The new emperor’s sleeves

«We got the message,» said New Democracy officials following the bitter result of the European parliamentary elections in June. «Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work hard to make up for the lost ground,» they added. They may indeed have got the message but no one bothered to decipher it, at least not seriously and certainly not on television panels. No conservative party official appeared on TV to analyze the election outcome. This time the message was sent from the cell phones of electoral officials, so that there would be no room for misinterpretation. New Democracy trailed PASOK by more than 10 points and power for the conservatives was just a memory, just like the miracle-working skills of their former leader. As for rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business, well there is not much we can say about that: New Democracy cadres have been wearing T-shirts since June and even now, in October, after a nice long holiday on Myconos, many of them still have the hint of a summer tan. George Papandreou, the triumphant Socialist leader, has already pledged to roll up his sleeves. Paradoxically, PASOK’s last campaign spot showed PASOK’s leader not rolling up his sleeves but instead rolling them down so that he could finally get into his suit, the suit of power. Papandreou could then be seen uttering a very theatrical «Let’s go» before walking into the crowds. The television camera stayed focused on the political icon, closely following his feet and brand-new shoes. «Let’s go, then.» Theatrically. Like a play for which the casting was done decades ago. Like a play that has been staged again and again. Perplexed, or rather sarcastic, foreign journalists are already asking if Papandreou has any children and what they are called.