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Dave Needs to Say Yes to No More Page 3

22/06/2013 22:23 BST | Updated 22/08/2013 10:12 BST

Dave Cameron has a problem with women.

Female voters are deserting him in droves. A Guardian ICM poll showed the extent of the problem facing the Prime Minister - only a quarter of female voters support the Conservatives as opposed to over 50% who support Labour. This is a stark change from the last general election where the Tories were far more popular with 36% of female voters voting Tory.

The turnaround is a result of a number of factors. Areas with a high level of female voter interest such as education, the health service and benefits have suffered swingeing cuts to their budgets. Women also comprise a far greater proportion of public sector workers and those jobs are most jeopardised by the budget cuts.

But the Prime Minister cannot blame the economy for all his problems with female voters. Dave didn't help himself when he promoted a notorious anti-abortionist to Health Secretary. But worse for his image, are his constant sexist remarks.

He has developed an unenviable track record of patronising female MPs when they criticise his policies. Even women from his own party aren't exempt. When Nadine Dorries raised concerns about the coalition government, her Prime Minister retorted that she must be "extremely frustrated."

His most famous piece of sexist 'humour', his now infamous putdown of Angela Eagle MP of "calm down dear," was this week voted the most misogynist comment in recent political history. And frankly, to come above Berlusconi in that countdown is not something to be proud of.

If Dave stands any chance of getting a second term as Prime Minister, it is absolutely clear that he has to address his reputation as a casual misogynist. Indeed, his advisers must be chomping at the bit to show their man as a champion of women's rights, something Cameron admitted when he told Andrew Marr that he "must do better" with women.

So you'd think he would be racing to embrace a remarkable grass-roots women's campaign that would not only get him on-side with women, but would also enable him to show leadership on a key issue for Tory voters.

The opportunity is the No More Page 3 campaign, the movement to have Page 3 girls removed from The Sun newspaper. This organisation started last summer when one woman, writer Lucy Holmes, saw that the largest image of a woman in the paper was a Page 3 topless model, even though Jessica Ennis had just won gold.

The campaign received an unexpected shot in the arm in February when Rupert Murdoch responded to a tweet of "Seriously, we are all so over page 3 - it is so last century!" with "You maybe [sic] right, don't know but considering."

Following this, to show his support for this campaign would have been an easy goal for Cameron - an opportunity to bolster his image as a supporter of women's rights and to show leadership on a key Tory voter concern; the sexualisation of children. And even more, it would have shown him as not being averse to criticising Murdoch (yet getting away with it by having Murdoch himself also somewhat in agreement).

But no, Cameron refused. In an ITN interview in April, he advised those offended by Page 3 to simply "turn the page."

What is Dave thinking of? Not only is he suffering already with women, his own opinion on the sexualisation of society is right in line with this campaign. The Prime Minister has been very vocal about shielding children from sexual imagery. The Sun's topless pictures of women can be seen and accessed by children with ease and, because of the tabloid's position as the biggest selling national paper, kids are subconsciously being taught that this as an acceptable way to view women.

The No More Page 3 campaign is gathering pace at an extraordinary rate. It is in the right place at the right time. Public concern over easy access to sexualised imagery, and the influence of this on the psychology of children, has never been higher.

A surprise flash mob at the UNISON conference this week has resulted in the trade union throwing its sizeable weight behind the campaign. Also, the MP Caroline Lucas, who submitted an Early Day Motion in Parliament on the issue, wore a No More Page 3 t-shirt during a Commons debate.

Dave's aides could have stepped in at this point, realising which way the tide was turning. But the opportunity has still not been taken.

This week, Dave was asked again for his thoughts, this time by Caroline Lucas. Not only did the PM refuse to support her, he also yet again took a patronising swipe when he referred to the female MP's "dazzling t-shirt."

Dave, what are you doing? This is a no brainer. You have to say Yes to No More Page 3. Your stubborn refusal is not a sign of strength; it is perpetuating your position as being sexist and out-of-touch.