Nick Clegg is The Sun’s Hero of the Week… again

Perhaps it’s a pre-Leveson softening up exercise. Or perhaps we’ve activated a Lib Dem sleeper agent at the heart of Wapping. Whatever the explanation, Nick Clegg has been awarded the accolade — for the second time in three weeks — of being The Sun’s Hero of the Week. I’m not sure the reasons for which the paper has saluted him will do him many favours with all Lib Dems, but (simply in the spirit of sharing) here goes anyway…

The Sun, 12th October, 2012

Notwithstanding the fact that he was our Hero of the Week just three weeks ago, we have rarely been slow to criticise Nick Clegg. His slavish devotion to the EU, his potty support for the Alternative Vote and his obsession with House of Lords reform have all, quite rightly, seen him pilloried on here over the last couple of years. But credit where it’s due. On Radio Five Live today, the Deputy PM was asked to support a campaign – which is backed by his Lib Dem colleague Lynne Featherstone among others – to have The Sun’s Page 3 banned. It would have been easy for him to score an easy political point in front of a live BBC audience by saying he backed it. But he didn’t. Indeed, he went further by pointing out that it was not the Government’s role to tell editors what they should put in the pages of their newspapers. He even said he was relaxed about his children looking at it when they’re older. Mr Clegg’s advice to those eager to have it scrapped was simple: “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.” Ms Featherstone et al – please take note.

The Sun, 28th September, 2012

For more than two years, Nick Clegg has been a political punch-bag And not without good reason. His humiliating U-turn on tuition fees, the national rejection of his plans to change the voting system and his petulant rejection of boundary changes after the Tories blocked House of Lords reform have all been worthy of scorn. Even his attempt to say sorry for trebling rather than scrapping tuition fees backfired when it was set to music and became a YouTube hit. So it’s to his enormous credit that despite all the setbacks, the Lib Dem boss delivered such a powerful speech to his party’s conference this week. Challenging his delegates to get used to the hard choices of Government rather than the comfort of opposition, he insisted that spending cuts were vital to the UK’s long-term economic health. It may not have been the message his delegates – many of whom wish the party were in coalition with Labour rather than the Conservatives – wanted to hear, but it will have played well in the real world. Nick Clegg’s political obituary has already been written by many, but his speech suggested he could still be alive and kicking after the next election.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • In other words, the Lib Dem leader is now appealing to a Murdoch controlled centre-right tabloid.

    Nice work.

    And they’ve even managed to pit him against one of his own ministers on Page 3.

    Nice mischief making on their part. Not sure it’s something you want to draw attention to though.

  • Normally praise from the Sun is not something to be advertised, but I have to say I agree with Nick 100% on this one. I have great respect for Lynne, but ban page 3 just because we don’t like it? I think she’s got this completely wrong and it’s hardly a liberal stance to take.

  • Richard Dean 13th Oct '12 - 2:08pm

    The Sun is our natural ally, isn’t it? More so than, say, the Guardian. The Sun has always campaigned for popular liberal issues, for freedom, and has never been slow to expose pompous or stupid or corrupt behaviour in office. It also usually presents infomation in interesting ways, helping to keep people involved. These are all good things.

  • mike cobley 13th Oct '12 - 2:11pm

    The Sun In Ironic Headline Shock!

  • Nick (not Clegg) 13th Oct '12 - 3:11pm

    @ Richard Dean,

    I trust that you have your tongue firmly in cheek!!!

  • Tony Dawson 13th Oct '12 - 3:31pm

    Of course it should never be banned by law. Nor should it be tolerated. There are an awful lot of ways of getting rubbish off our streets besides legislation. We should not stand silently by while such discriminatory objectification carries on.

  • lynne featherstone 13th Oct '12 - 4:07pm

    That’s the problem – neither Nick nor Catherine above apparently understand what the campaign is calling for – as other comments above have clarified. Ideally the Sun would recognise the error of its ways and/or people could stop reading it. Thanks to Dave Page for setting every one straight!

  • lynne featherstone 13th Oct '12 - 4:07pm

    as to misrepresentation by the Sun – that is shock horror

  • “neither Nick nor Catherine above apparently understand what the campaign is calling for”

    Maybe you should have a chat with your leader to prevent any further embarrassing faux pas.

