Joan Smith: Ignore the reactionaries, Mr Clegg

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The Independent Online

Take Mrs Clegg who, for reasons best known to herself – principally, I suspect, the fact that it's her name – insists on being known as Miriam Gonzalez Durantez. Now she's complaining to a women's magazine that her husband "kills himself" to do his share of the school run. Why, you might reasonably ask, is the Deputy PM hurrying home from breakfast meetings to take his sons to school? It's all in the name of shared childcare, equality and that politically correct guff that middle-class people like the Cleggs make a song and dance about.

Give him a break, Mrs Clegg! In fact, let's be frank: give the poor man back his cojones! That was the blunt advice in one of yesterday's right-wing papers. If I'm honest, it's hard to read this without the dizzy sensation of being sucked into a time warp. I mean, are there really people out there who think that any man who shares parenting is a hen-pecked wimp? Who believe that men volunteer for the school run only because they're scared to stand up to their "ball-breaking" wives? I can think of plenty of reasons to criticise the Deputy Prime Minister. The notion that he's been emasculated by his very successful wife isn't one of them.

The attacks come from the same papers which made an issue of Ed Miliband living with his long-term partner – they married earlier this year – when they couldn't do anything about his atheism.

Clegg isn't a believer, either, despite his wife's Catholicism – and the fact that two out of three of the main party leaders manage without an imaginary friend is a measure of how much this country has changed. Way to go, though, before the old guard comes to terms with strong, independent women.