Tuesday, September 12, 2006
If The Chancellor's Unmentionables Must Be Mentioned, We Should Be Thankful That They Come From Marks and Spencer
Much has been written about the Chancellor, Mr Brown, over this past week, and most of it would benefit from being unwritten, if such a thing were possible. Mr Brown has been castigated for not smiling, and cremated for smiling too much. He is condemned when he does not act and mocked when he does. With disturbing frequency, he is described as "too Scottish"; a criticism one might make of Sir Harry Lauder, but not, surely, of the Chancellor, even if his nickname in the unpopular (that is to say, the former broadsheet) press, is Irn Broon.
Without venturing into the politics of the matter, I am rather fond of Mr Brown. He has what my mother Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) liked to call gravadlax, and - unlike, say, Mr Tommy Sheridan - is aware of the value of a nine bob note.
It is, of course, a symptom of the times that our politicians are judged on their appearances rather than their policies. Thus, while I find it distasteful that Mr Brown feels the need to invoke fatherhood as a symbol of his late entry to the human race, and I regret his decision to have his teeth improved with cosmetic caps, I find myself cheered by the news that, in the matter of unmentionables, he still worships at the altar of St Michael. This is no trivial matter. The premiership of Mr John Major was undone not by his incompetence, or the fact that he had all the charisma of a speak-your-weight machine, but by Mr Alastair Campbell's suggestion that he tucked his shirt into his unmentionables; a reasonable habit, but a profoundly unfashionable one.
There are, of course, hazards in the umentionable department at Marks and Spencer - not least that monstrous regiment of women who spend their days tugging testily at the joists of the smalls they are buying for their defeated and downcast husbands - but there is something reassuring about the Chancellor's choice. To put things in context: I was told recently by a political correspondent that Dr John Reid is in the habit of "going commando". I trust and pray that this description refers to his temper.