Today in Parliament many members of the Cabinet, who are either millionaires or Liberal Democrats, were showing off the latest accessory for very rich people: Fairtrade punkah-wallahs, ethically sourced from Indian villages and dressed in traditional colonial-era clothing.
Punkah-wallahs are servants whose job it is to constantly fan their master by manually swinging a fan attached to the ceiling. They have largely fallen out of fashion since the decline of the British Empire, surviving only in the best parts of Mayfair. "Part of it was just that the weather in Britain so seldom required it," explains Cherie Noughten of Vogue. "But global warming is sorting that out for us. And then for a long time there wasn't enough excess wealth swilling around in the trough to restart the fashion. Now the country is led by very rich people again it's the perfect time for punkah-wallahs to be rehabilitated."
In order to throw off any lingering whiff of colonial exploitation, each punkah-wallah now comes with a Fairtrade mark guarantee. "They're all paid more than adequate wages – for India anyway," explained one cabinet minister. "So there's even enough for their families to eat too. And some percentage of the money goes to community projects." When asked what the community projects were he shrugged, "I'm damned if I know what a punkah-wallah does with excess cash. Hire a punkah-wallah maybe?"
Meanwhile other MPs are complaining that the punkah-wallahs are taking up too much space on the benches in Parliament. "Admittedly it's cooler in there now," said one on condition of anonymity, "But now we have to really squeeze up on the benches and I don't think everyone uses deodorant. I'd really rather smell my own sweat than Denis Macshane's."
But with its new 'ethical cool' image, a punkah-wallah is the latest must-have accessory around town and fashion experts don't think it's about to go away. "You've got to remember," said one, "The previous fashion for punkah-wallahs lasted several hundred years, so we've got to expect them to be with us for quite some time."