Infamous Bullingdon Club photo resurfaces to haunt Tories

LAST UPDATED AT 13:00 ON Wed 7 May 2008

Today's Daily Telegraph carries the famous 1986 group photo of the Bullingdon Club [above], the one that shows London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron dressed up in their smart tail coats and oozing Oxbridge privilege from every pore. However, the newspaper's right to use the photo, and indeed anyone else's, is extremely cloudy.

Back in March last year, it was reported that the owners of the controversial snap, an Oxford-based company called Gillman and Soame, had withdrawn it from use. They informed BBC's Newsnight that they had taken a "policy decision", after the picture appeared in national newspapers, not to allow any school photographs they own to be published.

Admirable enough, but rumour at the time had it that David Cameron's people had acquired the rights to the photo in order to keep it out of the public eye, although Cameron himself denied this when it was put to him by John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today programme a week ago. This is also Gillman and Soame's story: they say they acted for "commercial reasons" and have had no contact with the Conservative Party.

Since last March, apart from surfacing on the odd internet site, the photo has not appeared anywhere - until today.

The Tories would have good reason to keep the photo hidden. It hardly helps having two of its most prominent and recognisable members, both Old Etonians t'boot, shown in this snooty context. Moreover, party bosses are said to be fearful that Labour may use it for a campaign poster come the next election to highlight the background of Cameron and his team. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne was also a member of the club, though of a later vintage than Cameron and Johnson. · 

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