Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Sunday, 10 January 2010

Gina Ford's baby advice 'like Ikea manual', says Clegg

Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam
Mr Clegg and his wife have three children

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has risked the wrath of best-selling baby author Gina Ford by describing her methods as "absolute nonsense".

The father-of-three told the Sunday Times her approach was like "following a sort of Ikea assembly ... manual".

But Ms Ford said he had "insulted the parenting choice of more than two million British voters".

Mr Clegg's spokeswoman told the BBC he had been speaking as a father and was not challenging Ms Ford's expertise.

Her Contented Little Baby Book is a best-seller but divides opinion among parents - in 2006 she launched a libel case against the Mumsnet website over comments published by the website's users.

Parental instincts

Known as the "queen of routine", she advocates a strict structure to the lives of new parents and their babies.

Mr Clegg was asked whether he would consider using her methods after telling the interviewer he had been up four times the night before with his youngest - 10-month-old Miguel.

"Don't get me on to Gina Ford," he told the newspaper. He said he and his wife Miriam had tried to follow her advice with their first child, but said her instructions were "absolute nonsense".

"I will never forget - in the middle of the night, Antonio work up. Miriam said to me: What does the book say? I remember saying to her: 'Okay, we have got to stop this. I have subcontracted my parental instincts to this book'."

What is sad about this statement is that it comes from a supposedly intelligent man who would have us believe that he is capable of running Great Britain
Gina Ford

He said trying to follow her guidelines was like trying to follow a furniture assembly manual: "It made us feel strangely passive as parents."

Later Mr Clegg's spokeswoman told the BBC his remarks had been those of a "passionate father who like many parents feels acutely the effect of his children's sleeping pattern on his own life" and were not intended "in any way personally against Ms Ford".

She said he made no pretence to be an expert on babies' sleeping patterns and it was simply a personal opinion made during a wider interview.

Ms Ford told the newspaper parents were entitled to choose "whatever style of parenting they wish".

"What is sad about this statement is that it comes from a supposedly intelligent man who would have us believe that he is capable of running Great Britain. Clegg may think his comments are funny - and indeed in one way they are, as he has just insulted the parenting choice of more than 2m British voters."

She added: "If the Liberal Democrat party wishes to be taken seriously, it should perhaps look to getting a more mature leader who takes seriously the beliefs of all potential voters."



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