The opposing sides of the House of Commons face each other across a strip of carpet two rapier lengths wide. When you stand at the dispatch box, you realise it looks a lot bigger on the telly.
There was a time when MPs had a full dressing-up box to reflect their personality: periwigs, jodhpurs, top hats . Bernie Grant once attended the State Opening in full African drag (Betty Boothroyd sent him down a note: ‘You look splendid,’ it said, and he did). So spare a thought for Environment Secretary Owen Patterson who stepped out of his ministerial car, dressed in regulation MP’s uniform, and found himself in a town called trouble.
Well, Somerset, actually, but the residents didn’t take kindly to Mr Patterson’s choice of footwear. The Parrett and Tone rivers have gone un-dredged for nearly ten years, and the recent rains have burst the banks. Septic tanks have overflown, raw sewage is floating through people’s homes, businesses cannot trade, schools cannot open, but this country has a proud tradition of stiff-upper-lippedness that could only be broken by… The sight of a pair of freshly polished shoes gingerly emerging from the car, and finding the ground more yielding and sticky than they are used to in Westminster.
Described by one resident as ‘the final insult,’ the choice of footwear goes to demonstrate that sometimes it’s the little things that push people over the edge.
Mind you, if he had put on a pair of wellies, doubtless a spin doctor would’ve agonised over what type:
As worn by Her Majesty the Queen. A good standard Wellington with a royal pedigree. But the big question: do you emerge with them in pristine, box-fresh condition? Or do you smear the toes in mud at a service station and pop them in the footwell with the heater on full blast to give the authentic ‘outdoorsy’ look? Either way, the colour alone smacks of aristocratic privilege.
Le Chameau ‘Vierzonord’
Worse. These will set you back around £300. The Duchess of Cambridge favours them, but they are clearly unacceptable for an austerity government.
Badly fitting, black and uncomfortable. Known as a labourer’s boot. Perhaps acceptable for very old school left wing politicians, not ideal for these post-Blair days.
Boring, standard, but yes. Nobody will get excited by these, and surely that’s the point. They are unmistakably British, but are made in China, who we’re currently being REALLY NICE to. A win all round, with or without the artificially-applied mud (in Somerset, boots don’t stay clean for long these days).
Back in the world of events, The Farmers Weekly Awards, held each year in the ballroom of a prestigious Mayfair hotel, regularly engages the services of a glamorous hostess to hand out the gongs. It is considered good form for the presenter to put on a great frock, have her hair done – and finish the look off by wearing a pair of wellies. And if it’s good enough for Mayfair, it’s good enough for Somerset.
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