UK Politics

Nigel Farage defends breastfeeding comments amid row

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Media captionNigel Farage said mothers could "perhaps sit in a corner" when breastfeeding

UKIP leader Nigel Farage insists he has no problem with women breastfeeding "wherever they want" amid a row over comments he made about the issue.

He was criticised after saying it was up to venues to decide their rules and that some people were uncomfortable with "ostentatious" breastfeeding.

Businesses may ask mothers to "perhaps sit in a corner", he suggested.

In a later statement, he accused the media of misinterpreting him and said it was a question of "good manners".

Mr Farage was asked about his views on the issue during his regular LBC phone-in, in light of a recent incident at Claridge's hotel in London where a mother was asked to cover up with a napkin while feeding her baby daughter.

Louise Burns has said she will not return to Claridge's, a luxury hotel in Mayfair, after being asked to cover her baby with what she described as a "shroud" while feeding her.

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Media captionLouise Burns: "I think it is quite sad we are even having this conversation in this day and age"

'Awkward'

The UKIP leader, who has four children, said it should be for businesses to decide their own rules but it should be recognised that "some people feel very embarrassed" by breastfeeding in public.

"I know a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable," he said. "It isn't too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that's not openly ostentatious."

Asked if Claridge's had been wrong, Mr Farage said: "That's up to Claridge's. I think it should be. If you're running an establishment you should have rules."

In light of this, he suggested it was acceptable for a venue to ask a woman to "perhaps sit in a corner, or whatever it might be".

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Media captionEmily Slough, who was called "a tramp" for breastfeeding in public, said Mr Farage's comments were absurd

"This is just a matter of common sense, isn't it," he added. "I know particularly people of the older generation feel awkward and embarrassed by it."

The 2010 Equality Act makes it unlawful for a business to discriminate against a breastfeeding woman.

Mr Farage later sought to clarify his position in the face of what he said was "extraordinary media fabrication" of his comments.

In a statement, he said he had never suggested women should be compelled to breastfeed in a certain way or place.

"Let me get this clear, as I said on the radio and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want," he said. "If the establishment in question, in this case Claridge's, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be.

'Two-way street'

"I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No."

Businesses had a responsibility to all their customers, he added, suggesting such situations were a "two-way street".

"Breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop, and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It's just a question of good manners."

Mr Farage later returned to LBC to say he was "particularly angry" that his comments on breastfeeding had been "wildly taken out of context".

A Downing Street spokeswoman said David Cameron "shares the view of the NHS, which is that breastfeeding is completely natural and it's totally unacceptable for any women to be made to feel uncomfortable when breastfeeding in public".

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tweeted: "After that interview Nigel Farage should sit in a corner!"

Justine Roberts, chief executive of the Mumsnet website said: "It's bemusing that some people have a problem seeing mums breastfeeding.

"It is of course a natural, essential human process and those with an issue simply need to get over themselves - babies need to be fed when they're hungry and there's nothing ostentatious about a mother responding to that need."

Claridge's has insisted that it "embraces" breastfeeding but has urged mothers to be "discreet" towards other guests.

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