Backlash over Daily Mail’s Brexit battle of the legs headline

London, March 28

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper faced a backlash today for comparing the legs on show when British Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon held talks.

While the two leaders clashed over Brexit, which May is set to trigger tomorrow, and Sturgeon’s push for another Scottish independence referendum, the Mail spun it as a battle of the legs and focused on what could be read into their outfits and body language. “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”, the tabloid’s front page said, alongside a picture of the two leaders meeting in a Glasgow hotel on Monday.

“It wasn’t quite stilettos at dawn, but there was a distinctly frosty atmosphere,” it read underneath.

Inside, the paper’s style editor compared their “boxy navy blazers, skirts that stopped just above the knee, shiny nude tights and pointy shoes — a look replicated by career women of a certain age worldwide”.

And in what the tabloid called a “light-hearted verdict on the big showdown”, columnist Sarah Vine asserted, “What stands out here are the legs -- and the vast expanse on show Both women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal. May’s famously long extremities are demurely arranged,” she said, while “Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty.”

Sturgeon’s pose was “a direct attempt at seduction... ‘Come, succumb to my revolutionary allure,’ she seems to be saying. ‘You know you want to’.”

The coverage sparked a swift backlash against Britain’s second-most popular newspaper, which sells 1.5 million copies daily.

Former women and equalities minister Nicky Morgan called it “appalling sexism” that Britain’s most senior female politicians were being judged for their legs. The conservative Mail is the bete noire of the left, for whom Daily Mail bashing is an instinctive visceral reflex.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led the charge, saying: “It’s 2017. This sexism must be consigned to history. Shame on the Daily Mail.”

But May said she did not mind if people wanted to have “a bit of fun” around the way she dressed.

A spokesman for Sturgeon said the focus on 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. A spokesman for the Daily Mail urged critics to “get a life”.

“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?” he asked.