Covid: MP told to 'dress properly' for House of Commons debate

Published
image copyrightParliamentlive.TV
image captionJonathan Gullis swapped his jumper for a shirt and jacket

Comfy loungewear may be the outfit of choice for many people now working from home - but it is not allowed in the House of Commons.

An MP taking part in a virtual debate on Tuesday was told he was not allowed to speak until he was "properly dressed".

Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent, tried to speak from his kitchen while wearing a jumper.

But the debate chairwoman made him skip his turn until he wore a jacket.

Deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing was about to invite Mr Gullis to speak before noticing his attire.

"We now go to... we now go... no, I don't think we do go to Stoke-on-Trent, the honourable gentleman has to be dressed as if he were here in the chamber," she said.

"So we will not go to Stoke-on-Trent, we will try to come back to Mr Gullis in due course, but we will go now to Chesterfield, (with Labour MP) Toby Perkins."

image copyrightParliamentlive.TV
image captionBefore he put on a shirt, tie and jacket, Mr Gullis was wearing a jumper (top left)

There is no exact dress code for the House of Commons, but the rules say men must wear jackets, although ties are not needed. Jeans, T-shirts, sandals and trainers are also not appropriate.

Dame Eleanor later returned to Mr Gullis, who appeared online again wearing a jacket.

"We are now going back to Stoke-on-Trent, where I observe that the honourable gentleman is now properly dressed," she said.

"Lest anyone should be confused, when people are participating virtually then they are appearing in this chamber, the chamber of the House of Commons, and therefore it is absolutely imperative that everybody taking part in these debates should be dressed in the way that they would be in the House of Commons."

Mr Gullis replied: "Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker, the jacket is now on! Apologies."

image copyrightParliamentlive.TV
image captionThe dress code faux pas happened during a debate on support for businesses and individuals during the pandemic

Later, Dame Eleanor said: "It's not about etiquette or fashion, it's about respect."

She told BBC Essex that she "quite often" pulled up MPs on their state of dress in the Commons - but before the pandemic, it was "more subtly done... I would just quietly call them over to the chair".

She added that Mr Gullis was "a very good member of Parliament" and "a hard-working chap".

Zoom dress code

Last year, as millions across the country began working from home en masse, retailers said that demand for loungewear had soared. Professionals reported swapping their corporate clothing for something more relaxed.

Loungewear became fashionable, with even Vogue editor-in-chief Dame Anna Wintour photographed working from home in her joggers.

The Guardian and others have written about a so-called "Zoom shirt" - a shirt or blouse kept near to the desk and which is easily accessible for online meetings.

Meanwhile, some home workers across the country have even been livening up Friday online team meetings by holding them in fancy dress.

media captionFrom pet and child interruptions to catching fire, here's a look at the times online meetings went wrong

Some big firms were already relaxing its dress code before the pandemic.

In 2019, US investment bank Goldman Sachs announced it had relaxed its dress code allowing its employees to dress more casually - although it would not be appropriate for every situation. Other banks like JP Morgan have taken similar steps.

During the first lockdown in April, the company Debretts, which offers guidance on British etiquette, issued advice for people communicating with colleagues over video call.

"If you're presenting to prospective clients, wear something suitably formal for an office environment," it suggested. "You might be able to dress down for meetings, but keep it professional and avoid sportswear, loungewear or nightwear (at least as far as is visible)."

media captionZoomOut allows you to pull a cord to end the call

More on this story