Nick Clegg tackles the Daily Mail’s sexism with humour

So, this is the Daily Mail’s sadly predictable response to women being promoted to high or higher office.

Daily Fail catwalk

I guess you can’t really expect better when 7 of the top 10 stories on their sidebar could be easily headlined: “Woman goes out in public wearing clothes.” That’s actually quite low for them.

Nick Clegg responded with humour in a tweet today.


You can see why that Mumsnet poll had him as the least out of touch leader. It’s just that sort of spirit that has propelled him this week to Number 4 in Grazia’s Chart of Lust this week. I never knew such a thing existed so thanks to Daisy Benson for posting it on Facebook.

Nick Grazia Chart of Lust


He’s made it because:

We know, we know…But a trusted lust source met with him recently and reports: charismatic and categorically not without fitness.


There will be no point at all to Nick Ferrari if he doesn’t ask Nick for a reaction to that tomorrow on Call Clegg.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • How is the Mail article “sexist”? An awful lot of women are interested in fashion and would have been far more interested in the Mail’s article than the average male reader. Women’s clothes are much more interesting to look at than men’s, which is why the papers don’t tend to dwell on any of Nick Clegg’s wardrobe full of identical suits. This is more to do with aesthetics than sexism.

    Grazia’s “Chart of Lust” is far more objectifying than the Mail article – but Nick’s a man, so it’s fine for him to have his ego flattered by this kind of froth.

    The only shocking thing about the Mail article is the number of terrible jackets worn over dresses – uurgh! Penny Mordaunt is the only one who is well dressed.

    Esther McVey has said about the article: “Well all I can say is that it’s fantastic having women in powerful positions in the newspapers and if that meant we were walking, the paper might have called it, ‘a catwalk’ – we were walking into Number 10 Downing Street. And for the last 15 years I have worked with kids from inner city areas – young girls who are looking for role models. They see Nicky Morgan, Secretary of state for Education, and they’re thinking ‘hey that’s something I could do.'”

    Which neatly sums up the deficiencies in the Lib Dem approach to feminism. Why bother doing anything about the lack of Lib Dem women in positions of importance, when it’s so much easier to sneer at the Daily Mail for highlighting the fashion sense of women from another party who are in such positions?

  • Hannah Bettsworth 16th Jul '14 - 2:18pm

    As a member of the Scottish Women Lib Dems executive I can categorically state that we are incredibly active in attempting to get more women into positions of power. I personally wouldn’t be on the approved candidates list if it wasn’t for the encouragement of the SWLD chair. Take it from me, it is sexist to focus on women’s clothing and how they look. It makes me feel like we’re taken less seriously than male politicians.

  • @Hannah Bettsworth
    “Take it from me, it is sexist to focus on women’s clothing and how they look. It makes me feel like we’re taken less seriously than male politicians.”

    But it isn’t sexist. Women just happen to wear more interesting clothes than men, and to be more interested in looking at them, as evidenced by the shelves full of female-oriented fashion magazines in every newsagent. There is nothing remotely sinister about this at all.

    I seem to recall Margaret Thatcher being taken far more seriously than Michael Foot – in large part because of his scruffy clothes. Honestly, none of this is important, and whatever barriers are in the way of women progressing in politics, clothes (or the focus on them) is not one of them.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Jul '14 - 2:35pm

    The whole point, Stuart, is that women are judged on what they wear, even when they are going to work in a way that men aren’t. I’m glad that Nick gets it enough to tweet about it.

    The Grazia Chart of Lust is total froth and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The Fail’s story is masquerading as news.

  • @Caron Lindsay
    “women are judged on what they wear, even when they are going to work in a way that men aren’t”

    That is demonstrably untrue. I’ve already given the example of Michael Foot – a deeply intelligent man who is remembered chiefly for looking like a hobo in a donkey jacket. He was never taken seriously again after that. And if I, as a man, turned up for work tomorrow wearing a dress or an Hawaiian shirt, I would be judged in a pretty swift and brutal way.

