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Daily Mail Slammed For 'Heinously Sexist' Cabinet Reshuffle Coverage

07/16/2014 10:13 am 10:13:37 | Updated 16 July 2014

You may have spotted some breaking news from the Daily Mail this morning - some women put on clothes and went to work.

The tabloid chose to travel back to the 1950s and covered David Cameron's dramatic reshuffle with a fashion critique of the new "girls" on the Downing Street "catwalk."

In the "heinously sexist" coverage the Mail's Catherine Ostler gave her "style verdict" on the new appointments, which examined Employment Minister Esther McVey's "don't mess with me" lipstick and "turbo-charged hair", Environment Secretary Liz Truss's "patriotic" red, white and blue ensemble and Claire Perry's wedges and "statement necklace".

Because, in 2014, women in positions of power can't possibly be appointed based on their intelligence or political views, instead, let us focus on their hemlines and hairdos.

daily mail

McVey was the main focus of the vacuous analysis, with the paper practically salivating over her "thigh-high slit skirt."

"She sashayed into Downing Street… her blonde mane was thrown backwards as in a shampoo advert," the paper remarked.

"No longer shrouded in black tights.. Esther is clearly keen to show off her toned legs," it adds.

Her "bust emphasising" dress is a little too much for the family-friendly paper however, and it warns: "She needs to tone it down a little for attending Cabinet meetings."

Even the Mail's own Business Correspondent, Becky Barrow - who is departing the tabloid to go to the Sunday Times - has slammed the paper's coverage:

Eleanor Mills, the Editorial Director of The Sunday Times, branded the coverage "retrogressive for women."

But, asked if the coverage could put off women from politics, the Mail's Quentin Letts argued that the reshuffle "focused very strongly on image over ideology."

"Image was very much the driver," he insisted.

But as former duty prime minister John Prescott astutely remarked, what if the same style of coverage was given to male politicians?

Nick Clegg won the internet for the day with this tweet, where, for once, the deputy prime minister came out of a negative situation triumphantly:

But asked about the Daily Mail's spread, McVey told the BBC Wednesday: "Oh, you know what, it highlights all those wonderful women."

Celebrating the coverage of female politicians, she told Sky News: "All I can say is it's fantastic having women in powerful positions."

Nevertheless, many responded with fury to the "belittling" style of reporting, branding it "everyday sexism" and accusing the paper of setting "female politics back years":

Considering the demographic of the Mail, others queried why its readership is predominantly female.

Appropriately, in the Times, ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith offered a "woman's guide to surviving in cabinet" - warning that the new female ministers "must be on their guard against sexism".

She added: "Most irritatingly, your clothes and appearance will be commented on. Most of the time, you need to dismiss this as sexist nonsense."

the times

The Guardian's Anne Perkins argued that the "Downing Street spin operation" has been "treating the entire process as a media management exercise intended to reverse the impression that Cameron has a problem with women".

She added: "Instead it confirms it. It diminishes the women who have been promoted to find themselves branded as token appointments in a piece of extended stage management."

guardian

McVey could be forgiven for having been left rather underwhelmed by the reshuffle, as the Liverpudlian former TV star was trumpeted for a much more august promotion.

McVey, who was merely given "attending cabinet" status but kept in position, had long been one of the phalanx of female Tory ministers trailed as set for promotion in Cameron's dramatic reshuffle on Tuesday.

The minister was even billed as a potential "minister for TV" that would seek to help "refresh" the cabinet, but outgoing education secretary Michael Gove snatched the job for himself.

McVey's fate, missing out on a cabinet-level post, was not shared by other female Tory ministers, who did enjoy elevation to be full cabinet ministers, like new education secretary Nicky Morgan.

esther mcvey david cameron

Minister for Employment and Disabilities Esther McVey looks at Prime Minister David Cameron during a tour of the production line at Brompton Bicycle Ltd in Brentford, Middlesex on Wednesday

David Cameron and Esther McVey visit to Brompton Bicycle Ltd
Reshuffle 2014: The Results

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