End of Sun's Page 3 girls welcomed
Government ministers have welcomed reports that the Sun has dropped Page 3 girls - with one branding the controversial feature "old-fashioned sexism".
Britain's best-selling tabloid has not published pictures of topless glamour models since Friday, and has reportedly decided to quietly drop the feature.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who also holds the women and equalities brief, said the move is "long overdue".
The Conservative Cabinet minister said: "This is a long-overdue decision and marks a small but significant step towards improving media portrayal of women and girls. I very much hope it remains permanent."
It also received the backing of Liberal Democrat women's and equalities minister Jo Swinson - although she criticised the decision to run pictures of two Hollyoaks actresses in their bikinis on today's Page 3 instead.
She said: "I am delighted that the old-fashioned sexism of Page 3 could soon be a thing of the past.
"I welcome this apparent step forward from the Sun, but I would encourage its editors to consider whether parading women in bikinis is really a modern reflection of the contribution women make to society.
"We need to ensure that media representation of women reflects the great achievements that women make to business, to families and to society.
"I'd like to see us providing positive role models for young girls instead of suggesting that women's contribution is in how they look."
Asked whether David Cameron welcomed the apparent demise of the Page 3 topless model, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The PM always thinks that what newspapers publish is a matter for newspapers.
"It is his view that editors' decisions are for editors.
"There is an important point around the independence of newspapers making their own publishing decisions."
The Times reported today that The Sun will no longer feature topless glamour models after "quietly dropping" the controversial feature after 44 years.
But the tabloid has refused to confirm the report, which its head of public relations Dylan Sharpe said "is all just speculation, it is all wild speculation".
Today's edition of the paper features Hollyoaks actresses Jennifer Metcalfe, 31, and Gemma Merna, 30, running along a Dubai beach in their bikinis. Readers are advised to go online to see "Page 3 Lucy from London".
Yas Necati, from the No To Page 3 campaign group, said: "We are really glad they are doing it. I think after 44 years it is about time, really.
"When you open up The Sun, which is Britain's biggest-selling family newspaper, you see images of men doing things - running the country, achieving in sport - whereas the most prominent image of a woman is one where she is sexually objectified.
"It gives the message that men make the news for what they do, and women for what they look like."
Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman told LBC the move means The Sun is "moving into the 21st century" while the Girlguiding UK's Advocates panel said Page 3 is "disrespectful and embarrassing" and that they are "thrilled" it is being dropped.
But the reports have sparked an angry backlash from glamour models, who branded anti-Page 3 campaigners "no bra-wearing, man-haters" and said the move would put women out of work.
Page 3 pin-up turned bodybuilder Jodie Marsh, 36, hit out at the move in a series of angry tweets.
She said : "So-called 'feminists' really annoy me. Telling girls they shouldn't do Page 3 is not being a feminist; women should do whatever they want.
"I loved doing Page 3, it was good money, I felt powerful, I was definitely in control and all the people (mostly women) I worked with were fab.
"I never felt exploited - in fact the opposite. I thought 'Blimey, people are willing to pay to see my boobs'.
"I am very much a feminist. I believe women can do it all and have it all. Women who slag off other women are just jealous and insecure.
"Women shouldn't be fighting to be equal to men. We are there already."
Page 3 girl Rhian Sugden, 28, added her voice to the chorus of criticism online, writing on Twitter: "It's only a matter of time before everything we do will be dictated by comfy shoe-wearing, no bra-wearing, man-haters."
Former glamour model Nicola McLean, 33, said she was "sad" at the reports.
She told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I don't think it is outdated. I think the girls still look fantastic on the page, they still clearly enjoy what they are doing, people still want to see it.
"Everybody still wants Page 3, apart from the feminists who are fighting an argument I just don't agree with."
Glamour model Laura Lacole, 25, told Sky News that Page 3 can have a positive impact on the lives of women.
She said: "If you want to celebrate your sexuality, you can do that; if you don't want to then you don't have to."
The Page 3 pin-ups were introduced by the Sun in 1970, less than a year after Rupert Murdoch bought the title.
But the News Corp boss signalled last year that he was considering dropping the feature.
He asked his Twitter followers: ''Aren't beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes?''
He went on: ''Brit feminists bang on forever about Page 3. I bet never buy paper. I think old fashioned but readers seem to disagree.''
The Daily Star has said it is "proud" to continue its page 3, which it said "brightens the day" for readers.
A spokesman for the tabloid said: "The Daily Star is proud to continue the great British page 3 tradition. It brightens the day for our readers during tough times and has launched many successful careers.
"We will continue to listen to what our readers want and put a smile on their faces with our lovely, bright, talented and independent young ladies.
"Page 3 is as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pud, fish and chips and seaside postcards. The Daily Star is about fun and cheering people up. And that will definitely continue!"
Meanwhile, former Labour MP Clare Short told Iain Dale on LBC that the reported demise of Page 3 was a "small but symbolic" step for feminism.