    I’m not sure the Mail is pretending that photo spread is news – it looks more like a fashion article to me, as harmlessly frothy as the Grazia piece. I haven’t seen that edition of the Mail but I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t at least a couple of pages of proper political reporting on the reshuffle preceding it.

    You’d have had much more of a point if you’d highlighted the headline just to the left of the article (not shown in your scan), which cringeingly reads: “Now win election, PM tells new girls”. I’d certainly class that as annoyingly sexist.

    I don’t buy newspapers any more but I can remember numerous reshuffles in years gone by when the papers were filled with page after page of men in suits walking along Downing Street. So I’m actually really pleased to scroll up and see those pictures from yesterday.

  • Richard Dean 16th Jul '14 - 3:05pm

    Why is it then that, in the House of Commons, almost all the men wear blue or grey long-sleeved long-legged suits, while almost all the women wear colourful clothes, often short-sleeved, with knees and cleavage visible? Is there some rule that prevents men from being so sartorially adventurous?

  • Richard Dean 16th Jul '14 - 3:11pm
  • Eddie Sammon 16th Jul '14 - 3:19pm

    The Daily Mail should make clear that it is an explicitly conservative paper. It’s not fair to masquerade as a regular news outlet and then undertake selective reporting. It is the same with the Sun and I would add with the liberal newspapers too. You can’t just say you are a normal newspaper and then whack some boobs on Page 3.

    That’s my opinion anyway – we can’t ban things like the Daily Mail, but I feel there needs to be some regulation. They are objects of hate.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 16th Jul '14 - 3:19pm

    Caron – the Fail is masquerading as a newspaper. It’s an entertainment magazine, which does appeal to a lot of women and has done since it deliberately targeted them in the late 1960s.

  • @ Nigel Cheese

    “…but I feel there needs to be some regulation. They are objects of hate.”

    My, that is remarkably liberal of you!

    Leaving that aside, I do wonder where you feel you have the mandate for such “regulation.”

    The Mail Online is the most popular newspaper website on the planet. The world doesn’t have to read it you know. Don’t you think they must be doing something right?

  • Just to redress the balance, here’s the Mail’s coverage of the previous reshuffle :-

    Lots of pictures of men’s suits to look at there. Even Anna Soubry is wearing one – women are allowed to do that. Of course there isn’t much comment about the cut or colour of the suits, but that’s only because men’s suits are unremittingly dull. That’s all it is. Men and women dress differently. Women’s clothes can be varied and interesting, men’s suits are not. Papers focus on things that are interesting.

    By the way it’s amusing to see the Guardian joining in with the Mail-bashing over this one. Could that be the same Guardian which has been known to print articles mocking Angela Merkel for her fashion sense? It surely could!

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Jul '14 - 4:12pm

    Hi Simon,

    That comment was made by me, not Nigel. I don’t want to get into a chat about press regulation, I just think a bit of light touch regulation would be better for society.


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Jul '14 - 4:25pm

    Oh, but LDV would, Joe.

  • It was a smart observation from Nick, but unfortunately people have stopped listening to what he says.

  • Simon
    “The Mail Online is the most popular newspaper website on the planet. The world doesn’t have to read it you know. Don’t you think they must be doing something right?”
    No one can read it in Thailand.Someone must have done something right.

  • @Jennie
    “You might think that; as someone who sews garments I beg to differ. In terms of construction, men’s clothes are FAR more interesting than women’s”

    How many people are interested in tailoring methods? The lack of magazines about men’s suits kind of suggests that to most people, a dark blue / grey / black man’s suit is about the least interesting thing on earth.

    Going back to Nick’s tweet, he is spectacularly missing the point (as are most posters here). If he turned up for work wearing a pair of shorts, or a kilt, or one of Joe’s shirts – does anyone seriously believe the Mail wouldn’t have printed a macking big picture of it and made a big deal of it? But the fact is he’s wearing a dark blue suit. The Mail isn’t interested because to most people, looking at a dark blue suit is as riveting as browsing through a wallpaper catalogue.

    The odd thing here is that you and Caron are trying to paint this as some sort of feminist issue, but the fact is that the Mail printed that article because they thought (probably rightly) that it would interest their female readers. Crossdressers aside, straight men are the demographic least interested in women’s fashion.

