The Tory leader David Cameron is standing by his call for Britain to learn to love teenagers who adopt "hoodies" as part of their fashion culture. His remarks were attacked by the Home Office and were expected to draw criticism from the Tory right wing.
But Mr Cameron's advisers said he was not backing down on the speech he will make today and pointed out that David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, has spoken in similar terms when "hoodies" were banned from Bluewater, the shopping centre in Kent.
"There will be some on the right who don't like it but we think this is a very important issue," said an aide to the Tory leader. "Hoodies are a symptom, not the cause of the problem."
Mr Cameron is unlikely to worry about criticism from right-wing figures such as Lord Tebbit because it will help him to convince the voters he is repositioning his party.
But the collapse of Tory support to a majority of just 633 at the by-election in their south London strong-hold of Bromley and Chiselhurst gave worrying evidence he may be alienating the more traditional Tory voters with his "touchy feely" agenda. It has included urging men not to "miss the magic" of being present at the birth of their children, reclassifying ecstasy, and embracing renewable energy with a windmill on his own roof.
In another piece of political repositioning, he will use his speech on social justice today to suggest teenagers who hid under hooded tops were trying to "blend in" rather than appear threatening.
"We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters," he will say. "But hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They're a way to stay invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in.
"For some, the hoodie represents all that's wrong about youth culture in Britain today. For me, society's response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right."Reuse content