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Barack Obama demonstrated the power of the abstract noun when he urged the American public to vote for “change”.

Now – like amateur alchemists – Britain’s leading politicians are scrambling to follow suit.

In their New Year messages, all three party leaders promised the gift of “change” – forgetting that this is an inately conservative country.

Nick Clegg called for “big, permanent change for the better”. David Cameron urged the country to “vote for change” and to “bring real change to Westminster”.

Gordon Brown, in a typically obtuse way, said change – which the people of Britain had already experienced – was not by accident but rather “the change we chose”.

In my life, I have learnt that there are only really two kinds of people – those who think things can never change, and those who believe they have to,” intoned the prime minister. “And I think the vast majority of people are in the second camp.”

All three are barking up the wrong tree. Britain has never experienced a successful revolution and it has kept the same monarch since 1953.

For the past 13 years, without fail, Jack has been the most popular name for baby boys born in this country. Almost everyone drinks tea, reads Harry Potter and watches Coronation Street.

Year in, year out – for almost three decades – about 8 million people have woken up to Terry Wogan on Radio 2. Britain loves the status quo so much that it gave Francis Rossi an OBE last week.

As for politics; the country elected the Tories four times in a row and Labour three times in succession.

Novelty is usually greeted with a giant raspberry. Fortnightly bin collection, wind farms on hilltops, the banning of mis-shapen bananas, even moving the evening news from 9pm to 10pm – this is change; and the public does not embrace it.

Golden goose

For political journalists, the MPs’ expenses scandal is the golden goose that just can’t stop laying.

You may have thought that a line had been drawn under the affair when Sir Christopher Kelly announced his plans for a new expenses regime back in November. Kelly called time on numerous perks including mortgages on second homes and employment of relatives. The changes would be retrospective, Kelly claimed.

Since then we have had another knight, Sir Thomas Legge, penalising MPs by ordering hundreds to pay back hundreds of thousands of pounds of generous claims.

If this wasn’t confusing enough, we now have knight number three – Sir Ian Kennedy – implementing the Kelly proposals as head of the new expenses regime, Ipsa (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority).

Or will he? Sir Ian, who is laying out his plans at a press conference tomorrow, said soon after his appointment that he was under “no obligation” to carry out Kelly in full. MPs are hoping he will drop one recommendation which they see as “spiteful”; the paying back of any capital gains made on their flats between now and their departure. “If 250 MPs leave next summer, do we really want Ipsa to track them down for the derisory capital gains they will have made between November 4 and May 6 – the idea is ridiculous,” says one person involved.

Suburban soul

It would be tempting to presume that macho branding is a passé 1970’s throwback. But the world of men’s aftershaves is still blessed with tough-sounding names such as “Le Male” by Jean Paul Gaultier. For the testosterone-fuelled man the options also include “Only the Brave” by Diesel and “I am King” by Sean John. No doubt “Big Cajones” will be appearing in department stores any day soon.

As a man who lives in a terraced house in south-west London and drives an average Ford Focus estate (complete with child seat), I’m not sure these brands really suit me. Far from being risk-hungry, I have worked for the same company for over a decade.

That’s why I am poised to launch a new fragrance range to fit my own demographic niche.

How does “Suburban by Jim Pickard” sound? I’m also test-marketing the brand names “Commuter” and “Salaryman” for other 30-something career drones. Watch this space.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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