  • Richard Dean 13th Oct '12 - 4:25pm

    It’s one thing to call for the free choice of a volunatry change, it’s quite another to complain when the choice is made to not change. The first is consistent with liberal principles, the second seems to owe more to totalitarian ones.

  • I’ve no problem with the pictures themselves, but not on page 3 of newspaper which pretends to be appropriate for families. Even Nick, a famously liberal father, would only be happy for his kids to see it ‘when they are older’, quoted above.
    But campaigners who wish to see a change cannot hope to influence the editor, because he thinks they are not his customers, and he is probably right. I have a hunch the campaigners would be more successful if they asked the supermarkets of which they ARE customers to classify The Sun along with the lads mags, and put it on an appropriately higher shelf. If they won that battle, and the papers sales fell as a result, I suspect that the editor (or perhaps the proprietor) would soon experience a conversion of Damascene proportions, suddenly declaring itself a ’21st century newspaper’ which could not possibly ignore the changing values of modern women, etc.

  • lynne featherstone 13th Oct '12 - 7:31pm

    For info – this is what I wrote on my blog – as I do feel it matters.

    When asked if I supported the campaign ‘No more Page 3′ during an interview with the Independent on Sunday – I said yes!

    It isn’t top of my list of things to do – but it is part of the whole issue surrounding the coarsening of women’s representation in the public space – and it is anything but harmless.

    Page 3 has the effect of enforcing the notion that women are little other than sex objects. For me, a semi naked woman in a ‘family friendly’ daily newspaper for the direct purpose of the titillation of men is an outdated idea that has no place in a modern world or in a country that prides itself on the strides made in the last 40 years towards equality between the sexes.

    How are we to convince our daughters that they are equal members of society when they see women portrayed in this way, not in men’s magazines but on the 3rd page of a daily newspaper? In my view, photos such as these suggest that the value of a woman is in direct relation to her pleasant appearance, which is an extremely sad message to send to women. I for one want our children to know that they are worth more than what is skin deep.

    What people do in private interests me not at all (so long as it is legal) but I do want to protect the public space. It saddens me that this issue is often not taken seriously and derision is frequently the go to response to voices opposing Page 3 – but this will not alter my position on this issue.

  • What people do in private interests me not at all (so long as it is legal) but I do want to protect the public space.

    Lynne, do you realise how much like Mary Whitehouse this sounds? I do know what this campaign calls for, and yes I understand you’re not advocating a government-enforced ban – which would be unthinkably illiberal. But you’re trying to amplify the wholesale stigmatisation of soft porn, which I believe many Lib Dems would take issue with.

    Why does it offend you so much that many men find a woman’s body sexually attractive? If you want to highlight an inequality, fine – start a campaign asking the Sun to run pg 2 or pg 4 with provocative photos of the male body. I don’t feel remotely ashamed of enjoying such pictures. And just because I might see an anonymous male body as an object doesn’t mean I would objectify the actual man if I met him. It’s possible to separate the looks from the person.

  • Catherine, you’ve summed up my feelings exactly.

    To me the prudishness around page 3 is an anachronistic and illiberal obsession that would be viewed with amusement in the civilised bits of Europe, and probably by most people in the UK if asked in an unbiased way. I also fear it’s the thin end of a particularly unpleasant wedge, the thick end of which is censorship of the internet and making women cover their faces.

    Or to put it another way… It’s only sex. You should try it sometime.

  • Richard Dean 14th Oct '12 - 8:48am

    Is there any empirical evidence for any of the claims about good, bad, or indifferent effects of Page 3?

    It’s not a free choice if someone keeps on insisting and insisting and insisting until they get their way, is it? Indeed there are situations in which such behaviour would be criminal.

  • there are two things that concern me: 1) that some people grow up thinking that this is how women should look, (implants, botox, airbrush, fake tan, etc) and 2) that after all this artificiality some men are actually aroused by it. Give me the real woman every time.

  • If people want to see topless women they are all over the web. Lets stop fussing about nicities -liberals have always been a bit feeble standing up to powerful forces in society. The sun doesn’t care about free speech it is flogging girls tits to make money pure and simple.

    The real point about the Sun is Murdoch’s corrosive influence on democracy in the United States, the United Kingdon and Australia. At the principled level this mean reducing market share ownership allowed to any one individual organisation. At the practical level right now it means “get Murdoch”. If you fuss too much about the niceties you end up shafted. A bit like the liberal democracies responses to Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin.

