The Spectator

Dressing down Brown

Dressing down Brown
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Here's another thought about the difference between Blair and Brown in their relations with the business world (see 'The coming Blair nostalgia' in this week's online edition). On Wednesday night, for the eleventh year in a row, Gordon Brown 'snubbed' the City by refusing to conform to the evening dress code for the Mansion House dinner. To wear a black bow tie instead of long, dull, striped one, his spokesmen annually point out, would be to break his socialist principles and pander to elitism. But really his psychoanalyst might add it's an expression of the self-righteous egotism and tortured self-consciousness that make him such an uncomfortable public figure whatever he's wearing. Blair has never made a fuss about that sort of thing, and has even been seen in white tie and tails. Evening dress is not elitist in a true sense (who doesn't dress up when asked to do so by any private party invitation, if only as a matter of politeness?) but merely makes a crowd look uniformly elegant and it costs no more than a decent suit.

Apart from irritating the City every year, our deliberately badly dressed prime minister will soon be snubbing the Queen on state occasions and upsetting veterans at Remembrance ceremonies. If I was Mrs Brown (there's a thought) I'd be shouting 'Get over it, Gordon' and nipping out for a £40 polyester-and-viscose dinner jacket with maroon satin lining from the George range at Asda. That's about as un-elitist as you can get, and even Gordon might look good in it.