Several months ago whilst visiting Momy Levy I was very flattered that he presented me with one of his ties. He also told me an interesting tale.
When he first produced the ties he presented one to his uncle Sir Joshua Hasssan. At the time Joe Bossano was the leader of the opposition so to be fair Momy also presented him with a tie too. After a while it became clear that whilst Sir Joshua never wore the tie Joe always did. Eventually Momy challenged his uncle asking why he didn’t wear his tie when the leader of the opposition did - to which Sir Joshua replied: “I have lots of ties, Joe only has one!”
Well I haven’t examined Joe’s tie rack but I know he has more than one now because Momy has given them to him in several colours. Mine has a blue background and not being a tie person was proud to put it around my neck for Charles Bruzon’s funeral. I knew it would amuse Charles because around a year earlier we had attended a formal dinner. As I walked along the corridor of the Rock Hotel to meet Charles and Marilou in the bar wearing a tie and jacket Charles gasped in astonishment declaring he’d never seen me in anything but jeans and an open shirt before!
Last week I went to Kyustendil in Bulgaria as a member of the team of international observers sent by the Party of European Socialists. There was also another team from the OSCE (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) as well as such organisations as Transparency International. I decided that Momy’s tie should come too.
There were two reasons for this. First the Union Flag clearly marks me as being British as I am described on my official pass from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However the tie also bears the flag of Gibraltar which I suspected might come in handy.
Let me explain: when I attended the PES conference in Budapest in March it soon became clear that the British Labour Party was not the flavour of the month amongst many European socialists: it was the Parti Socialiste from France that holds sway. However on such occasions I could always promptly get onside by proclaiming my membership of the GSLP instead, which was both warmly welcomed and seen as being “European”.
Surely what had served me well in Budapest would also do the trick in Sofia. It did and it didn’t. We were all given Bulgarian Socialist Party pens with our election monitoring packs which were then swiftly withdrawn as it became clear such partisan articles couldn’t be allowed in to the polling stations. We had to be seen to be neutral: so sadly Momy’s tie with its British - Gibraltarian insignia was also banned.
However I did proudly wear it at social occasions with other socialists in Bulgaria. Some knew of Gibraltar, others had a vague sense of its existence; there were even some who had never heard of it. Well they do know because the tie was the perfect introduction to Gibraltar and became a talking point – which of course is what Momy had intended in the first place.