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Does fashion have a place in politics?

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Should women in politics be critiqued on their dress sense?

When Nick Clegg’s wife, lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez stepped out recently wearing burgundy tights and scarlet shoes she received a barrage of criticism over her fashion choice. But does it really matter what female politicians, and the partners of political leaders wear?

Two of our writers battled it out in our latest issue, but we want to know what YOU think. Read their sides of the story, and then let us know your views in the comments box below.

YES, says journalist Celia Walden

“Women have always been judged on their appearance. We’re expected to dress for whichever ‘part’ it is that we want to play. For most of us that means turning up to work in a decent length skirt. For people in the political public eye, including party leaders’ wives, it means actively promoting allegiance through a trouser-suit, dress or handbag – the full body equivalent of the male politician’s tie. Miriam Durantez will be photographed in public, whether she likes it or not. And because she is married to the deputy prime minister people will look at her outfit and try to assess what her agenda is.

Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, Sarah Brown, Samantha Cameron and Carla Bruni have all seen clever dressing as an extra tool at their disposal. They know that the camera won’t love them for their principles, but that those principles can only be reinforced by their appearance, never eroded. It’s common sense.”

NO, says Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan

“It’s about as relevant as politicians being judged on their ability to swim. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s multiple makeovers are a sad misdirection of her time and resources. That Theresa May’s leopard print shoes can come to define her is beyond risible. Do we know how good the former French Justice Minister is at her job, or is it enough to know that she can pull a fabulous outfit together just five days after giving birth? Even wives of the elected do not escape, as Sarah Brown has found standing next to Carla Bruni.

We should fight hard against the impulse to judge Miriam by any other criteria than her professional competence. As long as our elected representatives aren’t wandering round Westminster in stained dressing gowns or anything else that strongly suggests a mind not completely on the job, we should focus our attention exclusively on what they say and do and on the huge gulf between the two…”

Where do you stand in the politics and fashion debate? Share your views by commenting below.

Picture credits: Rex Features

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