Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, has been dropped from a list of moderate Conservative MPs who are set for a private meeting with the prime minister next Wednesday, after she criticised Theresa May for wearing £995 trousers.
The group, whose members include advocates of a soft Brexit such as Alistair Burt, Nicholas Soames, Nick Herbert and Anna Soubry, had been invited in to No 10 to discuss the government’s strategy for handling the article 50 negotiations with the other 27 EU-member states.
Morgan was initially among them; but the invitation was withdrawn after she gave an interview in which she criticised May.
“Disinviting Nicky because of a comment on the prime minister’s trousers is frankly playground politics,” said one backbencher involved.
Morgan, who has become a trenchant critic of the government since being sacked by May, said the prime minister’s choice of the designer leather trousers, which she wore for a photoshoot with the Sunday Times, had been “noticed and discussed” in local Tory circles.
“I don’t have leather trousers. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on anything apart from my wedding dress,” Morgan said.
May’s irritation about Morgan’s remarks may have been exacerbated after she was questioned about the trousers by reporters on her flight to visit Bahrain earlier this week.
Asked if her wardrobe choices showed she was out of touch with ordinary voters, May responded: “I stood on the steps of Downing Street and said what I did about the importance of a country that works for everyone because that’s what I have heard from people as I’ve gone around the country, as I’ve met people in a whole variety of circumstances.
“I believe it is important for politicians to get out and about and that’s what I continue to do. It is important we have a country that works for everyone.”
Some of the MPs in the informal coalition of backbenchers were among potential rebels who threatened to back Labour’s motion calling on May to publish more detailed plans for her Brexit negotiating stance last Wednesday.
Some hope to use the meeting to express their irritation at the government’s last-minute decision to amend Labour’s motion, by committing the Commons to May’s self-imposed end of March deadline for invoking article 50, the formal process for leaving the EU.
MPs voted overwhelmingly for the amended motion, with only diehard Europhile Kenneth Clarke opposing it; but some Conservatives felt bounced into expressing support for Brexit without having seen the prime minister’s negotiating stance.
A No 10 spokesman said he would not comment on any specific meeting, adding: “The prime minister meets and engages with colleagues all the time.”
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