29 Mar 2017

Outrage over UK paper's 'Legs-it' front page

9:58 am on 29 March 2017

UK tabloid The Daily Mail is facing international scorn for a front page that pictured British Prime Minister Theresa May and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and asked "who won Legs-it".

Daily Mail Legs-it cover called sexist

Photo: NA

The newspaper responded by telling critics, who were angry at the "sexist" focus on the politicians' physical appearances, to "get a life".

Mrs May and Ms Sturgeon were photographed during talks on Brexit and a second Scottish referendum.

The piece was part of more than a page of coverage on how the two leaders looked and dressed.

Under the headline, "Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!" and alongside a photo of the two leaders sitting down for talks at a Glasgow hotel, The Daily Mail wrote: "It wasn't quite stilettos at dawn..."

Other politicians responded with scorn. Former equalities minister Nicky Morgan said it was "deliberately demeaning".

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which regulates the newspaper industry, has received at least 300 complaints about the front page. People expressed outrage on social media, calling it sexist and outrageous.

Mrs May played down the row, saying: "If people want to have a bit of fun about how we dress then so be it."

She told British media that as a woman in politics she often found what she wore was an issue "looked at rather closely by people".

Mrs May added: "Obviously what we do as politicians is what makes a difference to people's lives. I think that most people concentrate on what we do as politicians."

A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said the focus on their legs was "slightly surprising".

"Brexit may risk taking Britain back to the early 1970s, but there is no need for coverage of events to lead the way," he said.

The Daily Mail responded by saying the piece was flagged as a "light-hearted" sidebar.

It said it often commented on the appearance of male politicians "including Cameron's waistline, Osborne's hair, Corbyn's clothes - and even Boris' legs".

"Is there a rule that says political coverage must be dull or has a po-faced BBC and left-wing commentariat?"

The author of the legs-it piece, Sarah Vine, said it was a tabloid newspaper and "that's what we do".

She told the BBC: "I think people have had a slight sense of humour failure."

"There was quite a lot of serious stuff about this meeting and then we saw the picture and thought, 'Gosh, look at those kitten heels and look at those fabulous legs, let's write some words about it'," she said.

Ms Vine said her husband, former Education Secretary Michael Gove, was once described as having "a face that looked like a foetus in a jar".