We tolerate nudity on our screens, but as soon as the Naked Rambler goes for a stroll, we’re all outraged

How can someone who has spent nine years in jail for his beliefs not have received more public support?

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What’s the problem with a naked willy, if it belongs to a man going for a walk, harming no one? Using our phones we take pictures of ourselves with nothing on all the time, but when it comes to the Naked Rambler we get hot and bothered and call the cops.

Nudity brings out the hypocrite in us all. On the other hand, stars like Jennifer Lawrence complained vociferously recently when hackers revealed naked pictures they’d sent via Apple iCloud accounts, claiming their privacy had been invaded.

When I asked younger friends, most think that photographing or recording yourself naked and sending it via a phone or online is no big deal. Leaked sex tapes didn’t harm the careers of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton.

On social media you can see all sorts of semi-pornographic rubbish in music videos, or disgusting footage of jihadists beheading their captives. Talk about double standards. Facebook took down images a mother had posted of herself breastfeeding her tiny premature baby because they “breached nudity rules”. Apparently a nipple is more offensive on Facebook than a decapitated head. Work that one out.

After hundreds of complaints, there’s been a policy revision, and now naked breasts can be shown – as long as they are nursing babies or showing masectomy scars. Well, that’s progress. This made me wonder how our modern moral guardians at Facebook would react to images of the Naked Rambler, Stephen Gough.

Last week, Gough lost his right to wander our green and pleasant land starkers when the European Court of Human Rights turned down his appeal. Facebook would certainly agree with the ECHR and all the other courts Mr Gough has argued his cause through and censor his dangling manhood, on the same grounds it continues to remove nipples which don’t have babies attached to them.


We are very confused about nudity, keen to flaunt our bits when it suits us, but offended by someone else’s penis unless by prior appointment. The Naked Rambler has spent more than nine years in jail (in solitary confinement), imprisoned for his beliefs – a true prisoner of conscience, but not one that has attracted the devoted following attached to other campaigners for human rights such as Julian Assange.

I’m not at all sure that I would like to encounter Gough and his swinging willy on one of my weekend walks. If I did, it might be disconcerting but it would not ruin my life or cause me mental anguish. Sadly, the European court disagrees and ruled that his behaviour is “liable to be alarming and morally and otherwise offensive to other, unwarned members of the public”. That’s the same people who might inadvertently see a beheading or a stoning online.

Personally, I’d rather run the very small risk of running across Gough and his naked manhood in order to preserve the right of all members of the human race to express themselves freely. How warped are our values that we find a naked walker so threatening?


Power dressing won’t get women very far these days

It is a bit ironic that in the week the Design Museum launches an exhibition entitled Women Fashion Power, the UK drops out of the top 20 countries for gender equality. Have British women been wearing the wrong clothes? If only getting on at work and climbing up the greasy pole of corporate power were that simple.

The exhibition consists of a potted history of female fashion over the past few hundred years, including the working drawings for the first bra. All very enjoyable, but a bit threadbare, as it’s confined to a relatively small space and the territory has been better covered at the V&A in recent years.

The second part consists of a display of favourite outfits chosen by 26 powerful women, but only one pop star (Skin) and one television presenter (Kirsty Wark), which seemed a bit odd, as you could argue that Rihanna, Beyoncé and Madonna are all multimillionaires who use their clothes to sell their product to brilliant effect. They embody power dressing, not Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, a wealthy and successful lawyer who carefully chooses a high street outfit from Zara in keeping with her other job – a political wife who doesn’t want to seem out of touch with her husband’s supporters.

The outfits chosen by these high-profile women add up to precisely nothing, and are not helpful to any young woman seeking guidance on how to get ahead. Power dressing is dead in the water. The minute Chanel sent out trainers and located its couture show in a supermarket, the message was clear – the street is where inspiration starts. Be yourself, not a clone.

What liberates modern women is the ability to shop online, in private, without anyone passing judgement on your taste or the size of your backside. Power dressing hasn’t got British women very far, compared with our counterparts in Iceland, Bulgaria and Burundi, where the idea of power dressing must be seen as risible. Tell me when the right suit and Charlotte Olympia shoes can get you a managerial position. I don’t think it’s any day soon.


What would Debrett’s have to say about seat-dancing?

Debrett’s has just issued a handbook on modern manners, which seeks to tackle dilemmas such as eating in public (to be avoided on public transport), the thorny question of when it is acceptable to use electonic cigarettes (never at work) and mobile phones at mealtimes. Answer: “It is always rude to pay more attention to a phone than a person.”

A few hours after I’d digested all this useful advice, I went to the National Theatre to see Here Lies Love, the highly praised musical written by David Byrne with Fatboy Slim. Based on the life of Imelda Marcos, it pulsates to a disco beat throughout, which is one of the downsides because although this is a dazzling production, with a stellar performance from Natalie Mendoza as the First Lady of the Philippines, there’s no respite from the onslaught of sound, no time for poignancy or reflection. Scratch this show and there’s not a lot of depth, just gorgeous shallows. History turned into a Studio 54 floorshow, with designer beggars and not much poverty.

Anyway, the man sitting in front of me twitched, gyrated, snogged his middle-aged female companion and talked incessantly throughout. He’d obviously partaken of a generous helping of a class A substance before entering the auditorium.

After an hour, I’m afraid I threw Debrett’s advice out of the window, and whacked him around the head. It stopped him momentarily, and he looked a little confused, before resuming his spasmodic seat-dance. Luckily, he ran out as the show ended, possibly for more drugs, avoiding what could have been an unpleasant confrontation. If you go to this show, watch out for elderly ravers.


A pleb with Royal connections? I don’t think so

Tom Parker Bowles is a delightful chap, whose mother Camilla married her long-standing lover, Prince Charles. Tom’s dad Andrew shares the same birthday as me and is equally charming. If your mum is married to royalty, how do you deal with the press when you have a cookery book to promote?

Tom has been giving chatty interviews, in which he has alleged that one of the masters at his prep school had joined the boys in the showers. The former headmaster of the school said: “It is complete rubbish. [Tom] was a very happy little boy.” Nevertheless Tom has decided not to send his own children to boarding school.

Parker Bowles says he is a monarchist, but doesn’t feel “royal” – describing himself as “a good old pleb”. People who use the word “pleb” are generally anything but.