Michelle Mone made millions selling bras and now dares to enter the House of Lords - what would Lord Sewel and Alan Sugar say?

Surely these virtuous men will be scandalised by such shenanigans

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The Independent Online

Bras = hilarious, am I right? The Sun, normally a bastion of Tory support, greeted the news of Michelle Mone’s peerage today under the banner, ‘Lady Bra-Bra’. Inside, a spread on the underwear tycoon asked the question: ‘How do you make a Lady Mone? Give her a peerage!’  Because obviously, the only reason you’d put a bird in the House of Lords is to get her juices flowing, and then pounce. Obviously. Moth-eaten ermine does it for me, every time.

It’s hard to ignore the sexism infecting public reaction to the announcement that Michelle Mone, a serially successful entrepreneur, is to become a Tory peer. She's pictured next to disgraced Lord Sewel (Lord Bra-Bra), in the old tradition of blaming women who have bras for what unrelated men choose do with bras. Mone’s history of posing in her own underwear designs hasn’t helped: it’s certainly left The Sun with a pile of handy stock-images with which to have some fun. But it doesn’t make her any less deserving of a feminist defense. If we cut loose every woman who’d ever compromised the sisterhood’s rules to get to the top, we wouldn’t have any heroines left to represent us in the corridors of power.

As it is, much of today’s ridicule has been directed at Mone’s product, not her career. Tuning in to Radio 4, it’s painfully clear that the mere mention of a bra will knock the gravitas of even the most staid of BBC men. Here’s the thing, boys. As far as anyone with breasts is concerned, bras are an essential, not a luxury.  Sure, it’s convenient when they can do double-duty in the bedroom (I suspect most of Mone’s male customers go for the scarlet ranges, usually in the wrong size) but most of us need a bra in which we can do the school run, deliver a presentation, or go for an evening jog. And yes, it is that difficult to find a bra that fits – imagine a bit of your body that stuck out in opposing directions, shrunk and swelled with the time of the month, and occasionally lactated. Thank God for a woman designer who finally gets it. When we mock an entrepreneur who caters to a specifically female market, we dismiss the needs of that entire female population.

Sure, not everyone likes Mone. Not everyone likes most politicians, and this is an unquestionably political appointment. It’s possible – if overhyped – that she made a difference to the Scottish referendum result. If that’s true, then she follows in the footsteps of Andrew Dunlop, a male activist elevated earlier this year and now a junior minister in the Scotland Office. Last time I checked, no one on Twitter had told him to put some clothes back on and get back to the kitchen.

Mone also announced that she’d leave Scotland if the Independence movement won, which doesn’t seem an unreasonable response to watching her nation split in half. (And the quieter 55% of the Scotland seem to have agreed at least partly with her). Andrew Lloyd Webber, a touch more selfishly, announced that he’d leave the country if Labour won in 1997 and put up his tax bill. Unpatriotic, perhaps, but no one seems to have complained much about his peerage. Labour’s Paul O’Grady, who threatened a similar flight if David Cameron won this spring, doesn’t seem to have received much hate-mail.

 

Retail has a long, highly political history of sending expertise to the Lords. Three Lord Sainsburys have proved their business acumen by flogging basic groceries, and reached the House of Lords: did Alan (Liberal), John (Conservative) and David (Labour) achieve nobility by never flogging a knicker? Simon Wolfson, hereditary head of Next, and Stuart Rose of Marks and Spencer (both Conservative) have certainly bartered a thong or two, but neither has been defined by their product. Instead, they tend to bylined as ‘retail gurus’ or ‘market experts’.

No, Mone isn't perfect. And political celebrities are, alas, a growing trend – in June 2009, in the run up to the election, Gordon Brown announced Alan Sugar’s appointment to the peerage. Sugar was unveiled, with some razzmatazz, as Labour’s new ‘enterprise’ tsar; a shame then, that after the press conference, the job seem to fizzle out. So even if you don’t take Mone seriously, she’s not the first entrepreneur whose media flummery has elevated her to the House of Lords. But as a woman, a Tory, and Unionist-Scot, she’s the centre of a perfect storm of hate. A baptism of misogyny – though sadly, that might just be the perfect training for life in the House of Lords.

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