February 7, 2020

I am incandescently, irretrievably, existentially, outrageously bored bored bored of thinking about what clothes MPs should wear.

I was bored a decade ago when Julia Goldsworthy got told off for wearing formal shorts in Parliament. I was bored when Tom Brake upset Peter Bone by asking a question without wearing a tie. I was bored when Jeremy Corbyn was accused of disrespect for wearing a donkey jacket to the Cenotaph. I was bored when Theresa May was pilloried for wearing expensive trousers. And this week I am so much more bored by it all that I fear my head may explode simply because Tracy Brabin decided to reveal the scandalous truth that she has a shoulder underneath her clothes.

These are the people who run our country. They make decisions that matter. Their clothes do not matter. H&M or Hermès. Trousers or skirt. Shoulders bare or swathed in cashmere: clothes signify nothing about the content of your character. I would say I wouldn’t care if they turned up in a clown suit, except that I would care because the godforsaken newspapers would run pages and pages about who had the longest shoe or the best-applied lipstick, and I’d have to hide under a bush for a week just to escape it all.

And I’m sorry, I can’t even summon the energy to be feminist-ly outraged by the attempt to police Tracy Brabin’s fashion choices because, well, you know: the internet melted when Obama wore a beige suit, and you could probably cover Norfolk with newspaper photos of Dominic Cummings looking shabby, as if that affected the workings of his brain.

There’s only one solution to make all this stop. Uniforms.

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Why you can't dress up a state school

By Polly Mackenzie

What I have in mind are jumpsuits, issued in party colours, made of the same thick polyester they make children’s school trousers out of, so they don’t need ironing or carry stains. They should be just ill-fitting enough to ensure no-one can look attractive in them, because there are several Parliamentarians who could probably rock the jumpsuit look. And we don’t want anyone looking attractive, lest it distract the public from hating their MPs, as they are supposed to do.

On the front would be a little name badge, like the ones janitors wear in American high school movies. This would be a huge benefit to news broadcasters and picture editors at newspapers: no more pesky mix ups between black women MPs who dare to have similar skin colour and hair styles to one another. (White male MPs have, of course, have had similar skin colour and hair styles to one another for hundreds of years, but inexplicably never got mixed up. Nevertheless, the name badges would help avoid future confusion even for them. Some are getting a little old, after all).

And we’d stick the constituency names on the back, like on a football shirt, to make it easier to remember who represents are — essential, given MPs are (bizarrely) still not allowed to refer to one another by name.

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Let's junk our electoral system

By Tim Bale

Wearing party colours would also be a boon to MPs. No more would fellow MPs assume Kemi Badenoch or Bim Afolami are part of the Labour party, simply because of the colour of their skin. The radiant blue would announce their affiliation to the world. And no female or ethnic minority MP would ever again be mistaken for a secretary, because the jumpsuits would only be issued to the elected representatives, as a symbol of their high office.

Just imagine how gloriously colourful Parliamentary events would become. No more boring sea of charcoal and navy suits, enlivened only by the occasional bright dress. Instead, a surging sea of red and blue, with hints of yellow, orange, and green. A live action recreation of a Jeremy Vine election-night animation, played out daily for all to see. A source of bright light and optimism for the whole nation.

You may think this absurd. But judges wear uniforms. Police officers wear uniforms. Fire fighters, nurses, checkout assistants at B&Q. Black Rod wears a uniform, and hers includes knee breeches, which are several measures more absurd than a jumpsuit. So many of our fellow citizens consider a uniform routine that there’s even a dating site for uniformed professionals — surely many of our single MPs would be delighted to join their serried ranks, in search of love.

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The problem with political journalism

By Peter Franklin

It shouldn’t have come to this. Human beings are smart, and capable. Why are we so easily distracted by the design of a collar? The cut of a coat? The colour of a pointless piece of fabric encircling someone’s neck? We’re rather like the dog in the movie Up: capable of thought and speech, but instantly bedazzled by a squirrel passing into view. We know we should care about the words, the meaning and the impact on lives, but if there’s a sequin in view, our frontal lobes shut off and the lizard brain responds: “Scandal!”

After all: can anyone tell me what question Tracy Brabin asked while wearing the offending item? It’s hard to pay attention when all you hear is outrage, pomposity and misogyny. Only uniforms can save us from our weak little distractible minds. In the Jumpsuit Parliament, we would be obliged to focus on what our representatives said. Instead of filling pages and pixels with fashion analysis and faux outrage we’d have to focus on the facts.

MPs might even have an incentive to spend their time on policy, not polish. Or is that the biggest fantasy of them all?

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