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Daily Mail formally reported to press regulator over 'Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon's legs' front page

Newspaper's front page focuses on image of PM and First Minister's limbs

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 28 March 2017 14:17 BST
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The front page caused a storm on social media
The front page caused a storm on social media (Daily Mail)

The Daily Mail newspaper has been reported to the press regulator for publishing a front page in which it focused a photo of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeons’ legs.

Amelia Womack, the deputy leader of the Green Party, accused the paper of breaking the editors' code and treating women with “contempt” in a submission to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which the paper is signed up to.

The newspaper’s 28 March front page was dominated by a large picture of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon wearing tights, with the caption “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”

The photograph was from a meeting between the two top politicians regarding Scotland’s role in Brexit.

The banner, which took up around half the page, advertised an article written by Sarah Vine, one of the newspaper’s columnists. Further text described the piece as “Sarah Vine’s light-hearted verdict on the big showdown, see pages 6-7”.

In her submission to Ipso Ms Womack accused the paper of breaking clause 12 of the code which says editors must “avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.

“To bring the politicians’ appearance into this story is not only entirely irrelevant but incredibly disrespectful,” the submission states.

“This headline and the further derogatory comments inside the paper would not have even been considered, let alone published, if the two politicians in question had been men.

“Women in the public sphere deserve to be treated with respect and the headline contributes to a wider culture of sexism. It reinforces a fallacy that politics isn't a place for women, potentially putting off the next generation of leaders and decision makers.”

She called for the editor of the newspaper, Paul Dacre, to apologise.

Amelia Womack is the deputy leader of the Green Party (Green Party)

“This attempt by the Daily Mail to ignore years of progress by women in politics is utterly pathetic. The paper is deliberately ignoring the struggle women have faced to break into politics even though we now have a female prime minister, first leader and party leaders,” she said.

“As a young woman politician I find it absolutely extraordinary that a national newspaper has sunk to this level. Female leaders deserve to be treated with respect, not contempt, and I call on the editor of the Daily Mail to apologise to the Prime Minister and First Minister, and to all of the young women aspiring to be politicians who want to be recognised for their knowledge and achievements, not the shimmer of their legs.”

The front page came in for a barage of criticism on social media. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted: "The 1950s called and asked for their headline back."

Downing Street declined to condemn the newspaper's front page when offered the opportunity to do so at a Westminster briefing of journalists this morning.

A spokesperson for the Daily Mail said: “For goodness stake, get a life! Sarah Vine’s piece, which was flagged as light-hearted, was a side-bar alongside a serious political story. It appeared in an 84-page paper packed with important news and analysis, a front page exclusive on cost-cutting in the NHS and a health supplement devoted to women’s health issues.

“For the record, the Mail was the paper which, more than any other, backed Theresa May for the top job. Again for the record, we often comment on the appearance of male politicians including Cameron’s waistline, Osborne’s hair, Corbyn’s close - and even Boris’s legs. Is there a rule that says political coverage must be dull or has a po-faced BBC and left-wing commentariat, so obsessed by the Daily Mail, lost all sense of humour… and proportion?”

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