I have been following the political musical chairs over recent months, as you might know from my earlier post.
So now we have a new leader of the opposition in the shape of Ed Milliband…
See what I mean? They wear identical outfits – single-breasted, close fitting suits in either navy or charcoal. Along with the not too cutaway shirt collars with the accompanying bit of colour, expressed in the tie department (mostly plain or with mini polka dots) and the occasional flash of
bright socks, topped off with a pair of classic immaculately polished Churches shoes…
All employ the same obvious presentation skills (lots of meaningful, sincere hand gestures and dramatic pauses in their delivery). Did they all learn this from watching CDs of trailblazing master Tony Blair?
Then there are the accents. Many of the new political elite are products of the very best public schools with accents to match. But once again as perfected by Tony B some have affected the Estuary style with its peppering of glottal stops now ‘de rigueur’ to achieve that ‘man of the people’ persona – just check out Ed dropping his ‘T’s’, wicked innit.
They are all coached in the art of combating difficult questions from media heavies of the likes of Messers Humphreys and Paxman. When under pressure they will break their flow with the word ‘Look’. In other words, let’s cut the crap. They normally go on to say ‘Let me make this perfectly clear’ and of course they never do. All this stuff seems to have come out of the same packet. This got me thinking about the corporate look and behaviour of politicians.
Last year I was invited to afternoon tea at the House of Lords. A tea that would be accompanied by what I was told would be the most delicious scones in Britain. (My elevated host will remain anonymous) I was delighted to do this, if only out of curiosity and architectural interest. But the whole experience was rather surreal.
From the moment you enter the hallowed space, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had strayed onto the set of Harry Potter or a BBC period drama by mistake. The only sign of modernity is the electronic security frame gracing the sedate reception of the House of Lords private entrance. One is greeted by frock-coated, stockinged attendants in an air of quiet tranquillity. As you move onto the inner sanctum the space opens out into an expansive arched corridor of Portland stone and marble flanked by book-lined mahogany cabinets interrupted by various rooms off at regular intervals.
As you breeze past, groups of bewigged barristers and judges can be seen. The whole place has a sense of being in a crazy time warp. Then there are the Lords themselves. Their code of dress befits their wider girths. The favoured style is the double-breasted suit ...
often with matching waistcoats along with the occasional half hunter chain peeking out...
and ties are a little freer with a smattering of the classic clubs like the Garrick with its distinct cucumber and Salmon colouring. And they all wear the extremely discreet lapel pin denoting their peer status.
But back to that promised tea. I was guided into one on the many eateries in the Palace of Westminster. This one, exclusively for Peers and their guests, was a dark-timbered panelled affair with tables generously spaced out covered in crisply starched white damask and an array of silver pots and cutlery. A middle-aged woman in a black and white uniform served us. She looked like she had been transported from a Lyons Corner Houses of the 1950s. She took our order – the promised scones. I couldn’t wait.
I looked around. Sitting alone over there in the corner was Lord Bragg quietly reading. A little later Lord Winston stops by and chats to Melvyn. The whole place had the serenity of a good reading library. I could image it being engulfed in cigar smoke a decade ago.
Ah, the scones have arrived with an accompaniment of clotted cream and strawberry jam. My host watches me as I take a bite, an expectant look on his face. “Well?” he says. “Hmmm,” I say. “I see what you mean”. (Lying through my teeth). They were sawdust dry, tasteless and as hard as a rock. Give me Waitrose’s almond croissants any day.
I think when you are initiated into the House of Lords you must have to sign up to the myth that everything about it is, well, perfect. All of the eateries within the Palace of Westminster are vastly subsidised. A substantial meal that would set you back a fair few quid in the outside world, is a mere pittance within these cosseted walls. And this is just one of many perks paid for by the dear old tax payer. You can be sure that it will not be subjected to any government cuts.
I then spent a fascinating hour in ‘the other place’ – parliamentary speak for the House of Lords Camber – to listen to my host's speech. It has a much less hysterical atmosphere than the Commons with their childish jeering and yah boo behaviour. Peers listen to each other with respect and patience and there is a quiet dignity about the place. As a peer enters, he makes a brief stop and bows in respect of the speaker. I see Lord Puttnam – whom I knew well in the 1970’s. In those days you would never see him out of 501’s, a Margaret Howell shirt and a brown leather flight jacket. Now there he stands in the obligatory Saville Row tailored double-breasted suit blending in with their Lordships. How things have changed.
Get the look
Bored with looking like a graphic designer? Have a Milliband makeover and instantly increase both your hourly rate and stature with your clients. And don’t forget the all-important hand gestures. And if they protest just say, “Look. Let me make it perfectly clear. £500 an hour is not a lot for my substantial talent”.
There you're all set. Good luck.