Colour me beautiful, beg Tory MPs: Major 'a bozo in casual clothes' - Clarke 'extra chins' - Portillo 'overboard with Spanish quiff' - Widdecombe 'stick-insect legs'

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The Independent Online
ALARMED by the Labour Party's slick projection of Tony Blair, Conservative MPs are trooping to the offices of Color Me Beautiful, Britain's leading image consultancy.

Since Mr Blair's election as Labour leader, nine Tories anxious to transform their personal images have approached Mary Spillane, the American head of CMB and a former adviser to Ronald Reagan.

Looking ahead to the next general election in the shadow of Labour's stunning publicity success in Blackpool last week, the Conservatives appear to be establishing firmer links with Color Me Beautiful. CMB specialises in revamping its clients' images with carefully chosen colour schemes and clothes that flatter their figures.

Jeremy Hanley, the party chairman, is understood to have approached Ms Spillane for advice on repackaging high-profile MPs, and next month she will advise the influential Conservative Way Forward group, whose members include Lady Thatcher and Michael Portillo, on how its rising stars can fashion a fresh image.

She will try to persuade them to discard their pinstripes in favour of a more casual, youthful appearance. 'One of the problems I have with that wing of the party is if I suggest a European-style suit, they all run screaming,' she said.

After 15 years in power, the Tories look weary, a CMB spokesman said, and the new Labourites now cut far more of a dash. 'Conservatives need a lot of sobering up about how they come across to real people,' said Ms Spillane, who was responsible for repackaging the Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown. 'They have got overweight, slovenly and boring. They look like yesterday's men. They are in big trouble. They are arrogant and complacent.'

But it is more senior Tories who are the target of her most searing criticism. John Major 'looks like a bozo in casual clothes', she said. 'He only has one pullover, a brown Viking number that he wears on every possible occasion.

'I'd mess up his hair. It's like he's wearing a skull cap. It doesn't move at all. If you get caught in a wind your hair should do something.'

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke, 'should get on a tread mill, get a suit that fits and spend a bit more so the clothes don't shine after three wearings.

'His trousers have never been introduced to his waist. Until he gets that tummy under control - short of getting a corset - he should wear jackets that can button up,' she said.

The Secretary of State for Employment, Michael Portillo, though fit, looks like 'he's wearing a suit of armour' and has 'gone overboard with the Spanish quiff'.

Virginia Bottomley, Health Secretary, resembles a headmistress 'putting us in our places, telling us off,' while Ann Widdecombe, the forceful Employment Minister, should avoid wearing stilettos because she 'has stick-insect legs and is incredibly top-heavy'.

Michael Howard, Home Secretary has a voice that is 'pompous and irritating' and should wear colourful shirts.

Only the suave figure of Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, needs no fine-tuning, she says.

Ms Spillane, 44, who studied management at Harvard, came to this country 15 years ago after marrying a Briton. She has advised MPs from all political parties, except the Welsh Nationalists, and says she is in close contact with 'friends at (Conservative) Central Office'.

The profile of political image consultants was boosted last week after reports named Carole Caplin, a former topless model, as the woman who reinvented Cherie Blair, the Labour leader's wife, at Blackpool.

'Tony Blair has made the Tories sit up and think,' says an aide to Ms Spillane. 'A lot of them have come to us since Blair got going.'

Ms Spillane refuses to name the Conservative MPs who have recently approached her, but most of them, she said, have marginal seats. 'A lot came to me before the first televising of Parliament and then got into their same old ways.'

She is coy about detailing her links with the party. 'I get referred a lot of people here by . . . party chairmen,' she said. 'I've done a lot of MOTs in the last couple of months.'

Ms Spillane, who claims the credit for convincing Mr Major to discard unflattering blue shirts and adopt pink ones, says that she will closely scrutinise each political performance in Bournemouth. 'I'll be giving them hell,' she says. 'Unless the Tories do something about their image they are writing their own obituary.'

The consultant says

KENNETH CLARKE

'We notice the jowls, we notice the extra chins. He buys shirts that don't fit him. They might be new but they're the wrong size. He looks like a coronary waiting to happen. I suggest that until he gets that tummy under control - short of getting a corset - he should wear jackets that can button up.

'The shoes were a cute idiosyncratic element but they're a bit naff now. He's such a slobby sight. These stupid, boxy double-breasted suits don't suit him at all. Single-breasted would be far more forgiving on his fuller waist line. He's a great personality but he can't be bothered and that's so insulting.

ANN WIDDECOMBE

'She has little stick-insect legs and then it goes up and she's incredibly top-heavy. When I saw her at the Institute of Directors she wore a big mumsy dress and had stilettos on and a scrubbed face. She almost fell down the stairs.'

JOHN MAJOR

'It's his out-of-work wardrobe that is so ghastly. He just looks like a little wimp, totally insignificant. He needs to get a sports jacket. Major has very cool colouring so that brown sweater of his makes him look terrible and ill. He has very insignificant shoulders. In blue shirts all you noticed was his beard line. It made you think he needed a shave because blue cast a shadow on his heavy beard. Pink shirts make him look cleaner.

'Major 'warts and all' is boring now. He needs to loosen up a bit, be more natural, like when he flung off his jacket in South Africa playing cricket. That was great.'

MICHAEL PORTILLO

'He's trying. But he's walking around in pontification mode. I think he's the same age as Blair but he looks like a stuffed shirt. The Tories really have to be careful of the pompous side. It's a turn-off. He shouldn't have the starched white collar on all the time. He should try more colourful shirts.

He's an exquisite dresser. He spends the money and he's a fit chap. He's very, very well dressed. He needs to ease up. We need to see the casual look, in sports jackets. He's gone overboard with the Spanish quiff. It's a bit contrived and over the top. That should all be restyled.

'He's heavily into gesturing. He's been told to use gestures but he doesn't realise that they need to sort of relate to how you're speaking. He's quite comical to watch. He has podgy fat fingers so I wouldn't make so much of his hands.'

MICHAEL HOWARD

'He's a good-looking man. But his voice is so pompous and irritating. It's that so-superior tone and ever-so-perfect spoken English which preaches at people. The light grey suits are OK on him if he has a little more fun with colour in the shirts and less traditional ties.'

MICHAEL HESELTINE

'He dresses impeccably. I wouldn't want to change him.'

(Photograph omitted)

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