Phil Hilton: Lay off the lads' mags, Michael

Share
Related Topics

If full executive power was ceded to my family tomorrow there would be free chocolate in schools, the death penalty for people with nicer houses than ours and red wine attached to lamp-posts for men who'd had a tough day at work. In other words, we'd be fairly terrible. So we tend to stay away from policy-making.

I think in return I'd ideally like politicians to stay out of family life. The shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove has turned his fire on the lads' mags as contributing to the breakdown of the family. As the launch editor of Nuts and a member of a real family, I'm well placed to say that, as far as I can tell, the two are connected in much the same way that independently made organic cheddar and Formula 1 racing are intertwined – ie. not that much.

Family values seem to exist only in politics – if we have any ourselves, it would be that the loudest and most repetitive person gets their own way, and spitting is frowned upon (unless someone much bigger has you pinned down on the carpet). Family values in my household consist of arguing, laughing, ignoring each other and playing long games of "First One To See" in the car.

The Gove line is that a culture of hedonism is leading feckless men to be bad fathers. Having researched the Nuts audience and their older counterparts for the launch of my present magazine ShortList, we found that once out of their immature, dating, "Aren't women incredible" phase, men no longer want lads' mags. They look instead at more sober reading – in preparation for a life of carpet wrestling and long games of "First One To See".

The real advantage, if you're a politician, of talking a tough and uncompromising line on men's magazines is that it costs nothing – unlike extended paternity leave or better childcare support – and has no chance of becoming any kind of legislation, what with free speech and all. So it's carte blanche for posturing with no tax or manifesto implications.

The complexities of family life – shifting attachments, divorce (and, indeed, public drunkenness and a tendency to not give up your seat for old ladies) – cannot be blamed on a magazine sector.

Speaking to the audience at which they're aimed, it quickly becomes clear that in their spare time these "lads" are in very equal relationships with girlfriends, female friends – and mostly their mums. They share the washing-up and go to the supermarket; when I was at Nuts, Tesco was our largest single retailer.

Families are very private, eccentric places and very seldom resemble the cosy Victoriana that lies behind the appeal to Traditional Family Values.

To publicly throw yourself behind the arrangement of adults, children and computer-gaming equipment that constitutes the modern family unit is to underestimate the fluidity of these relationships. It is no surprise that so many public figures who have made a stand for the family end up having to explain their own divorces or sexual adventures in later years.

Politics is peppered with men and women who've attached themselves to the family and later been found to have dark hinterlands or been unable to sustain their own family attachments. As units around which to base rallying cries, families are just awful; for a two-hour game of Connect 4, they are unrivalled.

Phil Hilton is the editorial director of the free weekly men's magazine ShortList

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own