuma (who's building his dream home whilst most of his country is mired in debt and poverty).

Someone may even turn up pretending to be a sign language interpreter but actually spend the whole afternoon doing little else than 'Vogueing', and also (and this seems to be most scandalous of all) others may whip out their camera phones and take a selfie to record the day for posterity.

The word selfie has been named by the Oxford Dictionary as 2013's 'word of the year' and it seems no one is immune to this social phenomenon. We are all holding our phones at arms length, raising our chins, pouting our lips and getting ready for our close up.

Everyone wants a piece of the action.

I am guilty of fiddling with my selfies about five times a day.
But when did this self absorbed and narcissistic behaviour spread from the blogger in his bathroom to Barrack Obama?

To be fair to Mr Obama, I have watched the footage and I've seen the photographs and I don't even think it was Obama's phone or arms that were taking that selfie.
I found it very interesting that Sky News immediately reported the President of the United States 'inappropriately' taking photographs with the blonde sat beside him (whilst a furious looking Michelle Obama seethed quietly).
And then I looked closer.
The blonde was the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and sat grinning beside her was David Cameron.
My initial reaction was to think of the geek, the cheerleader and the coolest kid in the school suddenly finding themselves sat together at a school assembly. Selfies are after all, more prevalent in the playground than on the world stage.
Sky News didn't even refer to Mr Cameron as being in the picture, preferring to put the blame on Barack and cast the blonde as the sole reason he'd reached out for a selfie.
They even asked viewers to 'tweet' their reaction to his scandalous behaviour, forgetting that the grinning buffoon to Thorning-Schmidt's right had probably found himself in a handful of selfies between Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks.
(Although only in private, never in the public domain or where anyone could eavesdrop on their conversations).

David Cameron has tried to offset the 'Selfie' blame to the family of the ex Labour leader Neil Kinnock.
Speaking to MPs he said:

"When a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes."

(Thorning-Schmidt, the Social Democrat leader in Denmark, is married to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock's son, Stephen Kinnock).
There's still no word from Obama or Thorning-Schmidt on their 'selfish' behaviour.

So was it inappropriate?
I don't remember anyone doing it at Margaret Thatcher's funeral (although I'm sure Neil Kinnock would have loved to) and I didn't see the Queen doing it at the Olympics (although she was caught on camera looking desperately bored and picking at her nails when Team UK entered the stadium at the opening ceremony). Mandela's memorial seemed to be a day of celebration of his life rather than shrouded in the solemn hypocrisy of Thatcher's passing. There was no firing of canons or pompous grandiosity at Mandela's Memorial. The people that stood and danced in the rain were thankful for his life rather than mournful for his passing.
Is there any other (ex) world leader who would evoke such emotion? Who else would inspire such joy and frivolity that the Danish Prime Minister takes it upon herself to flirt outrageously with the most powerful man in the world and then take a snap shot of them both? (She'll probably photoshop Dave out of the picture later and post the picture on her Facebook wall).

Although it isn't the behaviour we'd expect from the people that run the world, we need to remember that every experience has its own relevance to our standing in life. We commoners and plebeians may find ourselves uploading photographs of holidays, days out and nights in with friends. World leaders and politicians prefer to pleasure their selfies at Memorial Services, State Funerals and Royal Garden Parties.

Although, I do have one question.
If Obama, Cameron and Thorning -Schmidt were inspired to whip out their camera phones and start clicking away then why wasn't Naomi Campbell somewhere in that stadium, in full hair and make up, being held aloft in front of a wind machine by Bono and Charlize Theron?

http://www.daniel-warner.co.uk

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http://www.picnicdontpanic.com

The Rebellious Pop Artist: Ben Levy

Kate Lawson   |   December 11, 2013   10:10 PM ET

2013-12-11-IsabellaBlowBenlevy.jpg

At its core, portraiture captures the personalities and sometimes boundaries, of an individual in a particular moment at a particular time, engaging the viewer to look beyond and explore the visual subject.

Taking that aesthetic and fusing it with some of the world's most celebrated and iconic celebrities from politics, music, fashion and film, is London-based artist Ben Levy - a rising talent on the commercial art scene, presenting his vision of pop culture with an urban twist.

