Beasts vs Belles: Sugar's arrival adds to women ex-ministers' complaints

He has just been given a peerage by Gordon Brown and came to the rescue of the Government in his new role as "enterprise tsar". And tonight, he will select his new apprentice from an all-woman final.

But Sir Alan Sugar's appointment last week in the Government's chaotic reshuffle has raised eyebrows among female ministers because of the tycoon's comments on women in the workplace.

Given Caroline Flint's vitriolic blast against the Prime Minister for operating a "two-tier Cabinet" and using women ministers as "window dressing", the timing of soon-to-be Lord Sugar's elevation to the peerage was unfortunate. Two years ago, the entrepreneur and star of BBC1's The Apprentice said: "We have maternity laws where people are entitled to have too much. Everything has gone too far."

Last year he added that as an employer he would like to be able to ask women at interviews: "Are you planning to get married and have any children?" adding that one way out would be: "Just don't employ them."

Downing Street sources sought to play down the remarks last night, pointing out that the final four contestants in this year's Apprentice were all women. But the presence of Lord Sugar in the Government will fuel the sense that Labour women are being pitted against the unreconstructed beasts of Labour politics.

Supporters of Mr Brown have claimed the moves against the Prime Minister last week were fuelled by "WAGs" or "Women Against Gordon". This is denied by those involved, who insisted they are just friends who socialise together. Ms Flint, who tap-dances with her friend and former ministerial colleague Hazel Blears in the Division Belles, appeared to be losing her battle, with MPs and Labour figures claiming her appearance in a women's magazine just weeks ago in glamorous dresses and high heels had diminished her credibility.

Ms Flint was dismissed by one cabinet aide as a "clown"; another called her comments "astonishing" and a "bit rich" given her photo-shoot.

The Sun newspaper, not widely known for its feminism, splashed yesterday with the headlines "A stiletto in the back" and "Heel hath no fury, Gordon". But Ms Flint did have one supporter – the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who said she looked "completely amazing" in the photos, adding on her blog: "Totally beautiful in that black widow 'I'll eat you' kind of way."

However, Ms Dorries added: "The red dress, shoes, stylist, hairdresser and makeup artists along with the professional photographers and lighting technician made sure the media had something eye-catching for the front pages this weekend. Phew, thank goodness for that little coincidence!!

"If anyone tries to tell you that the Blears/Flint double act wasn't planned, staged and executed in a way only women know how, then laugh out loud. They did what women do best and they did it with style."

A No10 spokesman said: "Alan Sugar is the right man for the job. He brings with him real experience of setting up and running businesses."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power