Falling foul of the dress code

Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke North

MP Jonathan Gullis' crime? He was wearing a jumper and not a jacket. - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

I don’t suppose even the most enthusiastic of political geeks have heard of Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke on Trent. He is not the most likely rebel. 

But he has caused a rumpus in Westminster for a serious crime; he appeared in an on-line commons debate 'improperly dressed'.

He was not topless like a political Poldark, although it is possible that he wasn’t wearing trousers. No-one can tell on Zoom.

His crime, according to the deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing, was that he was wearing a jumper and not a jacket.

Suitably chased, if not suitable dressed he quickly changed.  

He is not the first MP to fall foul of the dress code.

Jeremy Hunt was in trouble with the speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle for daring to appear in an open-necked shirt, although ties are no longer compulsory for honourable members.

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Should MPs look the part in the same way that barristers wear 18th-century wigs? 

Whenever I gave evidence in court I tried to look like a doctor. It impressed the jury.

I was also told of a case when an alleged drink driver refused to give blood on the grounds that the doctor did not look like a doctor.

The doctor involved turned up in court to give evidence wearing a T-shirt and jeans.

The magistrate took one look, agreed with the defendant and acquitted him.

At medical school we had to wear a tie, even in lectures. I would have been thrown off the ward if I had arrived in an open-necked shirt or even a jumper.

We were told that, as a doctor we might have to break terrible news or discuss very personal subjects.

A patient or family would only have faith in my opinion if I looked like a doctor.

There is another side. If the doctor is immaculate in a suit and tie will the patient feel intimidated? Will the appearance act as a barrier? 

The good news is that I have never been immaculate.  

My aim was for no-one to notice. I hoped that if any patient leaving my room was asked what I was wearing they would not be able to remember.  

Some patients did appear to worry. We registered a patient who had left an excellent local practice.

“I couldn’t stay with him,” she argued. “He wore shorts in the summer”.

This did not appear to me to be a reason to lose faith in his medical opinion, especially as he was a local GP with an excellent well-deserved reputation.

I could not see the problem although half my list would leave if they saw my legs. 

One medical student in our practice had a tongue stud. I was not sure if that was appropriate and so I rang his tutor at the university. 

The response was that any consultation must focus on the patient. Anything that focuses on the doctor, such as a tongue stud interferes with the consultation. I politely suggested that the tongue stud was not a good idea. 

I had to be even more careful discussing the dress code for women. 

A female colleague complained to me that a female student was wearing a very low-cut top.

I was not sure that a male GP was the right person to mention this but as I was supervising the students it was my role. I tactfully brought the subject up.

For the rest of her time with us she wore very high necklines which would have looked appropriate on a nun.  

Another one of our trainee female GPs had a serious wardrobe malfunction.

She wore a wraparound skirt, got out of her car in Watcombe and the skirt blew off. I am not sure how many people saw it, but it might have impressed our male patients.  

I have just noticed I am not wearing a tie in my photo accompanying this column so do not believe anything I write. 

Perhaps you should read Jim Parker’s piece above. It must be good. He’s wearing a tie.