At first, it was just a rumour – one of those silly-season stories that usually shrivel up and die at the first hint of an autumn frost. But it stayed on. It became the talk of smart dinner parties and art gallery vernissages. Now it is a full-blown trend, soon to be explored in style magazines and Sunday supplements. Yes, suddenly dullness is all the rage.
Apparently, it is all Gordon Brown's fault. By daring to be dreary, he has proved that boredom can be a powerful political weapon. No one really listens when he speaks – to do that would be like drowning in a sludge of statistics – and as a result, not listening has proved to be popular. Indoctrinated from our schooldays, we associate dullness with authority and intelligence. Here, we think, is a politician one can trust without having to pay attention to him.
The trend has caught on. Already in London, fashionable, ambitious people have been competing as to which of them can be the least interesting. It was time to investigate.
"Brown is the new black," a leading style writer told me. "Over the past decade, we've done shallow, we've done charm, we've worried away about the look and glamour of things. Now there's been a backlash. We're turning the other chic, as it were."
"And all this is Brown's doing?"
"The greyness was there, but Gordon released it."
To find out how this new trend will affect the way we are governed, I rang a backbench Labour MP. He was said he was "rather pleased by the situation, all things considered" although, he added carefully, the dullness trend could still go either way. If I wanted more detail, I should read a "rather sound" report commissioned by the Government called Boring for Britain: Institutional Tediousness as Paradigm for the Well-Ordered Society.
"Thank you, that's very uninteresting," I said. "Is there any chance that you could be a bit more specific?"
"Well, jokes are out for a start," he said. "Once politicians hired people to add a sprinkling of wit to their speeches. Now we hire them to de-joke any public utterance. Gordon has reminded us that the British have an innate respect for humourlessness."
I began to understand what was going on. Being boring was now a career asset: it explained why Alastair "The Snoozemeister" Darling was Chancellor, why Jacqui "Straight-Face" Smith was Home Secretary. The less charm a person had, the further they would go in politics.
"Personality is so last century," the MP said. "The modern voter doesn't want colour or verve or brio – those things remind them of John Prescott or Amy Winehouse or Michael Barrymore. The world's in crisis. Let's face it, global warming isn't going to be solved by charm."
I was getting bored, and so I put the phone down as the politician droned on. To cheer myself up, I went to a party in Soho. It turned out to be a disastrous decision. The music was Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", played on a loop, only occasionally interrupted by "Tubular Bells".
Moving around the room, I discovered that the conversation was exciting as Gordon Brown talking on the Today programme. One group discussed whether the Bank of England would raise the base rate, the next, affordable housing. In a corner, someone was talking about the novels of C P Snow.
"Christ, this is boring," I said to a woman standing next to me.
"Yes, it's great, isn't it?" she said. "There's going to be a cabaret later. We've got an ex-weather forecaster coming along to read Edward Heath's memoirs to a soundtrack of 'The Organist Entertains', then there will be a couple of hours of improvised jazz. We're hoping William Rees-Mogg will call by to read some of his longer columns."
It was time to go. Someone had put on Noel Coward's "World Weary", remixed by DJ Mark Ronson, and everyone was singing along. "Life is so dreary, so dreary/ Everything looks grey or brown." I was told it was an anthem of the new dullness, but it sounded far too interesting for that.
Miles Kington is awayReuse content