Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Article excerpt

Monday "You are not going out like that, surely, Lynton?"

It's 7.30am, the car is waiting outside, and Cheryl has caught me at the door. She has noticed that I am not wearing my customary suit. I am, in fact, attired in a far more comfortable outfit comprising a pair of tan chinos, a rather fetching sky-blue, button-collar shirt and a pair of elegant loafers -- all the product of a surreptitious visit to the menswear shops of Southampton on Saturday.

I tell her that I do, indeed, plan to go to work in this more democratic and less elitist garb. I have had enough, I explain, of sitting at my desk or in endless meetings, my neck chafing from an unnecessary tie, and sweating because of the heaviness of my suit. If it is good enough for The Master, I add, it is good enough for me.

Cheryl snorts. "You'll be renting a baby next!" And she turns on her heel and marches back to the kitchen, looking for some other poor sod whose life she can make miserable.

There are some rather sideways glances from Treasury officials when I arrive at Fort Knox -- glances that I interpret as being rather envious. When one senior civil servant gives me a particularly piercing look, I reassure him that the culture will soon change, and that -- ere long -- he, too, will feel able to come to work dressed like me. "Oh good!" he says, with genuine emotion.

I see none of my ministerial colleagues before going over to the House for a meeting with Labour members of the back-bench Treasury Committee. And what I see warms my radical cockles. Member after male member has eschewed the greys and blacks, and donned the clothes that he himself most enjoys wearing. Stephen Twigg is resplendent in a cream chemise and black leather trousers, while Denis MacShane is walking around in a buckskin jacket, with the fringes and everything. …

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