  • lynne featherstone 14th Oct '12 - 4:25pm

    Just to bring this back to reality – rather than trying to label me with inappropriate and inaccurate comparisons – I would like to gently remind Liberal Democrats (if those commentators are LibDems) that this is basically LibDem policy as voted on at our September 2011 Conference.

    The Sun then covered it thus:

    Ex-MP Evan Harris led calls at the party conference in Birmingham to “tackle the projection of women as sex objects”.

    He put forward a motion to restrict photos of topless women in tabloids and lads mags to the same rules that apply to pre-watershed TV.

    Dr Harris held up photos of stunning Page 3 girls on the conference stage as he blasted “sexualised images” in newspapers.

    “It’s just wrong in my view that this should be seen as normalised,” he said.

    “OK, these images can be available for adults if they want to access them, but they should have to reach up to a higher shelf than what is at the general view for young people.”

  • Richard Dean 14th Oct '12 - 5:11pm

    This then seems to raises questions of whether votes by delegates at party conferences truly reflect the views of grassroots party members, and what role LDV plays in party affairs.

  • lynne featherstone 14th Oct '12 - 7:23pm

    well – I have always taken the Conference as our sovereign policy making body. It was Conference that voted for Equal Marriage for example – and then I took that vote and made it happen (despite not being in coalition agreement). If that is not our best guide to the Party’s wishes – what is? I also think that if people actually studied what was being said about the representation of women and the suggestions surrounding it – the knee jerk response as some above would not be automatic response.

    Liberal Democrat voice is not limited to Liberal Democrats!

  • Richard Dean 14th Oct '12 - 8:34pm

    … which neatly sidesteps the first question! 🙂

  • I see you’ve removed the “Ban Page 3 Of The Sun” banner from the left hand column of your site Lynne, and I’m confused as to your position. Do you want Page 3 banned or did you change it to strengthen your argument on this thread?

  • I think we’re guilty of giving the Murdoch press too much credit and far too much free advertising if we’re describing p3 of a publication you have to buy as part of the public space.

    If you don’t support something why give it the oxygen of publicity?

    Therefore, this is really about the underlying question of whether we accept media-driven influence as the dominating factor in deciding the role of women in society via biased representations, or whether female individuals have the power to decide for themselves.

    I suggest that to justify p3 the Murdoch organisation must have representative gender balance in positions of corporate responsibility, specifically including a woman as editor of The Sun.

    But it’s not just the dubious glamour-levels presented in The Sun or Nuts, to claim a consistent critique we should also look at the more insidious and more-widely read Daily Mail website and the raft of celebrity-centred publications which fill their pages with toxic gossipy headlines and paparazzi photos?

    And doesn’t that mean we must also attack those high-fashion houses which do more to present a singularly sexualised vision of society than anyone else? Dolce & Gabbana anyone? Then what about the star-system driven by the beautiful people in Hollywood movies?

    Sorry, individuals are trapped by our gender identities and our response to sexual imagery is highly personal. Politicians can have the discussion, but they will fail if they seek to make political capital from it. It is too broad, too deep-seated.

    Equality must encompass a positive analysis of difference and diversity, not solely the negative analysis Lynne promotes.

    Balance is not created by creating artificial restrictions, balance is advanced by increasing variety and choice.

  • Nigel Quinton 15th Oct '12 - 3:57pm

    @Lynne, keep up the good work. I am very glad that at least one of our Ministers recognises conference as the source of party policy. Perhaps you could have a word with Vince and Nick and remind them of this. I am aghast that we appear to be backing Osborne’s idiotic proposal to allow employment rights to be given up in return for shares in their company. Please refer them to PP106 and motion F22 in Brighton!

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Oct '12 - 4:27pm

    Lynne, do you realise how much like Mary Whitehouse this sounds?

    Er yes, but remember that there’s a fair amount of what Whitehouse was saying that belatedly we can perhaps see had a point. Back then there was little understanding of how damaging sexual abuse can be. I do remember a time when rape was considered something a bit funny to joke about, and pop stars and DJs who had sex with 13 years olds were supposed just to be a bit ahead of their time – only prudes like Mary Whitehouse would obejct to it.

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