The soft option: style and the Tories

Grazia knows what’s next. Thigh-high boots on the catwalks. Leather for AW09. And a Conservative government at the next general election. The Tories have been working their way around the style press for a while now – GQ editor Dylan Jones has authored a book of interviews with David Cameron and has taken several opportunities to celebrate Conservative politicians in his magazine, and Samantha Cameron’s role at luxury-goods firm Smythson has probably contributed to an uptick in pictures of her and her husband appearing in Vogue.

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In 1997, Labour made much of their supporters from pop music and the arts. For Conservative politicians, style mags offer the same sort of sympathetic access to mass audience beyond the political hardcore: the NME is very unlikely to turn blue, but fashion (with a business structure based on individual entrepreneurs selling very expensive things to very rich people) is probably wide open to Cameron’s “compassionate conservatism”. Tara Hamilton-Miller’s bizarre “How cool are the Conservatives?” feature in The Telegraph is just another push at the same angle, from a depressing world where banalities like “riding a bike” and “wearing Converse” count as achingly now.

In Jane Moore’s Grazia interview (15 August, above), David Cameron is presented in the same way as the next label or designer or model. His ascendancy is a fait accompli: the reader just has to catch up. Policies and politics don’t come into the feature: this is about learning to love David. He’s a “leader, campaigner and grieving father” according to both the ed’s letter and the strap. He talks about his admiration for his wife, his grief at the death of their son, his hopes for another child. Moore tells us that Cameron is hard-working (“David Cameron is addressing a packed hall of voters […] But, hang on, this is August”) and affectionate (when talking about Sam “his face visibly softens”).

The only questions that go beyond the warm domain of the personal are the reader ones, dealt with in a boxout where the splurge of figures and initiatives can go unchallenged. Fiscal policy isn’t Grazia’s domain, and there’s no reason for a politician to go looking for scrutiny, but it’s grim stuff to have a politician presented to you on these terms. Cameron is the object you will be adoring when the next collections arrive – he’s as inevitable as a new style of hosiery, and like the legging, you’ll want to know everything about him (how long? what colour?) but never question his fundamental reasoning. Flick to page 30 of the same issue and you’ll find out that the language of compassionate conservatism is a part of stylespeak now. David Cameron might be considerably less important than Cheryl Cole’s wardrobe, but he’s something you’ll want to consider buying all the same.
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Related: “Who is wearing what, and why!”

Text © Sarah Ditum, 2009