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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
We the purple
No matter what their colour of politics, it seems purple is steadily becoming the party leaders' shade of choice.
It was once so simple. If men wanted to look as sober and solid as a bank manager, on went the blue tie. A red tie, meanwhile, signalled the wearer wanted to cut a more radical dash.
As purple ties swept the trading floors and boardrooms, veteran pundit Frank Deford declared that the craze had its limits: "The day you see a politician wearing purple, is the day we have a truthful person in politics."
Tony Blair, William Hague and Charles Kennedy may well be flattered by Mr Deford's sartorial rule of thumb - all have donned purple during the election campaign.
However, the creep of purple into the British political palette is no recent development, both main parties have been fighting over the hue since the last election.
Not shut out in the race for purple, Labour gave the colour an outing at its 1998 Blackpool conference - though sparingly.
Of all the event's many speakers, only leader Tony Blair was bathed in the regal, violet light. That Mr Blair had selected a colour long associated with the opulence of kings and emperors did not pass commentators by.
Purple all the rage
Pundits were less in awe the following year, when the Bournemouth stage was liberally dabbed with purple. The Irish Times suggested the design had a "hippy" look and (horror) the shade of purple chosen was decidedly close to a Conservative blue.
Purple owes its new-found popularity to the fact it's a modern, "user-friendly" shade, says Pat Henshaw, a senior consultant at the Colour Me Beautiful styling agency.
"It's a fashion colour and one with associations to the new millennium."
Though the official party colour, red is an assertive hue which should be used with care so as not to hector the electorate, says Ms Henshaw.
Purple is more politically neutral (just examine the BBC's Vote 2001 branding), and faltering to boot. It is known as a "universal", meaning whatever your colouring there is a shade of purple to suit you.
"It suits most people and I would guess style gurus have told the leaders it will make them look regal and trustworthy, but it can make you look anaemic."
Mr Hague is too fair to carry off purple, he says, and the strain of office has given Mr Blair a washed-out look. "Purple seems to make him look ill".
For those who think it's all a tad trivial, Mr Edwards has proof that the humble neck tie can be an important political barometer. He charted John Major's tie choice from 1992-7 and concluded the bigger the polka dots on the PM's blue tie, the more important the speech he was about to make.
"When Tony Blair won the last election he began to wear a blue tie. Maybe he was embarrassed by this and switched to red, but wasn't happy with that either. Purple is a mixture of both colours."
"Politicians seem to be dressing to conceal their real characters. Perhaps they try to be themselves and wear brighter colours, but it seems they're frightened of giving something away if they do."
So purple may not be the colour of "truthful" politics afterall.
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