LONDON Never mind Brexit and Britain’s economic future, it’s a pair of decorator trousers worn by the UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the childish spat that followed that’s currently predominating headlines.
The saga which has been dubbed #trousergate may sound entertaining, but it risks undermining the credibility of women in UK politics.
Theresa May the second ever female British “ministers ” is currently at the helm of mothership Britannia as it veers away from the European union and towards triggering Article 50, because, in May’s own words, “Brexit means Brexit.”
She has approached her entire political career with steely determination. But somehow she is now embroiled in an almighty row after she did something unconscionable she wore a pair of distinctive trousers while doing a photoshoot for a newspaper interview.
The ‘Mean Girls’ spat
These weren’t just any old trousers. They were 995 ($ 1,258) brown leather Amanda Wakeley trousers. And, one former government minister took umbrage with them.
Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who was demoted when May first took office told The Times that the trousers had been “noticed and discussed” in Tory circles. “I don’t have leather trousers. I don’t believe I’ve ever spent that much on anything apart from my wedding dress.”
The saga didn’t aim there. Morgan who along with Tory MP Alistair Burt was due to meet the PM on Wednesday to discuss Brexit strategy was told not to attend, after a vitriolic exchange of text that would not be out of place in the movie Mean Girls .
The vitriolic text messages
Theresa May’s joint joint chiefs of staff Fiona Hill was reportedly incensed after reading Morgan’s comments and fired off a text to Burt saying: “Don’t bring that girl to Downing Street again”.
Morgan responded with: “If you don’t like something I have said or done, please tell me immediately. No man brings me to any meeting. Your squad invites me. If you don’t want my views in future sessions you need to tell them.”
Hill responded in turn with a curt: “Well, he just did. So there! “
A unwanted distraction?
As if this epic tale of political woe wasn’t bad enough, Morgan then get taken to chore by the Daily Mail for owning a Mulberry Bayswater handbag, which costs 950 ($ 1,204 ), highlighting the double standard in her earlier remarks.
Did we mention that Theresa May was on her style to gratify six leaders of countries in the Middle East to sign a new package of joint measures to improve airport security and prevent terrorist attacks? Apparently that’s not as interesting as a pair of trousers. No wonder she is exasperated.
The politics of fashion
That a female politician’s trousers let alone the prime minister’s are considered remotely newsworthy is truly mind-boggling. But, the media attention and subsequent social media reaction is alarming because of the message it sends out.
This very public disagreement matters for several important reasons.
This isn’t the first time that Theresa May’s sartorial options and not her politics have become the focus. When May assumed her new role as “ministers ” in July, it was her love of high heels not her inaugural speech, or even her stance on Brexit that was the focus. “May’s a shoe-in, ” declared one headline. “Hot shoe reshuffle, ” read another.
By stark contrast, the headlines from David Cameron’s first days as “ministers ” back in 2010 didn’t mention anything to do with his style sense “Dave new world, ” joked the Sun as The Telegraph led with “Cameron, PM.”At these key moments, there is a very pronounced disparity in the way the media talks about males and politicians.
Five months after May took office, she’s still dealing with the same old shit headlines and tweets about her clothes. Sure, the trousers were expensive, but what about the plethora of decorator suits, shoes and watches donned by male politicians on a daily basis in the House of Commons? And why is it so controversial for a woman to look smart-alecky?
In all probability, Theresa May has invested fund in an outfit to ensure she does not seem scruffy in a photoshoot for a national newspaper. But, instead, the takeaway message is that our “ministers ” is a woman who likes clothes and shoes and is hence frivolous and not a serious person.
MI5 ranks the UK’s current threat level for international terrorism as severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely. These are the questions the “ministers ” has to think about on a daily basis because contrary to what you might have read lately she’s a serious politician. Isn’t it day we and our newspapers started treating her so?