PAUL LICENSE: Dressing down is new dressing up

John bercow
John bercow
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I ONCE came home from work with a shirt I had bought in the sales.

“I’m going to get another tomorrow,” I said excitedly.

John Bercow

John Bercow

My wife took one look at the shirt, which I have to this day, some 20 years later.

“Mmm,” she said. “I’ll come with you.”

It was probably the one and only time I had ever bought some clothes by myself.

I am not safe to be let loose, you see. No sense of style. Zero concept of colour co-ordination. And an emotional bond with the tie-dyed explosion of my Sixties adolescence. It’s a dangerous mix.

So imagine my delight the other day when, browsing off-lead (my wife was looking at handbags) in a shop and I came across a coat I liked. What’s more, when Mrs License joined me, she liked it too and insisted I buy it.

What got me musing along these lines was an item the other day which said Commons Speaker John Bercow has lost some of the respect of some fellow Parliamentarians because he refuses to dress up in traditional garb.

To some extent I can understand the feeling that standards and traditions should be maintained.

But isn’t it a bit rich that blokes who have no imagination at all when it comes to dress sense (they all wear a suit and tie and look alike), should feel that an individual is not worthy of their full respect because he dares to opt for a non-traditional outfit?

You see, Mr Bercow is expected to wear court dress when he is lording it up in the Commons. Frilly cuffs, buckled shoes and whatever else they have backstage at a panto. I imagine some feel it all should come out to add a ceremonial grandeur to the occasion.

But I’m from the comfort corner of a gent’s outfitter.

And all the better if it comes ready-creased.

Mr Bercow is a man after my own heart to some extent.

He reckons he wants to modernise the role of speaker, which includes wearing less formal outfits.

Among those most outspoken on the matter is Baroness Boothroyd - Betty Boothroyd to you and me. The Speaker from 1992-2000 is turning into something of an old fuddy duddy, if you ask me.

She used to be admired for her no-nonsense approach to her duties, keeping rowdy MPs in check with a stern look and a sharp tongue.

However, to me that was all part of her own non-conformity. She had a great way of cutting through pomposity and getting to the basics.

And the basic is governing the country, not worrying about whether the Speaker could double as Dick Whittington if the leading actor was taken ill suddenly.

That is where politicians, in both houses, should be directing their attentions, not scrutinising the wardrobe of the Speaker. Or anyone else for that matter.

Next thing they’ll be coming up with a formula for a well-dressed Parliamentarian. In much the same way bosses at Swiss bank UBS tried to regulate the appearance of its staff.

A ludicrous 44-page dress code, now thankfully revised, told staff how to present themselves. There were detailed instructions to women on how to apply make up and what kind of perfume to wear while men were told how to knot a tie and to avoid beards and earrings.

Heavens knows how John Bercow would have got on.

He’d probably have needed to go shopping for a brand new outfit - and taken his wife with him!