Politicians’ devices

I heard an interesting discussion on BBC Radio 4 this morning about Rick Santorum’s so-called sweater vests. He happened to like wearing these sleeveless pullovers but then became identified with them and so has apparently decided to turn them into a visual tag. Elio Di Rupo, Belgium’s current Prime Minister, long ago decided that his visual tag would be a red bow tie (unconsciously echoing the late Liberal politician, Willy De Clercq, but whose bow ties varied in colour). When I first started following the European Parliament, a German Green MEP (I have forgotten his name) would always attend plenary sessions in leather shorts and mountain boots. UKIP leader Nigel Farage, MEP, always sports a felt-collared overcoat. Nick Clegg, now UK Deputy Prime Minister, seemed always as an MEP to wear a pullover under his suits. Which brings me to this morning’s studio guest, former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth, who was famous for his collection of outlandish jumpers. Brandreth observed that the pipe-smoking former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson frequently held his pipe in such a way that his wedding ring was visible. According to Brandreth, this was a subtle visual means of underlining the difference between him and his rival, Edward Heath, who was a confirmed bachelor. Could it be?


  1. Duncan

    Smoke and mirrors.

    More to that theory that you know, Martin… Wilson didn’t really smoke a pipe at all. He was, in fact, a cigarette smoker but considered the image of a pipe more statesmanlike. He also used the ceremony of pipe smoking to his advantage as he was often seen to unpack all the paraphernalia involved, very slowly, in order to irritate an opponent or to gain time – particularly when faced by an awkward question the answer to which, possibly, he needed time to construct.

    I know this as my grandfather told me it, which means it has to be true.

    He knew a thing or two as well, being a Master of the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders. See here: http://www.tobaccolivery.co.uk/about-us/masters.html (Frank Spellacy 1971-72).

    I have an exellent picture of them both tucking into pipes at a do in London, while, seemingly, smiling at each other conspiratorially.

    You see, he too preferred a fag to a pipe so it was a case of taking one to know one.

  2. Hugo Kijne

    When you have a chance, check out Mitt Romney’s designer jeans and open button down shirts, meant to make him look middle class and not 1%. Of course it doesn’t help when you mention that your wife drives a couple of Cadillacs and you keep your money in the Cayman Islands.

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