Clarke's new bouffant sets the style agenda

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Indy Politics
As the poll war began in earnest, one question preoccupied political commentators and voters. Not the health service, nor education, but Ken Clarke - Is he or isn't he?

Because, as the hairspray adverts of the 1970s so neatly put it, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's new hairstyle, swept back from his forehead in a dashing brown crest, appeared to have had a little chemical help.

His usual leave-it-where-it-falls style had become, according to one onlooker, "a cross between Michael Portillo and Michael Heseltine". Under the lights of a news conference, it shone a deep shade of chestnut that looks likely to have fashion followers demanding a "Ken". Yesterday's abrupt change of image - the hair, colour-coordinated pink tie against blue shirt, the suit a pale shade of taupe - suggested his latest bruising encounter had been with the image-makers.

According to Mary Spillane, of consultants Colour Me Beautiful, the result was "just right".

"There's an element of cheeky machismo about him that is quintessentially British," she said. "They're trying to enhance his sexual appeal. They're playing him as their sex god ... the colours are very European. It's also a subtle two fingers to the Euro-sceptics."