Britain's best-known lads' magazines were being unnaturally coy last night after being accused by the Conservative schools spokesman Michael Gove of promoting a "selfish irresponsibility" among young men which had left scores of children fatherless.
Mr Gove, in a keynote speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, said the Conservatives would ask "tough questions" of proprietors of magazines such as Nuts and Zoo as to "what they think they're doing".
He accused the titles of "painting a picture of women as permanently, lasciviously, uncomplicatedly available", adding: "The images they use and project reinforce a very narrow conception of beauty and a shallow approach towards women. They celebrate thrill-seeking and instant gratification without ever allowing any thought of responsibility towards others, or commitment, to intrude."
Mr Gove argued that the Right had to shift from "its rhetoric about single mothers". "We need to recognise that it's those fathers who've abandoned their responsibilities – not mothers left holding the baby – who should be challenged about their behaviour," he added. "We should ask those who make profits out of revelling in or encouraging selfish irresponsibility among young men what they think they're doing."
Publishers of both the magazines refused to respond to Mr Gove's remarks. Jonathan Shephard, chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association, said: "To try to create an unsubstantiated causal link between these issues and men's magazines is unrealistic."