Tuesday, 19 July 2011

How to judge politicians by the clothes they wear

When arch-blister James (sorry – “Jimmy”) Carter was inaugurated as President of the United States, he eschewed formalwear in favour of a plain business suit. He then refused to ride to the White House in the presidential limousine, preferring to stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue with his wife and daughter.

 He gave his first televised fireside chat wearing a cardigan, then went on to sell the presidential yacht, Sequoia, and banned the playing of “Hail to the Chief” when attending banquets and speaking engagements.

This sort of insistence on informality, the sweeping away of fuddy-duddy conventions, is meant to signal that our iconoclastic hero is a humble sort of cove who doesn’t consider himself or herself superior to other people. “Hey, guys, I’m plain folks, just like you!” is the intended message.

Of course, what it really tells us is that the office-holder is a raving egomaniac who believes that their genius and personality – their brilliant uniqueness – is the reason for their rise to head honcho-ship. They’re bigger – far, far bigger - than the office they temporarily hold. They’re not going to be hidebound by custom or tradition or people’s expectations because, you see, it’s all about them. “just plain folks” act was slightly undermined by the fact that he was a deeply weird

Carter’s refusal to conform, his inability to understand that part of the burden of the Presidency is to maintain the traditions which lend the office dignity, showed a terrible contempt for the American people. Inevitably, the whole of his Presidency turned into an act of disrespect towards practically everyone. When his Keynesian policies failed to curb runaway inflation, he claimed governments couldn’t control inflation – it was down to the selfishness of the electorate. When the US suffered an energy crisis, he shrugged and told everyone that  America’s greed had ensured that the energy shortage would be permanent. During his 1980 presidential campaign, he showed contempt for the electorate by employing smear tactics against his opponents (the race card, inevitably). He treated Congress with utter disrespect, in particular, representatives of his own party. America’s traditional allies were routinely insulted or ignored, while its enemies were sucked up to relentlessly. (Yes, I know – the parallels with the current incumbent are quite extraordinary.)

So, when a politician refuses to dress the part, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with an utter narcissist, for whom the world outside his psyche barely exists.

Carter’s desperate stab at  ordinariness  was compromised by the fact that he was a socially awkward weirdo who didn’t seem to have a clue what made normal people tick. Which brings us neatly to one of our homegrown sartorial informalists. Remember Gordon Brown’s refusal to don evening-wear for his Mansion House speeches? His dismissal last year of a lifelong Labour Party supporter who had raised concerns about wholesale immigration as a bigot welled from the same narcissistic spring – the cosmically self-obsessed can’t see the world from anyone else’s point of view: to do so risks psychic implosion.

John Bercow, the current Speaker of the House of Commons, famously refuses to wear formal clothes – “they’re not really me” - preferring a lounge suit to the splendid garments traditionally associated with the role. Listen, you little twat, because you’re a  narcissist, you don’t realise that we don’t actually care about you as a person – we simply don’t give a toss whether the clothes are  “you” or not. It isn’t about you at all, you creepy, treacherous pipsqueak: it’s about the office which, unfortunately, you currently hold. One day – please let it be soon! – you’ll be nothing more than a vaguely unpleasant memory, just like your disgusting predecessor, Gorbals Mick. But the office for which you’ve shown such contempt will still be there. 

Let’s hope to God the next Speaker will be sufficiently humble to show the office, and the British people, respect by donning the Full Monty – wig and all. As for Gordon Brown and Jimmy Carter – respectively the worst British Prime Minister and the worst American President of the 20th Century -who now gives a flying one what either of them wears?


  1. Re the nanoid Bercow.

    "Cucullus non facit monachum." Latin Proverb. ["The cowl does not make the monk."]


    "Nebbish." Yiddish. ["Useless person."]


    "Ekel." Norwegian. [The sensation of the fingers penetrating the Delsey.]


    "Testa di Cazzo." Italian. ["Dick-head."]


    Acondroplaisia. Genetic dwarfism condition. The behavioural manifestations of this condition is to be as disagreeable as possible and to suffer a geat urge to publicly and constantly correct other people's use of language. It also involves the desire to marry someone even more ghastly than yourself.
    Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 09:30 AM

  2. The really nauseating thing about Bercow is that he insists on being afforded all the respect the ancient office of Speaker demands – without being willing to respect it himself! I think all your words work – but I fear you missed out “wanker”.

    As for his truly ghastly wife… I mean, bloody hell, what was he thinking?
    Friday, July 22, 2011 - 03:49 PM