  • @Stuart

    I think you’re the one not getting it at the moment.

    You’re right – if Nick Clegg had turned up to work wearing Miriam’s nightie or his onesie or whatever, there’d be a Daily Mail story about it.

    But the fact that these women have turned up for work wearing socially acceptable standard work attire and have generated a Daily Mail story is an indication that, to the Mail, ‘Woman Goes To Work Wearing Clothes!’ is somehow equivalent to ‘DPM Goes Outside In Wife’s Pajamas!’.

    Of course its not exactly Watergate. But while it remains the Mail’s right to waste paper printing such rubbish, it is also entirely within our rights to draw attention to the stupidity of it all. Actually, I’d say that in a society with a free press, it is the responsibility of the general populace to point out such stupidity as and when it occurs.

    Also, ‘feminist’ doesn’t mean ‘of interest to women’. In fact, many political issues are distinctly boring to people in general, women and political issues of particular relevance to them being no exception.

  • @Stuart
    “Which neatly sums up the deficiencies in the Lib Dem approach to feminism. Why bother doing anything about the lack of Lib Dem women in positions of importance, when it’s so much easier to sneer at the Daily Mail for highlighting the fashion sense of women from another party who are in such positions?”

    The Lib Dems would bring in STV which would do far more to have woman elected than any other measure. I do get very annoyed that Lib Dems fail to make this point when they are challenged over the lack of women MPs.

  • I note that when party leaders, for example, do debates or conference speeches or the like, the colour of their tie is often mentioned.

  • (Male party leaders, that is. I don’t think anyone commented on the colour of Mrs Thatcher’s tie. I don’t think anyone would have dared.)

  • @T-J
    I think you still don’t get it, or perhaps I haven’t explained it well enough.

    Whether the clothes are socially acceptable is by the bye. I gave the example of Nick turning up wearing a kilt. It is perfectly socially acceptable to wear a kilt. However, if Nick started wearing one it would still attract a fair amount of interest, for the sole reason that it’s something different to the dark suits he and everybody else (at least in England) wears currently.

    If you look at Caron’s scan, you’ll see that the women shown are wearing a pretty wide variety of styles and colours. So immediately, by the simple absence of uniformity, there is something of visual interest there. Of course it may not be of interest to you – but it will be of interest to plenty of others, predominantly women (much to the chagrin of certain types of feminist). The Mail is simply catering to that interest – and why shouldn’t they? It’s harmless. A male equivalent might be the association of men with their cars. If Nick arrived in Downing Street in a Lamborghini, you can bet your life the Mail would cover it. Nobody would complain or accuse the Mail of “judging Nick by the car he drives”.

    To say that the pictures mean the Mail can’t take these women seriously is very obviously untrue. Ever heard of Margaret Thatcher? She was a woman. She wore women’s clothes. The Mail would quite often print pictures of her and articles discussing her dress sense (I know this as my mum always bought the Mail). None of this stopped the Mail taking her seriously – in fact they’ve spent the last thirty odd years telling us she was the greatest Briton since Churchill.

    Ultimately – as usual – the fuss made over this by so-called feminists has been entirely counterproductive. What should have happened in my view is that everybody who was interested should have spent 30 seconds perusing the pictures before turning over to the next page, and everybody else should have just ignored it. What has happened instead is that TV interviews of female politicians (Esther McVey yesterday, and a Labour MP on BBC Breakfast this morning) are dominated by the utterly trivial non-issue of what female politicians wear and whether it matters. How sad, when in fact what they should be talking about is the welcome increase in women at the top of government. Though I can understand why Lib Dems might prefer it if the issue of female representation continued to be swept under the carpet.

  • @Mike Drew
    While what you are saying is correct, it’s a lame excuse because other parties have managed to increase female representation within the constricts of the current system.

    Until the Lib Dems make some sort of progress on this, they are the people least qualified to be lecturing others on “sexism”.

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Jul '14 - 5:40pm

    It’s about time men ditched the suit and tie.

    Male Lib Dem MPs at PMQs?

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