"As I paint portraits and figures I often look for the right expression or posture that will help me bring out the character within the subject", says Levy. "Certain topics require a specific expression in order to create the correct message within the work."

Motivated by topics on the news agenda including politics, race and sex, Levy's work takes familiar faces and turns them into provocative portraits with both serious and playful undertones. "Obama NY is my favourite piece I've done to date" he says, "it pretty much sums my work up in one painting. It's sarcastic and playful yet there's a very serious message behind it."

His work has included portraits of controversial former Dior designer John Galliano, who made headlines after his drunken anti-semitic rant in a Parisian cafe in 2011, and more recently he created an homage to avant garde fashion muse, editor and style icon, Isabella Blow. The painting was showcased at directional London boutique Browns Fashion, as part of their collaboration with art collective, Maison 20. The late Blow is of course the subject of a retrospective currently on show at Somerset House, documenting her eccentric life and career.
"I find Isabella Blow very interesting" Levy remarks, "She was, and still is, a great example of artistic genius."

2013-12-11-BenLevyObamacopy.jpg
Images © Ben Levy


From The Krays and Alexander McQueen, to Tony Blair, Marilyn Monroe, Pharrell, Johnny Depp, Vivienne Westwood and Prince William as punk royalty with a green mohican - Levy is not afraid to push the boundaries.
"I try to convey everyday issues that have become fashionable through the press" he explains. "I usually find a story or celebrity that interests me and try to unveil the corruption involved in the subject. Celebrity and fame is a business and like most businesses it's full of corruption and falsities."

Levy was inspired to start painting after seeing the works of pop art visionary Andy Warhol, and also the music and visual style of rock legend Jimi Hendrix, often portrayed as a symbol of the 1960s rebellion movement.
Levy's creative process is un-structured, producing work freely when the mood takes him.

"I try to create as often as possible. I never really follow any particular process as such, when I start I have an idea in my head as to what my painting might look like when finished, but sometimes it turns out differently. The subject or story will always stay as intended though."

His painting signature, which blends graffiti, drawing and collage elements, has attracted brand collaborations including footwear giant, Toms, and with a passion for fashion himself, he's now about to debut his own clothing label, 'Real Artistic People' (R.A.P).
So aside from venturing into fashion design, I ask where Levy sees himself in the future?
"My overall vision for the future is recognition" he replies. "Recognition brings success and all that goes with it in life. Once you become successful you can take a bit of a back seat I guess!"

For more info on Ben's work, head to www.benlevyart.com

  |   December 11, 2013    1:19 PM ET

The sign language interpreter used during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was a fraud, in concerns raised by the British Deaf Association.

South Africa's deaf federation has confirmed that the 'signer' used during the Mandela memorial was a "fake".

The unnamed man at the memorial, which attended by President Obama and other heads of state, was simply "making childish hand gestures" for hours, David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association, said.

Ned Simons   |   December 11, 2013   12:36 PM ET

David Cameron has offered up an excuse for why he decided to take part in the now infamous selfie photograph with Barack Obama and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt during Nelson Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday.

The prime minister told MPs today: "When a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes."

helle thorning schmidt

Thorning-Schmidt, the Social Democrat leader of Denmark, is married to Stephen Kinnock - the son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

The three world leaders have been criticised by some for having fun during the service held to mark Mandela's death. Michelle Obama also looked less than impressed.

Cameron told the Commons during prime minister's questions today that perhaps he should "remember the TV cameras are always on".

  |   December 11, 2013   11:22 AM ET

It's the most famous selfie ever snapped - where we haven't actually seen the picture.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in between US President Barack Obama and David Cameron, with a glowering Michelle Obama off to the side.

And it made the front pages of almost all UK newspapers, many calling it disrespectful and selfish at Nelson Mandela's memorial.

selfie

The famous selfie and its famous components

Sky's Anushka Asthana called out the papers for the faux-outrafge: "The only thing that picture made me feel was that for a moment they did not look like the THREE world leaders (did I mention, she is the Danish Prime Minister?) that they are. They looked human; excited; in awe of their surroundings."

Still, at least by the time the front pages came out, newspapers were sure it was Thorning-Schmidt.

Fox News called her an ”an unidentified official”.