Tories have nothing to lose but their ties

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THE CONSERVATIVES have come up with a new plan to win the voters round: they are to take off their ties.

William Hague wants his politicians to adopt a more casual dress code in public, following research which discovered that the party was still seen as "stuffy" and "out of touch".

The trend was set last week by Alan Duncan, the party's dapper health spokesman and a close ally of its leader, who took part in the BBC's Question Time in an open-necked Hermes shirt and Savile Row blazer.

Francis Maude, the Shadow Chancellor, has also decided to conduct interviews in shirt sleeves. And Mr Hague - who famously sported a baseball cap after becoming leader - will take off his tie more often when he appears on TV in future.

"There's a reaction to how you present yourself - people don't like to see someone in a three-piece suit haranguing the audience," a senior Tory official said. "William wants to show a more open and relaxed attitude to the public."

Mr Duncan was cheered into Conservative Central Office after his foray into dressing down. His casual look prompted a flood of positive letters and e-mails. Only one shire Tory criticised his "scruffy" appearance and enclosed a blue polyester tie. He returned the item saying it was "not up to my usual standard".

"Almost everyone liked the casual look," he said. "I see no reason to look like a stuffed dummy in a television studio ... One's opinions can be just as serious while looking normal."

However, there is a risk that the initiative could see a return of the notorious "jumpers" which emerged when the MPs were instructed to dress casually for last year's seaside "bonding session".

And Alan Clark, the MP for Kensington and Chelsea, insists that he will stick to formal dress. Yesterday, he said: "It's gay bar culture. They may love mincing around but I'm not going to appear on television in a shell suit with wet-look hair. .

"It's so demeaning that you have to try and make people like you not because of the sense you're talking but because of your appearance.

"Anyway, at the bonding session they all looked like a collection of people who had just collected their P45s."