When, I wonder, am I going to receive my fee for my makeover of the Tory Party? Metrodaddy, alias yours truly, appears to have been cast as the (reluctant) queer eye of the British Tory guy.
As yet another sign of the total mainstreaming of male aesthetics, that once reliably retrosexual party that seems to have gone raving metrosexual – or, rather, ‘mincing metrosexual’ in the inadvertently revealing words of its chairman this week.
First they elect a new, young, (relatively) stylish, rather moisturised, leader in the form of David Cameron. Practically the first thing he does, before his trip to Norway to watch glaciers melt, before holding a shadow cabinet meeting/photo opp. in his lovely designer kitchen, is to announce that the The Queen is Dead by The Smiths is his favourite album of all time. (I can’t help wondering if I’d chosen, for some inexplicable reason, to write a biography of Holly Johnson rather than that alternative 80s ‘Iron Lady’ Morrissey, whether Cameron would have named Welcome to the Pleasuredome as his favourite album instead.)
Then an ‘A list’ of parliamentary candidates is announced – featuring women, gays, non-whites, and celebs – as a kind of new, designer political wardrobe for Cameron, fast-tracking the Conservatives’ change of image from something retro into something more modern, more fashionable, more desirable, more… metro.
Pre-eminent among these ‘A-listers’ is metrotory poster boy Adam Rickitt, who despite his name, is an anything but mal-nourished chap whose major claim to fame until now is that he used to take his shirt off a lot on the soap Coronation Street to show us his boyish six-pack and pecs. Kind of a Woolworths pick ‘n’ mix Marky Mark, or, perhaps more to the point, a BHS soft-furnishings department Joe Dallesandro (Warhol hustler and hunky, hairless shirtless cover star for The Smiths’ debut, eponymous album). Not surprisingly, a gay character in that soap fell for him and tried to kiss him — a pass which was, after a bit of hesitation, rejected by Adam’s hetro metro character.
Given the awful looks, shape, clothes and halitosis of most British politicians I reckon Rickitt’s guaranteed a buff majority at the next election as thousands of young women and gays hitherto unfamiliar with the arcane and occult practise of voting rush to the polls to put a big kiss next to his name – and a prominent front bench position. After all, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate his pretty blond features properly in the backbenches, would you?
What on earth would this lad with no previous political experience be minister for, I hear you demand? Well, there’s a host of possibilities that his talents bring to mind. Such as… Minister for Looking At. Or Minister for Working Out. Or Minister for Men’s Underwear. Or Minister for Decorating the House. Failing that, he can just bring along his own portfolio – of photographs.
Politics has already been successfully aestheticized by New Labour – once the proletarian party of production and supply-side, now the party of consumption and seduction – and rendered skin deep. Why not politicians? At least then we’d have something nice to look at while we’re being lied to.
Little wonder though that die-hard, unmoisturised retrosexuals within the Tory Party are rather unhappy with what’s happening to the party that used to bathe once a week and used a whiffy flannel the rest of the time; the party that used to regard that gay-baiting crank with the pudding-bowl haircut Normo Tebbit as the summit of everything desirable in a man; the party that introduced legislation in the form of Section 28 to ban schools from promoting the use of male hair care products and gymnasiums. Little wonder they have been making loud noises – mostly of buttock clenching.
Old-timer Tory chairman Francis Maude has tried to reassure them, to soothe their fevered brows and cramping sphincters, and counteract some unfortunate ‘misapprehensions’. Alas, his Freudian unconscious sabotaged him and revealed his own anxieties about the policy he himself is having to implement in an hilarious slip of the tongue, or some such fleshly organ. Appearing on Toryradio this week, railing against the wilder rumours, he found himself saying:
“The idea that what we’re actually trying to do is insert mincing metrosexuals into gritty northern marginal seats is complete rubbish.”’
Err, thanks for that, Frankie. A choice of words and images that will definitely put all unsavoury and uncomfortable thoughts of bumming out of the minds of Tory stick-in-the-(non-beautyfying)-muds who can’t stop worrying about it — at the same time as reassure the public that the Tory Party has really changed (its underwear).
I suspect however that most self-respecting metrosexuals would probably rather not insert themselves into ‘gritty seats’ anyway. Certainly not without a shower and a sack and crack wax first.
More to the point, that colourful outburst would seem to confirm that Cameron is inserting ‘mincing metrosexuals’ into safe seats instead. I told you we’d be seeing Adam on the front benches soon, sunbathing in a thong. [Update: In fact, Rickitt has applied to replace former Tory Leader Michael Howard as MP for Folkestone and Hythe at the next election. On one Tory web forum he’s described by an apopleptic Tory activist as a ‘ghastly hermaphrodite’.]
Actually, despite the depressing, patronising view of the North held by Southerners such as Maude and the BBC (e.g. ‘The Street’) as some kind of Gulag for people who use short vowel sounds, I can assure you, as someone who has recently moved back to the North from the South, that working class northern men in this largely — thanks to Mrs T - post-industrial region are even more keen than Southerners on fake tan, hair gel, designer clothes and gym-bodies and least likely to apologize for it. The centre of the nearest big city to me, ‘gritty northern’ Newcastle, is full of them milling if not mincing around wearing expensively little on a Friday night – Newcastle even officially calls its giant shopping mall the ‘Metro Centre’, in case local lads didn’t know where to go when they get their pay-packets.
If the Tories want to insert themselves into more seats in the North, and God knows they can hardly occupy fewer than they do at the moment, they could do worse than recruit a few more Adam Rickitts. If they want to seduce younger voters, the Tories need to convince them that they’ve abandoned the ‘Victorian Values’ – and aesthetics – of the Iron Lady and embraced the ‘softer’, ‘selfish’, ‘superficial’ and ‘vain’ aspect of the consumer revolution she ushered in but tried, like most Tories, to disavow.
That, in other words, the Tories are something that young people might actually want to wear. Or even look at.
Damn – I’ve done it again. I’ve given the Tories more consultancy advice. For nothing.
How about a signed poster of Adam Rickitt canvassing himself in the altogether and we’ll call it quits?
© Mark Simpson 2006