Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 13:26 UK

Harman and Hague clash on fashion

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman on patrol wearing the stab proof jacket

Harriet Harman says she will not be taking sartorial advice from William Hague after he mocked her for wearing a stab-proof jacket in her constituency.

On Tuesday Ms Harman had defended the choice of jacket, saying it was like wearing a hard hat on a building site.

Mr Hague referred to this 'appropriate clothing' policy, and said "presumably" she "dressed as a clown" for Cabinet.

In her PM's questions debut Ms Harman said the "man in a baseball cap" was the last person to give advice.

Ms Harman was standing in for Gordon Brown who is attending a Nato summit in Bucharest.

'Sisterly advice'

Mr Hague said he had planned "to be nice" to Ms Harman, saying that she "had had a difficult week".

He was referring to newspaper claims that her decision to wear a stab-proof vest while on patrol with police in her Peckham constituency suggested she did not feel safe on the streets.

Mr Hague said: "You had to explain yesterday that you dress in accordance with wherever you go - you wear a helmet to a building site, you wear Indian clothes to Indian parts of your constituency.

"Presumably when you go to a cabinet meeting you dress as a clown."

But - in good-natured exchanges - Ms Harman hit back by referring to the time when Mr Hague was derided for his headgear while Tory leader in the 1990s.

"If am looking for advice on what to wear or what not to wear, I think the very last person I would look to for advice is the man in a baseball cap," she said.

The knockabout exchanges came after Mr Hague pointed out that it was the first time a woman had taken to the despatch box for Labour at PMQs - more than 30 years after Margaret Thatcher had done so for the Conservatives.

Ms Harman replied by asking Mr Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, why he was asking the questions instead of the shadow Commons leader Theresa May, who was sitting next to him.

"Is this the situation in the modern Conservative Party? That women should be seen, but not heard?" she said.

To Mrs May, she added: "And if I may, perhaps I could offer some sisterly advice - you should not let him get away with it."


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