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PM's pants prove problematic

Published: 10:06PM Tuesday February 26, 2002

The British media are raising local hackles after criticising Prime Minister Helen Clark's dress sense at a state dinner for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II - although for her part Clark says the BBC are out of date and out of line.

Accompanying the Queen on her walkabout around Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, Helen Clark chose another designer trouser suit, not entirely dissimilar to the one she wore at a state dinner for the monarch.

The trouser suit, perhaps unconventional in some quarters, earned barely-veiled derision from the BBC when Clark welcomed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to Parliament on Monday.

"New Zealand's Prime Minister...She's the one wearing trousers," sniffed the broadcaster's voice-over to the world's TV audiences.

"Quite what (the Queen) thought of being greeted by a PM in trousers at such a very formal dinner..." smirks the Beeb's visiting royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchel.

"Here's the Queen in a tiara and sashes and medals, and (there is the) Prime Minister in a...very smart pair of trousers," Witchel says, tactfully.

For her part, our Helen thinks the British media should, frankly, get a life.

"I think the BBC should realise this is 2002 and not 1642.

"In New Zealand evening trousers are considered very elegant, and I'm fortunate enough to be able to wear them," laughs the PM.

"Age of equality and all that"

Clark is a strong supporter of the New Zealand fashion industry, and one leading designer was quick to commend her choice of threads.

"I think she looks very smart and casual," says World label designer Denise L'estrange-Corbet. "I don't see any reason why she shouldn't be wearing pants - it's the age of equality and all that.

"I think she's very slim, and got great legs, and why not?"

In fact she says the Queen should - if you will pardon the pun - follow suit.

"Oh definitely. I don't think the Queen wears pants ever, except maybe when she's riding, with her welly boots," says L'estrange-Corbet.

"Yeah, why not?"

Dress sense wasn't the only criticism of New Zealand's first elected female head of state, a republican avowedly in favour of this country removing the Queen as its head of state.

The BBC also chose to attack the Prime Minister's knowledge of protocol at the state banquet.

"The PM (sat) down just as the national anthem was being played," says Nicholas Witchel.

"I think out the corner of her eye, (the Queen) was watching what was happening and was, I should imagine, quite taken aback."

Birthday girl

Despite the fuss, Helen Clark has maintained her characteristically dry sense of humour, no doubt helped by being the birthday girl as her majesty met some of the thousands of loyal subjects who turned out in Auckland.

Clark turned 52 on the 26th of February.

"I think we should completely ignore the British media which follows the Queen around," she says.

"They are waiting for her to trip, or for someone else to stumble. They are basically bored and waiting for something to pick at."

Perhaps not unlike the opposition in her own country.

Some members of parliament here are criticising the decision not to say grace before the state dinner for the Queen in Wellington.

Clark's office maintains that it is a sign that New Zealand is moving towards becoming a more secular society, and that the blessing of a meal using an ancient Christian prayer is no longer appropriate for everyone.

But all that was put aside as Queen Elizabeth toured Auckland, and New Zealand's Prime Minister proved herself almost as popular amongst the public as her more formally-attired visitor.

A trouser suit causing a scandal? Well at least it gives the voice of republicanism a leg up.

© ONE News

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