Has Julia Gillard pulled a Cheryl Kernot? The Deputy Prime Minister appears in the December issue of Australian Women’s Weekly, but thankfully she’s eschewed a feather boa for a schmick white suit and heels.

In line with the magazine’s new anti-airbrushing policy – which last month saw Sarah Murdoch depicted on the cover with wrinkles, but also with terrifyingly white teeth and eyeballs that you seriously can’t tell me she actually possesses – Gillard’s face and body were not retouched.

Unlike Anna Bligh, who merrily admits to using Botox, Gillard has told journalists her forehead is as politics made it. However, her pants were digitally lengthened. Disgusting. What have you got against Julia’s ankles, Women’s Weekly?

The candy-pink lounge room in which Gillard reclines may invite comparisons to the turquoise décor of her notoriously “bare” and “unnaturally spotless” kitchen with its Empty Fruit Bowl Of Shame. But it’s actually part of a whimsical – some might say “incredibly camp” – Yuletide photo shoot that also features Packed To The Rafters star Hugh Sheridan and cricketer Michael Clarke.

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The question remains: what political capital does Gillard hope to reap from this exercise? After all, that’s the main reason politicians gussy up for the glossies.

Joe Hockey also appears in the same issue of the Weekly, posing with his family – including his newborn son, who has the rather Harry Potter-esque name Ignatius Theodore Babbage-Hockey. Hockey wistfully tells the magazine that Kevin Rudd didn’t offer congratulations on Ignatius’s birth, as he had with the births of Hockey’s first two kids. That’s cold, Kevin. After Sunrise and everything.

Swiss milkmaid and part-time prime ministerial spouse Thérèse Rein got some excellent Weekly press in September. Apparently, she and Kevin enjoyed “almost two years of intellectual jousting … reminiscent of the literary sparks that flew between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy”. Unfortunately, the cover shot made her look as if she enjoys snacking on babies.

Thérèse’s Mr Darcy, meanwhile, may not be cool enough for Rolling Stone, unlike sunglasses-wearing, musical-inspiring Paul Keating, who graced the cover back in 1993.

Barack ‘Yes We’d Love To’ Obama has no such difficulties. US Rolling Stone anointed him (or perhaps one of his waxworks) before he’d even been elected. And the American Society of Magazine Editors recently voted Obama’s adorable Rolling Stone grin their Magazine Cover of the Year.

In the US, glossy magazine pics actually cause political controversy, whereas our Cheryls and Alexander Downers are only dogged by a perceived lack of political muscle. Esquire, for instance, was accused of rehashing the whole Monica Lewinsky thing with its crotchy cover shot of Bill Clinton.

What Kevin Rudd might call a “sh-tstorm” erupted over Newsweek’s recent decision to repurpose a picture of Sarah Palin in shorts, from a photo shoot Palin had done with Runner’s World. The sports magazine, which is in the habit of photographing celebrities in their running gear (get a cardio workout with this pic of Anton Enus) was incensed that the photo had been picked up from a photo agency without its permission.

Conservative commentators were quick to argue that a liberal politician would receive far more reverential treatment than Palin, much as they cried foul over another Newsweek cover which showed Palin’s wrinkles in extreme closeup.

However, a survey of political covers from both sides of the spectrum reveals that just about everyone gets a shocker of a pic eventually.

Possibly the most online huffington and puffington was over Palin’s grandbabydaddy, Levi Johnston, who posed nude for Playgirl (link worksafe, unless your workplace disapproves of coyly placed towels). Palin went on Oprah to denounce the shoot as “p-rn” – and gave Oprah her biggest ratings in two years.

Will Johnston damage Palin’s White House ambitions, or keep giving her the public attention she uses in place of political experience?

Fellow conservative Dick Cheney is a prime target for merciless photo editors. Texas Monthly did a fantastic photo montage taking the p-ss out of his accidental shooting of a hunting companion, but Newsweek (yep, them again!) incurred a photographer’s ire after it cropped and recontextualised a photo of Cheney cutting up meat in his kitchen to evoke his endorsement of illegal torture techniques.

“Has it been altered? No,” said an unrepentant Newsweek PR. “Did we use the image to make an editorial point – in this case, about the former vice president’s red-blooded, steak-eating, full-throated defense of his views and values? Yes, we did.”

Mel Campbell is Editor and publisher of The Enthusiast.