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Theresa May plays down Daily Mail sexism row over Legs-it headline

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The Prime Minister has played down the 'legs-it' row, insisting a newspaper headline that focused on how she was dressed was 'only a bit of fun'.

It comes after a photograph showing Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon accompanied by the headline 'Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!' prompted widespread outrage.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and MPs including Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper were among those to criticise the Daily Mail front page for being sexist and offensive.

But Mrs May has laughed off the suggestions.

Speaking exclusively to the Express & Star during a visit to the West Midlands, the Prime Minister said: "You will notice that I am wearing trousers today!

"As a woman in politics throughout my whole career I have found that very often, what I wear - particularly my shoes - has been an issue that has been looked at rather closely by people.

Today's Daily Mail front page sparked a backlash over allegations of sexism

"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.

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"But if people want to have a bit of fun about how we dress, then so be it."

Theresa May speaks to the Express & Star's Pete Madeley in Birmingham today, with West Midlands Mayoral candidate Andy Street

The front page referenced Brexit talks between Mrs May and Scottish First Minister Mrs Sturgeon in Glasgow.

The paper wrote: "It wasn't quite stilettos at dawn..."

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It continued: "What stands out here are the legs - and the vast expanse on show.

"There is no doubt that both these women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal."

In later editions the headline was accompanied by a trail for an inside page article by columnist Sarah Vine - the wife of Conservative former cabinet minister Michael Gove - discussing their appearance.

Ms Vine said: "I think that people have maybe have had a slight sense of humour failure."

She told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "If Private Eye were to run this picture on the cover of their magazine next week and put a similar headline, nobody would bat an eyelid.

"It's just because it's in the Daily Mail and people have a Pavlovian reaction to the Daily Mail."

Theresa May in Birmingham today

A spokesman for the First Minister said: "It is slightly surprising that when the First Minister of Scotland and the Prime Minister of the UK meet to discuss the key issues of the UK's departure from the EU and giving the people of Scotland a choice over their future that the main focus should be on their legs and what they are wearing."

Mr Corbyn said such attitudes should be 'consigned to history', while Ms Harman said the headline was 'moronic'.

Former equalities minister Nicky Morgan, tweeted: "Seriously? Our two most senior female politicians are judged for their legs not what they said #appallingsexism."

She said the coverage was 'deliberately provocative, and deliberately demeaning'.

"How the Prime Minister deals with it is entirely a matter for her," she said, but added: "You've got two very senior female politicians who are discussing weighty issues and this is what a national newspaper thinks is appropriate."

Tony Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, labelled the paper 'utter scum' and urged anyone who spotted a copy of the Mail to rip it up.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted: "The 1950s called and asked for their headline back."

London mayor Sadiq Khan, on an official visit to Brussels, said it would only serve to put off girls and young women from entering politics.

He said: "What sort of message does that send to girls, young women, thinking about starting a career in politics if we are talking about their legs rather than their views on important matters?"

Amelia Womack, the Green Party's deputy leader, has submitted a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) over the "Legs-it" headline, claiming it discriminated against the women because of their gender.

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