The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Nipple rings have a role in the modern Tory party

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I am widely recognised as something of a snappy dresser. "To afternoon tea with the ever-delicious HM Queen Mother at Clarence House" writes my old friend and quiffing partner Sir Roy Strong in his irrepressible new Diaries, "where the talk centres firmly on the delightful, almost Edwardian cut of darling Wallace Arnold's new flat cap. Bliss!"

Like Roy, I have long considered clothes to be the outward sign of the inner man, and that is why I eschew the "T-shirt", the "trainer" (dread word!) and the baseball cap, preferring the well-cut suit, the waistcoat and the highly-polished brogue. And let me add that I am most definitely agin' the ghastly fashion for "nipple-piercing": I have never and WILL never have my "nipple" pierced, even if I knew where it was. Sadly, this is not true of everyone: I trust I am not giving away too many secrets when I reveal that my old friend and future leader Mr John Redwood has recently had his left nipple pierced, in a bid to show that he is "in tune" with the young. Fortunately, he is delighted by the result. "It

affords one a useful new place to hook one's pen when one is in the bath or under the shower" he explains.

Needless to say, the young tearaway contender for the Tory leadership, Master Hague, has been stung into action by Redwood's bold move. I hear that, come tomorrow, he is planning an official unveiling in the Commonwealth Institute of his own new multiple-piercings, including rings through his nose, tongue, ears, buttocks and nipples. "If the Conservative Party is to put the past behind it, we must seek to embrace the hopes and aspirations of the young" he will declare. "With rings placed in seven separate areas of my body, I am now in a position to present myself as uniquely qualified for the task."

In characteristically slapdash mode, Mr Kenneth Clarke is, I hear tell, bent on performing his own nipple-piercing in DIY fashion, with a screwdriver, a hammer and the used ring-top from a can of Diet Coke. Frankly, I dread to imagine the results - would it not have been more judicious for him to have secured the services of a Saatchi, a Bell or a Mandelson for the task?

But I deviate. My task is not to elucidate the pros and cons of nipplepiercing among the Tory leadership contenders. Rather it is to condemn the recent actions of our joint enemy, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Gordon Brown. Mr Brown, chip firmly upon shoulder, has let it be known that he is refusing to attend the Lord Mayor's Mansion House dinner in the conventional costume of white tie and tails. Instead, he feels it befits his great office to dip into his bottom drawer for a crumpled two-piece lounge suit, no doubt supplemented with smelly socks, and to throw them all on any old how before hot-footing it to the Mansion House on a number 22 bus. To paraphrase the words of Mr Fred Astaire, "I'm putting on my messy striped tie, brushing down my baseball cap and doffing two fingers at an ancient tradition that has served its country well, embuing us all with a deep pride and respect for the pageantry of which Great Britain is still the supreme master".

And Brown has not stopped there. For the past two centuries, the Lord Mayor has attended the Mansion House clad not only in white tie and tails but, beneath them, also in corset, suspenders, trainer-bra and stockings. Though there is nothing formally dictated in the rules governing the event, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has always seen fit to follow suit. But Brown has shown no inclination to conform, preferring to place himself above those who preceded him, wearing his customary superior frown.

Small wonder the Chancellor remains a bachelor. In my experience, the lovely ladies in our lives like to be seen out with a fellow who takes trouble with his appearance. HM The Queen Mother, for instance, is forever congratulating me on my appearance. "Wallace" she told me only last week, after a mid-morning pint of mild and bitter, "I have never known anyone carry off a bow tie quite as well as you ..." She then looked a little whimsical, even a little downcast, before looking straight ahead and, tears in her eyes, adding, "In another life - who knows? - the two of us might have made a go of it. Still, it was not to be..."

Frankly, I doubt Mr Gordon Brown will ever receive such a compliment - and certainly not if he persists in dressing like a member of that most dishevelled and unpalatable of all pop groups, namely "Oasis". We British prefer those who rule us to cut a dash at a formal dinner: when they start slinking into the Mansion House in lounge suit and Hush Puppies, then that is the time to start counting the spoons.

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