Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Rory Stewart taking off his tie would be hilarious... if politics wasn't such a serious business

By Lindy McDowell

Tie removal alert! Up until he took part this week in the BBC's Conservative leadership candidates debate, Rory Stewart was being tipped as the outsider to watch. He was the quirky oddball coming from nowhere (well, the Department of International Development), nipping up the blind side of Boris as they headed for the home straight.

It was almost neck and necktie. Until Rory fell at the fence. He took the tie off. And the world fell about laughing.

There have been many witty comments sneering at Mr Stewart's very blatant and obviously rehearsed effort at looking like he was the race renegade, so different and down with the common people.

The general consensus, I think, can be summed up in one word.


Here's your problem, Rory. Man removing tie is not a new thing. Man removing tie in an effort to look individualistic, non-conformist and a rebel against stuffy old formality is about as tired a cliche as man ruffling up hair to look a bit less starchy Eton.

What is it with some men and anti-tie statements?

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I've spent my entire working life in journalism where not a few of my male colleagues have often chosen to forgo ties simply because they didn't like them. That I understand. And applaud.

Going tie-less was never really a big deal in the print media industry, where the dress code could be summed up as something along the lines of 'smart dubious'.

The ones who baffled and irritated me were those who felt this burning need to go on and on and on about how they weren't for wearing a tie because, you know, they were too cool and rebellious for establishment neckwear.

Generally, shall we say, the greasy-pole climbers who'd affected the 'I've deliberately dispensed with my tie' thing in order to underline how they were not buttoned-up by boring convention.

Even in politics, even today, you get the impression some men still think that if they take off their tie suddenly they're Keith Richards. Or Che Guevara.

Two words: Jeremy Corbyn.

But if you want to get a truly informal, anarchic look, lads, maybe take a leaf out of Tyson Fury's book and go for one of those suits with wee pics of bare-knuckle fighters on it. Or get a nose stud.

It wasn't just the torn-off necktie that finally did for Rory, of course. There was also the squirming about on the seat thing.

In fairness, the high-stool BBC set did look like it had been designed by the stage manager for Westlife.

But flailing around like you've got haemorrhoids is a bit distracting when your co-candidates are discussing EU disengagement strategy.

There's a view that we shouldn't trivialise politics by talking about how politicians look and dress and get on.

To discuss female politicians in this way is deemed particularly inappropriate.

But the sad fact is that it's the politicians themselves who go out of their way to captivate us (and our votes) by playing up image and backstory rather than cold, hard policy.

Thus, in the fight for Tory leadership we've had everything from cocaine to cockapoo, from Boris's discarded wife to Rory's discarded tie, from a bus driver dad to a single mum, from a Chinese spouse to a 31-year-old girlfriend.

From opium to opprobrium.

And sometimes you've had to remind yourself that all this has been about choosing the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Not Love Island.

That ripping-off of a tie typifies the level of the contest thus far.

And as Johnson now squares up to Hunt, here's a sobering thought.

The eventual winner in this circus of absurdity won't just be the man who'll have to deal with the problem in Brussels.

He'll also be the man the country will have to depend upon to deal with the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz.

I quite like the idea of getting rid of the word ‘so’

So. What are we to do about this ‘so’ thing? A school in Bradford has banned the word ‘like’ because pupils are, like, bringing it into every sentence, like, and it’s seen as detracting from their speaking skills, like. But so is ‘so’. Mostly it’s adults though, who are so attached to ‘so.’ So. How do we curtail its use? Trends in everyday speech change like the weather. So it won’t be so long before it’s also so long to ‘so’. We’ll get tired of it, like.

Ignoring technology bordering on negligence

Dropping someone off at the airport you drive straight in. On the way out the machine charges you according to time spent.

Technology — in parks, in shops, at home, at work, in space — it’s relied upon everywhere. Now finally it’s being looked at as a viable option for the post-Brexit border. Surprisingly some people are still unconvinced. Why? Technology grows ever more sophisticated. It’s already crossed bigger frontiers than the one at Killeen.

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