DENIM has been spotted in the House.
Not our House, as in Holyrood, but the Hoose o’ Commons, the big gothic joint where the entertainment never lets up.
The spotter was one Thomas Docherty.
He is a Scottish Labour MP, so you won’t have heard of him. Mr Docherty was black affronted at the sight of leisure wear in such a solemn place as the Palace of Westminster.
So much so that he has asked for a dress code to be drawn up, so that MPs may be perfectly clear as to what they can and cannot wear. For a change, the controversy was not caused by male MPs arriving without ties, exposing their necks to the gaze of all and, on some occasions, sundry.
Nope, it was female MPs who had occasioned Thomas’s ire. This is unusual, as female politicians have much more latitude as to what to wear in Parliament and, indeed, in life generally. At Holyrood, one occasionally notices a tendency among females to overdress, as if the wearer were going to a ball and not to a committee considering a petition about a new sewage outfall facility.
But I don’t recall any particular cases of slovenliness or louche apparel, not since the Socialists lost their seats, at any rate. Among more radical men, certainly, there have been spirited but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to do without neckwear. But these men have been deemed fops and dandies, and their fellows have turned away from them, more out of embarrassment than disgust.
In the end, reluctantly, they reach into the wardrobe for the rack of silky snakes and bung one on. Like most politicians, their motto is: anything for a quiet life.
Back in the Hoose o’ Commons, Mr Docherty got up on his hind legs and spluttered about female MPs “rocking it up in a mixture of denim and knee-length boots”.
Rocking it up, eh? Sounds serious.
I must say that, watching the BBC’s Parliament Channel (well, it was either that or Cash In The Attic), I had noticed knee-length boots on a female MP, and had concluded that these must have been a snow-related choice.
But I doubt if they were particularly practical.
Frankly, they looked decorative and probably had high heels. Not that being practical has much to commend it in aesthetic terms.
You will be familiar with the case of a chap vomiting at the sight of Ann Widdecombe in wellington boots.
No, the knee-length boots under advisement had been put on to attract attention from the male eyelobe. It’s a strange man who doesn’t like a long boot on a female. I have no idea why. Something to do with evolution, I suppose. Professor Richard Dawkins could probably explain it.
And in the Hoose o’ Commons, we see evolution at its highest level. Yes, dispiriting I know. You thought Saturday Night at the Palladium was a better contender.
Mr Docherty went on to complain that some MPs were wearing “such items as denim in the House of Commons and catching the Speaker’s eye”. On this occasion, as luck would have it, the Deputy Speaker was in the chair and she was Dawn Primarolo who, as you will have guessed from the handle, is a female.
According to the BBC, Tommy asked her for guidance “as to what is an appropriate dress code for the Mother of Parliaments”.
Oh God. Only a Scottish Labour MP. If that chap who saw Ann Widdecombe in wellies is finished, I might have to borrow his bucket.
Ms Primarolo said it was not her place to comment on the “sartorial elegance” of members, but she thought all MPs knew to dress smartly. It’s the only way to be taken seriously. Hasn’t worked so far.
Later, Mr Docherty said some Tory and Lib Dem MPs had been wearing not just denim, but black denim, with leather jackets and the aforementioned boots. Crikey. They were starting to sound like east European men.
Tam said he was not looking for a “return to coat and tails”, but feared that, if women were going to wear dark denim, we might see a situation in which “gentlemen rocked up in, as the Americans now often do, chinos and a sports jacket”.
That was a grim picture to paint, even if I am unfamiliar with the expression “rocking up”, to which Mr D seems peculiarly attached. He is implying, I guess, that chinos and sports jackets are more the sort of apparel worn by wild rock stars. Perhaps he had Phil Collins in mind.
As in so many matters, Holyrood is ahead of Westminster in terms of a dress code. It says: “Members will not turn up to the chamber looking like berks.” This caused controversy when first drawn up, as several members looked like berks no matter what they wore.
However, it was later clarified that the code applied solely to apparel, and not to the habitual facial expression or hairstyle of members. Perhaps it would simplify matters if clear instructions were given that all male MSPs must wear ties and all female members thigh-length boots. Then everybody would be happy.