He might be a New South Welshman but Prime Minister John Howard made sure he was captured by the television cameras on Sunday night in the winning ACT Brumbies’ dressing room with the great George Gregan and not next door with the pathetic losers from Sydney.

There was a little light-hearted banter about the rugby union world cup to come later in the year and the PM having something else to do around that time but the significance of this rare weekend visit to Canberra by Howard was his dress not his words. For on this night at the football John Howard abandoned his tie.

What the gentlemen of the Australian Rugby Union thought of a tie-less guest in their hospitality box is unknown but the casual look is not the normal one for officialdom at this code where even the long-haired Canberra coach and his staff wear suits while supervising the pre-match warm up.

No one would be aware of the protocol better than Mr Howard who has a long history as a cheerer-in-chief at sporting events. The decision to go open-necked was unlikely to have been a deliberate attempt to upset his hosts, which puts a desire to present a relaxed and youthful image as the most likely explanation.

Sunday night, in fact, was the second time in a week that the Prime Minister has appeared on television sans tie. He had a similar casual look when he toured Roxby Downs although viewers of the nightly television news would not have known that because the clips used from that day’s “doorstop” were not about mining and uranium.

Clearly the image makers are at work again on the man who famously had his front teeth capped and his eyebrows trimmed in an earlier pre-election period.

Stand by for further appearances of our PM in the leather jacket he wore on his recent visit to Iraq. The Liberals are out to show that a man does not have to be as young as Kevin Rudd to be a youthful leader.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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