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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Smith ticks off 'obsessed' hacks
Jacqui Smith making a Commons statement on terror in the UK in July 2007.
Ms Smith said her low-cut top was not a priority

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has told journalists "obsessed" with her clothes and cleavage "to get over themselves".

She told the BBC's Woman's Hour that combating terrorism and crime were her priorities - and not her clothing.

Press commentators called her a "babe" and "pneumatic" after her first Commons statement as Home Secretary, which was about the failed car bombings.

Ms Smith said: "Funnily enough the main thing on my mind when I got up was not: 'Is my top too low cut or not?'"

The Oxford graduate, 44, spoke out after presenter Jenni Murray asked her what she would say to the journalists who seemed to have concentrated on her cleavage.

Funnily enough the main thing on my mind was not: 'Is my top too low cut or not?
Jacqui Smith

Ms Smith, a married mother-of-two, laughed: "Get over yourselves is one thing that I say.

"Honestly, the morning when I made the statement to the House about the terror incidents that I had faced on my first weekend... funnily enough the main thing on my mind when I got up was not: 'Is my top too low cut or not?'

"I'm going to carry on concentrating on protecting the country's borders, securing us from counter terror and bringing down crime.

"And I will try and think a bit about my clothes alongside that, but it is not my top priority and nor should it be for those journalists who have been obsessed with it."

'Misogynistic'

Commentators began focusing on Ms Smith's outfits in July after she made her first Commons statement as home secretary.

In a sober update on terrorism that was well received by MPs of all parties, she said the UK would "not be intimidated" by failed terror attacks in London and Glasgow Airport.

But it subsequently appeared the attention of some press sketch writers had focused more on style than substance.

As well as male writers describing her as "a babe", "pneumatic" she was also said to have a "home front" - female colleagues were outraged, dubbing the comments "misogynistic".

But the home secretary is not the only politician whose style has come under the critical eye of journalists.

Sexism

Over the years, acres of newsprint have been devoted to shadow Commons leader Theresa May's footwear, including leopard print kitten heels, and ex-minister Ann Widdecombe's changing hairdos.

A number of women MPs have complained that sexism in the House of Commons is rife.

Environment Minister Joan Ruddock said she became a particular target when she tried to address the issue of strip-searching of women in Northern Ireland in a debate on the army.

"I heard completely audibly in the chamber one of the men on the Tory side say: 'Oh, I'd like to strip search you any day'," she said.

Former Tory Cabinet minister Gillian Shepherd said one Conservative MP "called us all Betty" because "you are all the same".

Teeth and ties

The men have not entirely escaped sartorial scrutiny either. Tory leader David Cameron's decision to change his side parting from right to left, sparked much speculation.

Gordon Brown's noticeably whiter smile before becoming prime minister was put down to intensive dental work, while his decision to wear more colourful ties - rather than his traditional red - was attributed to the input of his wife.

His predecessor, Tony Blair, faced frequent speculation about his hair colour as well as a regular dissection of wife Cherie's clothes style.

And ex-Tory leader William Hague has never been allowed to forget his sporting of a baseball cap during a visit to a theme park.

SEE ALSO
Cameron hair - the barber did it
16 Mar 07 |  UK Politics
May unveils leopard print wellies
30 Sep 07 |  UK Politics
Women MPs speak up against sexism
09 Sep 05 |  UK Politics
Widdecombe's TV hair battle
25 Oct 02 |  Politics

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