Meet Princess Liz: Sexism row misses the point of the Mail’s Liz Kendall interview

We all know the paper is sexist. More salient is the Mail's portrayal of Liz Kendall

Kate Middleton and Liz Kendall


At first glance, the significance of the Mail on Sunday’s interview with Labour’s Liz Kendall appears to be two things:

1. The sexism of the newspaper’s approach to female politicians (and women generally).

2. The moxy displayed by Kendall in telling the reporter to ‘fuck off’ when asked about her weight.

What is being missed is the political context of these elements of the interview. 

For example, many write-ups have noted how the Mail referred to Kendall’s ‘elegant hand’, into which the figurative torch of Blairism was supposedly passed.

People have correctly questioned rhetorically whether the elegance of any male politician has been remarked upon by a national newspaper.

But a more salient (and non-rhetorical question) would be: why is the Mail calling a Labour politician elegant in the first place?

Elegant is, after all, a compliment.

The question about Kendall’s weight itself, and her four-letter response, which has been the main focus of the write-ups, appears in the following context:

“She is wearing emerald green suede high heels from L.K. Bennett. […] Her jacket, navy blue ‘vest’ and trousers are from Reiss.

L.K. Bennett and Reiss are two of the Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite fashion brands – and slinky brunette Liz, or Elizabeth Louise, to give her full Royal-sounding Christian names, looks as good in them as slinky brunette Kate.

In fact she looks the same weight as the Duchess – about 8st – though when I ask she slaps me down with a raucous ‘fuck off!’, adding quickly: ‘Don’t print that.’”

Again, one needs to look past the sexism to see what is happening.

The Mail is explicitly likening ‘slinky brunette’ Kendall to its beloved ‘slinky brunette’ Princess, Kate Middleton, and even highlights Kendall’s ‘Royal-sounding Christian names’.

In the Mail’s universe, no higher compliment could be paid.

So why is the Mail on Sunday praising so highly a Labour politician? 

The answer is not hard to find. The piece begins with Kendall trashing ‘ridiculous lefty’ Jeremy Corbyn and denying him a place in her prospective cabinet.

It goes on to provide an amazingly flattering profile of its subject, noting that:

No-nonsense Kendall, born in Abbots Langley, near Watford, comes from precisely the kind of aspirational Middle England family successfully wooed by Tony Blair and foolishly spurned by Red Ed.”

The piece goes on to summarise Kendall’s policies:

“She backs a role for the private sector in health, says Labour must focus on ‘creating wealth as well as spending it’, wants more money for the armed forces, backs welfare cuts, and has defended free schools.”

Sounds like a programme the Mail can get behind, does it not?

Essentially, this interview is the Mail on Sunday nailing its colours to the mast. For national newspapers which use their power to influence general elections and government policy, it is only natural that they should look to do the same in the Labour party leadership election.

Thus, despite the shabby sexism of its form, the content of the piece provides Liz Kendall with less to complain about than today’s press coverage would suggest.

The Labour leadership hopeful has just been crowned Princess Liz by the second most-read newspaper in the country.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

Daily Mail condemns unions for ‘Nazi’ jibe, then says reforms are ‘a battle for Britain’

Daily Mail swallows Osborne’s myth about women ‘winning’ in his budget

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9 Responses to “Meet Princess Liz: Sexism row misses the point of the Mail’s Liz Kendall interview”

  1. Sean Garrity

    The endorsement of the DM of LK has sunk her bid for stardom.
    When are Labour politicians going to learn that their Tory lite policies do not sit well with voters. Instead of trying to emulate the Camerons and Osbournes of Westminster they should travel north of the border and do some fact finding on why the vast majority of Scottish voters rejected them.

  2. Torybushhug

    You just regurgitated the 2 standard populist lefty arguments, so lets examine them.
    You say Labour as Tory lite is a mistake and yet in the last 45 years the only Labour leader to win the election was Tony Blair, more or less middle England Tory lite.
    Your second cookie cutter line fails to spot the SNP’s surge is not simply due to it’s being on the left, but because it is seen as a defence against the far away English puppet masters in Westminster. Grievance politics in tooth and claw despite Dumbo lefties claiming it was only the Tories that went in for a negative fear drenched GE campaign.

    Here’s to Corbyn, he will keep Labour out for 15 years more. The majority of the public want massive welfare reform and are sick of the handout culture that benefits you most if you act irresponsibly all paid for those that act responsibly and make careful life choices.

  3. stevep

    Clear English for those who don`t understand:

  4. Sean Garrity

    “The majority of the public want massive welfare reform and are sick of the handout culture that benefits”

    If this were true then I would have expected a far greater vote count for Cameron and his henchmen than what they actually got.

    Truth is there are far more people opposed to Tory worship than take part in it.

  5. Jon Stone

    “The majority of the public want massive welfare reform …”

    Yes, there’ve been innumerable protests and grass roots organisations springing up which have called for just that, as a matter of urgency. It’s certainly not something you only here from opinion columnists, comments section bores and talking head interviews with people who think the guy down the road must be a welfare cheat because they saw him using a ladder once.


    The Tories have always argued for welfare reform on the basis of “desperate times for desperate measures”. Their pro-austerity narrative casts us all as passengers on the Titanic, with no money to pay for lifeboats unless we take it out of the pockets of the third class passengers. They knew they needed to push this message. They knew they couldn’t rely on just saying “Welfare reform is good”; they had to say: “Look, it’s a bad business, all right, but something’s got to give. We’ve got to tighten belts.”

    So no, there is no great appetite for austerity measures. What we have is a portion of the public accepting it as a wretched necessity during a recession – in the context, I should add, of a relentless campaign by right-wing papers to assuage their guilt by exaggerating the instances of welfare abuse.

    Tony Blair did capture the centre ground – true enough. But there was no issue as polarising as austerity in his day, or if there was, he was clever enough to find a way to appeal to both sides. No one at the moment is doing that. Pro-austerity Labour leadership candidates are completely alienating anyone remotely left of centre in their attempts to woo the right. That’s not centrism at all – that’s failing to find an equilibrium and instead sending the see-saw crashing down on the other side of the right/left divide.

  6. Cole

    …although the Kendall piece in the Mail was very supportive of her (by Mail standards). Makes you wonder.

  7. Wilhelm Fakenameson

    It’s almost like they included the offensive bits so she could complain and cover herself against accusations that her entire campaign is one long pander to the Daily Mail…

  8. Frann Leach

    So despite the Telegraph’s call to Tories to sign up and vote for Corbyn, the Mail would rather Labour had a right wing leader (obviously Tory lite is no real threat, whereas a genuine leftwing party is)

  9. Jackie Ogden

    If I were Kate Middleton I’d be grossly offended by the comparison. Liz looks like a younger version of Mrs T. The idea that Kendall was born in the Watford area so that makes her middle England is just daft too. I suspect that they were trying their best to be complimentary, which does beg the question why? Answer: she’s a bloody Tory!

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