Passing feather-footed through the plashy fens of life, sniffing out curiosities, amusing trifles and scandals from the worlds of culture, politics, news and sport
Friday, March 05, 2010
Tramp, 96, dies
Tributes have rightly been paid to Michael Foot, the former Labour Party leader, who died on Wednesday aged 96. He would have been a disaster as Prime Minister and was not much better as party leader, but he had principles, passion, learning and dignity. Even his political enemies have praised his manners and graciousness. They are lost virtues in politics these days.
But what has also been lost in politics is Foot's scruffiness. The obituaries have all mentioned the Cenotaph incident, when he was criticised for wearing what was described as a "donkey jacket" for the ceremony of remembrance.
Foot always protested, saying that it was actually a very nice green coat that the Queen Mother herself had praised.
Perhaps worse was the fact he was wearing a tartan tie rather than the regulation black. Wearing tartan at any occasion outside of a Highland fling is pretty awful, even in the early 1980s.
Foot was as unspun as they come. So what if he looked a bit like a tramp? Appearance mattered little to him, it was what you said and what you thought that should be important. As a tribute to this admirable philosophy, and to nick an old Two Ronnies joke, Foot's body should be allowed to lie in a state for a few days.
Alas, the days of the scruff in politics are long gone. Ken Clarke, with his cigars, Hush Puppies and crumpled jackets, is one of the few remaining scruffs. Even Boris Johnson, with that unruly hair, manages to wear a sharp suit. David Cameron has barely a hair out of place. The worst thing about those allegedly air-brushed posters is that they may not have been air-brushed.
This is a great shame. A man who takes too much time over his appearance is wasting time that could be spent thinking or doing other things. The best thing that Gordon Brown could do if he wants my vote (a slim chance, but it has to be worth a shot) is to take off his tie, pull on a slightly faded and holey jumper and not comb his hair for a few weeks. Grab this election by the scruff, as they say.