Daily Mail's 'Who won Legs-it!' headline draws scorn
A Daily Mail front page picturing Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon and asking "who won Legs-it" has been condemned as "moronic" sexism.
The tabloid was scorned for focusing on the prime minister's and first minister's legs during talks on Brexit and on a second Scottish referendum.
Former equalities minister Nicky Morgan said it was "deliberately demeaning".
The Daily Mail responded to the criticism in a statement which said: "For goodness sake, get a life!"
The piece, by Sarah Vine, was part of more than a page of coverage on the two leaders' appearance.
Under the headline, "Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!" (sic) and alongside a photo of the two leaders sitting down for talks at a Glasgow hotel, the paper wrote: "It wasn't quite stilettos at dawn..."
In her sketch, Ms Vine wrote: "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."
May's are "demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance", she observes.
Sturgeon's "shorter, but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience".
She says the Scottish leader's pose - at a meeting to discuss topics of state including the triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday - is "a direct attempt at seduction".
Ms Morgan, a former secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities, tweeted in reaction: "Seriously? Our two most senior female politicians are judged for their legs not what they said #appallingsexism".
She told BBC Radio 5 Live the Mail's 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."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among the politicians and public figures to condemn the coverage.
He tweeted: "It's 2017. This sexism must be consigned to history. Shame on the Daily Mail."
Former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said: "Moronic! And we are in 2017!"
Ed Miliband quipped: "The 1950s called and asked for their headline back. #everydaysexism".
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson contributed a shot of her "bit short" pins in the froth of a hot tub to the debate.
Historian and classicist Mary Beard took the long view, writing: "Women and power? Worth seeing what we might be up against. legs-it ffs"
And former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger drew a line to history - feeling Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt were also in command of some "nice pins".
The front page was later changed to make it clear the sketch was written by Ms Vine.
And the Scottish edition ran under the alternative headline: "Oh so frosty! Secrets of Nicola and PM's talk-in."
Twitter, and the British public at large were quick to respond with wit.
One spoof front page by Ashley Gould featured former PM David Cameron, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Mr Corbyn and the author's husband, former education secretary Michael Gove, not in workwear, but sporting shorts.
It posed the same question.
Others were inspired by their own legs.
Ren tweeted: I can't get to my desk to work. Damned legs, they're seducing all over the place I just can't control them teehee!
A spokesperson for the Daily Mail said Sarah Vine's piece was flagged as "light-hearted" and was a sidebar alongside a "serious political story".
He added: "It appeared in an 84-page paper packed with important news and analysis, a front page exclusive on cost-cutting in the NHS and a health supplement devoted to women's health issues.
"For the record, the Mail was the paper which, more than any other, backed Theresa May for the top job.
"Again for the record, we often comment on the appearance of male politicians including Cameron's waistline, Osborne's hair, Corbyn's clothes - and even Boris's legs.
"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?"