The secret rules of how to get ahead

If you want to join the ranks of the elite, you need to know how to dress for it.


You have to know the code if you want to join the club

"Only the shallow don't judge by appearances," said Oscar Wilde. Certainly the City judges by appearances, and we don't need a new report by a government watchdog chaired by Alan Milburn to tell us so. Do we really need to be reminded that for men "the wearing of brown shoes with business suit is generally (though not always) considered unacceptable by and for British bankers"?

The report says one job candidate from a "non-privileged background" was told he was "clearly quite sharp, but you're not quite the fit for this bank. You're not polished enough. That tie you're wearing? It's too loud." It's all about class, of course, or, as Tom Utley puts it in the Daily Mail, about the continued existence of "an obscure and pettily snobbish code of class indicators"; those from "less privileged backgrounds who don't know or haven't mastered these half-secret rules of behaviour and dress, stand a very much worse chance of walking into well-paid jobs than those who do".

With this in mind what are we to make of that odd-looking bunch of Old Etonians who secured themselves an audience with Vladimir Putin last week? Not a lot, in the view of Sunday Times columnist Camilla Long. "Boris Johnson is the perfect example of an Old Etonian whose management of his person is so bad that all he can do is throw on a suit in the morning and hope he doesn't miss," she writes.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

As for the "hopeless group" of Old Etonians who turned up "in grim boxy suits" at the Kremlin what a disappointment they must have been to the "horrified" school, which "immediately disowned their hideous 70%- off-at-Austin-Reed suits and The Rack tragedy socks by saying it was a private visit' organised by the boys independently of the college'. The whole thing was so Charterhouse,' gasped a friend of mine."

And why were they posing at the Kremlin anyway, asks Long. Whatever happened to the old rule that a gentleman should only appear in the papers three times in his life: when he's born, when he's married and when he dies? I wonder what Oscar Wilde would have made of it all.

Who wants old news?

Jeremy Paxman has labelled the Mature Times "the most unfashionable publication in Britain". Who, he asks, witheringly, "wants to be called mature' like an old cheese? We all know what mature' means: on the verge of incontinence, idiocy and peevish valetudinarianism. They might as well have named it the Surgical Stocking Sentinel'." Why "do the people who run these dreary publications assume that, apart from a cruise somewhere in the company of other virtual corpses, this sort of stuff is all we want"?

Andrew Silk, publisher of the Mature Times, hits back: "Mr Paxman, you have just insulted over 21 million people (yes, that's how many over-50s there are in the UK)". He accused Paxman of being in denial about his age 66. Nonsense. Most of the people I know over 50 don't read the Mature Times and wouldn't want to. This isn't because, as Sarah Vine says in the Daily Mail, we're all baby boomers who haven't grown up. It's because people don't like thinking of themselves as old.

Inside Westminster... "the authorities have misplaced three cities the size of Leicester"

George Osborne's original plan was to leave the government in disgust if the country voted for Brexit, says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. "His plan was almost disclosed in Anthony Seldon's superlative history of the Cameron premiership, but was excised from the first draft after much begging. Seeing this in print was, perhaps, Mr Osborne's first realisation of how cruel history could be to him." Nor was he let down gently by Theresa May, says Nelson: "on the contrary, there are reports that he was summoned to No 10 for a dressing down prior to his defenestration".

Nick Clegg's relationship with Michael Gove began well, says the former deputy PM in his memoirs (serialised in The Guardian). When they had a meal near Clegg's home in Putney, Gove was "charm personified". They disagreed about the A-level system, but good-humouredly over a couple of bottles of wine.

A little over three years later, though, the relationship between the two had soured to such a point that Gove had banned Lib Dem special advisers "from physically entering the Department of Education" and "let loose his somewhat unhinged advisers to brief against me". On one occasion the then education secretary even hid in a loo to avoid speaking to the Lib Dem schools minister David Laws.

"Here's something to cheer you up," says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "There may be almost one million more EU migrants in this country than the government thinks there is. That's because the government is incapable of counting. This is all according to a former top civil servant, a bloke called Jonathan Portes. He reckons the government has been out by about 800,000 people. Yes, that's right. Somehow the authorities have mislaid close to three cities the size of Leicester."

What a scandal. Meanwhile, the new official immigration figures show that our population "has just increased by another 327,000. That's the people coming in who we know about." It seems there is nothing we can do to reduce the flow. Prime minister Theresa May has even given up even pretending she can cut it.