Clare Short: My day in 'The Sun' and other Page 3 stories

Exclusive extract from 'An Honourable Deception?'

In 1986, I stood up in the Commons to introduce my 10-minute rule Bill to take pornographic pictures out of newspapers. I committed to this proposal in early 1986 when Winston Churchill, the then Tory MP for Davyhulme, and the grandson of the wartime leader, introduced an Obscene Publications Bill.

In 1986, I stood up in the Commons to introduce my 10-minute rule Bill to take pornographic pictures out of newspapers. I committed to this proposal in early 1986 when Winston Churchill, the then Tory MP for Davyhulme, and the grandson of the wartime leader, introduced an Obscene Publications Bill.

It was a terrible Bill. It listed a series of images that would be treated as obscene whenever and wherever they were printed, a list which included scenes of horrific violence as well as a variety of descriptions of sexual activity. Its effect would have been to endanger much war reporting, many illustrations in medical textbooks and much sex education material.

I responded with an unrehearsed speech opposing the Bill, but saying that we could introduce more tightly drawn legislation, for example, to remove the degrading images of women as available sex objects that were circulated in the mainstream of society through the tabloid press.

The speech led to an avalanche of enthusiastic letters from women and my decision to introduce a Bill to remove such pictures from newspapers. This has led to a healthy debate about the difference between sexual openness and pornographic degradation, but also to a vicious campaign of vilification of me by The Sun.

This campaign was renewed with great vigour after I left the Government in 2003. A woman journalist asked me at a lunch whether I was still opposed to Page 3. I said I was, and this led to busloads of Page 3 girls parked outside my house all day in the hope of setting up embarrassing photos, and mock-up pictures of me as a very fat Page 3 girl.

They even sent half-dressed people to the house I share with my 84-year-old mother in Birmingham and had people hiding in cars and chasing me down the street in an effort to get embarrassing photographs. I deal with such attacks by not looking at the paper, but it is oppressive to have a double-decker bus plastered with Sun posters outside the front door from seven in the morning. In the afternoon, I rang the police to ask whether traffic restrictions applied to The Sun, and they were eventually moved on.

It is hard not to conclude that The Sun sets out to frighten anyone who might dare to agree that such pictures should be removed from newspapers. It was suggested to me after The Sun's 2003 campaign by a Westminster journalist of long experience that The Sun's attacks should be seen as an issue of privilege; an attempt to bully and intimidate an MP to prevent them from raising issues in the House. The Clerk of the House, whom I consulted, agreed there was an issue to raise; however, the Speaker did not agree and I did not take it further.

My own conclusion about the Page 3 phenomenon, and the subsequent proliferation of pornographic-style images across the media, together with the offensive burden of offers of pornography and Viagra that have to be cleared daily from our e-mail systems, is that we need to push back this ugly coarsening and degradation of our society. I bow to no one in my respect for John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, but I do not believe that inappropriate sexually provocative imagery, plastered across society, is an example of liberty. I also find it very sad that the degraded Sun has been courted so strongly and shown so many favours by Tony Blair and the spin merchants at No 10.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future