Trousergate: The True Scandal of British Politics | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Trousergate: The True Scandal of British Politics

Commentator Bea Harvie questions whether 'trousergate' is really the most important thing we have to talk about right now, and why are we bothering anyway?

In a land of democracy, and a time of gender equality – oh no, wait, apparently not. There is now such a thing as ‘Trousergate’. You heard me. The media is in a frenzy over a comment Conservative former Minister for Education Nicky Morgan made about Prime Minister Theresa May’s choice of trousers. They were leather. Cost a couple of months rent for the likes of you and me.

Apparently, in this perilous time with Brexit and with Aleppo a war zone, the target for British journalism is the emerging row between Morgan and May. Over wardrobe expenses.

The argument arouse after Nicky Morgan, who was sacked as Education Secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle, made a comment about Mrs May’s £995 leather trousers worn in a Times photoshoot. Despite the fact that the ‘at home’ interview was about Brexit, the media have run wild with a comment made by Morgan that she ‘didn’t have leather trousers’, and wasn’t sure if she’d spent that much on anything except her wedding dress.

It seems incredible, as a woman, we are told that we are equal, that it doesn’t matter what we look like. Well, clearly it does.

Another female Tory MP responded to Morgan’s comment, accusing her of sexism as there were never comments on the expensive suits David Cameron wore, and it’s all escalated from there. Morgan has just pulled out of Have I Got News For You, where she was supposed to guest star, and May’s aide Fiona Hill supposedly banned Morgan from a discussion about Brexit views at Number 10. Morgan’s handbag has been dragged into it, and, to top it all off, Boris Johnson has chimed in. He apparently joked that Mrs May’s trousers look like lederhosen. Thank you Mr Johnson. That is literally "Leather Trousers".

It seems incredible, as a woman, we are told that we are equal, that it doesn’t matter what we look like. Well, clearly it does. Of all the important things to be commenting on regarding Brexit, are Theresa May’s trousers really of that importance? Alas, let us remember when the Mail front page was about May getting her kitten heel stuck outside Number 10.

The sad fact of the matter is that women are undermining women, and the people of the media are pouncing on it. It is a delightful distraction! Let’s remind the British public how utterly unqualified women are for public office! Look at them, having a petty argument over wardrobe choice and snide comments. It is tokenism in its finest form: women occupying positions of political power having a spat over something supposedly trivial.

The BBC suggested that this argument has less to do with clothing choices, and more to do with the growing divide between the members of the party who want a soft Brexit, and disagree with May’s hard Brexit approach. Morgan has publicly disagreed with May on many areas of policy: the Government’s haze of mystery surrounding the Brexit plan, the reprioritisation of illegal immigrants in schools, the reinstatement of grammar schools. ‘Trousergate’ has been suggested as a new manifestation of the growing divide within the Conservative Party. Even the Times has commented that Mrs May’s handling of Trousergate has been troubling, suggesting she develop a thicker skin.

So the question I have to ask: why does it still matter? We have more important things to be worrying about! Trousergate just represents how the media treats female politicians. No-one comments on David Cameron’s suit choices. Maybe we should start analysing every aspect of men’s wardrobe. It’s worth a try. If we are going to ignore the actual politics, we should at least be gender indiscriminate about it.

MA English Language and Applied Linguistics student, fourth year at the good old UoB. Dancer, reader, avid film and tv watcher and theatre goer. I honestly just roll with it! (@SimplyBeaH)


15th December 2016 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

15th December 2016 at 2:28 am

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