The Shirts Off Their Backs

I'll let you into a secret: the British Treasury Secretary will be getting some rather unusual Christmas presents from people he barely knows.

I've got one here, as a matter of fact. It's a shirt. A used shirt. Sent in by a disgruntled businessman who wants to remind the British Government that they've already taken all his profits in taxation and tied him up in rules and red tape so they might as well have the shirt off his back into the bargain.

A pointed little one-man joke, end of story? Not quite. This all began in Germany where industrialists took a dislike to the tax policies of their Government and started to send shirts to Chancellor Schroeder. The poor man has so far been bombarded with 6000 Teutonic tailored garments, many in gaudy colours, most of them un-laundered, many of them extremely smelly, and all making the same crude political point. The German Chancellor's office ran out of hangers in two days flat.

Well, never to be outdone by the Germans, BRITISH businessmen are busily unbuttoning right now. And threatening to throw in the odd sock, braces and pinstriped suits too. Silly? Of course it is. But it makes headlines, and these publicity stunts do tend to spread.

So, maybe that's why George Bush got rid of Paul O'Neill, your accident-prone Treasury Secretary, before the shirts started hitting town. I gather the new man's called John Snow. But by the look of him he doesn't need a shirt…. but he could certainly do with a hairpiece. Happy Christmas!
By Ed Boyle