Suit ability: The tie as tactic

Image of Vanessa Friedman

And so the new British government’s game of musical ties continues. Though clearly united behind the fittingly conservative dark suit (navy or grey)/light shirt combo, many of the Conservative members of David Cameron’s cabinet seem slightly less on-message when it comes to neckwear: to display party loyalty, reach out to their new coalition partners, or stake out their own sartorial territory? This was the question as a majority of the incumbents gathered for a group photo op on Thursday.

To be, fair, it was only a question for eight of them. Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative Party Chairman, opted out entirely, while Mr Cameron donned his usual blue (as close to a uniform as he gets, though on moving-in day he did opt for purple, not only colour-coordinating with his wife Samantha’s purple dress, but symbolically continuing a tradition established by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who both favoured amethyst neckwear shades upon arriving at Number 10).

For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg swapped his former Lib Dem gold for a politically neutral, if environmentally correct, green number.

Otherwise, Leader of the House of Lords Lord Tom Strathclyde, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, and Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell all chose traditional Tory blue; Community & Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Leader of the House of Commons George Young opted for red and purple tones; and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary William Hague went for cross-party, coalition-building, gold - perhaps indicating, in the latter’s case anyway, a willingness to negotiate with the Lib Dems when it comes to UK/EU policy. Or at least floating the possibility to buy some collegial settling-in time.

After all, I grant you, sometimes a tie is only a tie. But sometimes a tie is a tactic.

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