Let women dress as they please, Cheryl

THE view that women who dress 'provocatively' are asking for trouble is as old as the hills but reserved today for musty High Court judges and prim ladies paid to teach young women how to bag a rich husband.

THE view that women who dress 'provocatively' are asking for trouble is as old as the hills but reserved today for musty High Court judges and prim ladies paid to teach young women how to bag a rich husband.

Or so I thought.

But astonishing comments by new People's Princess Cheryl Cole on live television sent a deeply unsettling message threatening potential catastrophic effects on women and their safety.

She denounced a girl group for dressing 'provocatively'. The group happened to be ex-pole dancers, which was her point. Had they been choirgirls in black leather and spike heels she would more than likely have applauded their new raunchy image.

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Cole, a young, independent working woman who revels in her role model image for young girls, contradicted everything she and her generation stands for when she attacked the women's stage outfits.

In a couple of sentences, she proved that crass assumptions about women from the way they dress are horribly alive and kicking in 21st century.

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And from the mouth of a woman. An influential young woman in her own short skirt too.

The days of moral judgments about wearers of pelmet skirts and hot pants are, thankfully, long gone. In club and pub land in every town and city across the country, less is more for girls having fun.

The view that short equals tarty and fair game was buried long ago along with Clive Sinclair's C5 car and women believed they could feel safe wearing whatever they pleased.

But newsflash. Cheryl - not one renowned for hiding her assets beneath a shapeless shroud - believes that if a woman wants to be taken seriously, she should dress demurely.

What Cheryl meant is you can take the girls out of the pole-dancing club but you can't take the pole dancing out of the girls. Dress like a slapper, must be a slapper. Or once a slapper always a slapper.

That's rich coming from a member of Girls Aloud whose stage outfits leave little to the imagination. And is Madonna, the most seriously regarded female singer of modern times, taken less seriously because of her fishnets and a basque?

But when Cole told Kandy Rain on Saturday's X-Factor: 'You say you want to be taken seriously for your singing but there are certain things about you tonight that took away from that.

'If I was your mentor I would have brought you out looking demure and show what you can do as singers.

'But instead you come out dressed a bit provocatively and that's the image you give off.'

She might have well said it - she thought they looked like slappers - and were likely to be slappers.

Now hang on. Was she saying if they had turned out in vintage Laura Ashley and Alice bands they would have deserved more respect? Their hot pants, incidentally, were longer and covered more leg and modesty than last year's winner Alexandra Burke's dress when she performed live on Sunday's show. No criticism of her though.

And they were far more substantial than some of Strictly Come Dancing's wisps.

Even members of Cole's own group were photographed wearing itsy-bitsy skirts at Robbie Williams' live performance the next night.

Cole's comments were outrageous. She led the female audience - an impressionable young girl audience - to turn against the group and vote them out.

More disturbingly she endorsed the (male) view that if a woman is dressed 'provocatively' she is game for anything - potentially disastrous for women's safety and security.

Women should be able to dress as they please. Kandy Rain were girls with fabulous figures trying to change their lives in seedy clubs by working for something better?

Cole let herself and generations of women down by bigoted, unfair and scarily anti-female comments and left a distinctly bad taste.

And what about second chances? Embracing people working hard to change their lives to something better is the foundation the X-Factor is built on, not judging their pasts.

Cole might have apologised to the women for her comments - they, incidentally, were charm and poise itself in defeat - but she needs to do far more to dig herself out of this one.

MUCH concern by Gordon Brown's 'friends' about the state of his eyesight.

The Prime Minister needs to worry as much about the eyes in the back of his head as the ones in the front to watch out for the giant knives poised to stab him right between the shoulder blades any time soon.

BUGBEAR of the week - motorists who slam on their brakes willy-nilly to pull over to answer mobile phones.

They might feel smug they are obeying the law but their random, split-second pulling over is so hazardous it risks lives.

In the last week I've had to swerve to avoid drivers who have rammed on the brakes to a practical emergency stop to answer their phone, swinging into the kerb, come round bends to find cars parked half off and half on verges as drivers chat on their phones, in bus lanes and randomly on country lanes.

I've seen women leaning over scrabbling in their handbags in the passenger foot well, presumably to answer a ringing phone before sharply pulling over while answering it.

Stopping to answer a phone is just as dangerous and distracting as talking while driving.

CHATTING to a friend about the marked deterioration of Lowestoft town centre compared to the investment and improvements reviving Great Yarmouth at the moment felt distinctly like a re-ignition of historic rivalry between the two seaside towns.

'Yarmouth is on the up. People go there now to shop. There is a Debenhams, the seating on the market is better and the Quay looks good,' I heard.

The more people talk about it, the more people will go.

Lowestoft needs to aim far higher than a new Peacocks and QD to claw back some ground on its surprisingly, thriving rival Great Yarmouth it once towered over as a pleasant and quality place to shop and visit.

In a recession, people turn far more enterprising, forever on the look out to innovate and invent to make money and fill gaps in the market by providing a missing service to make a living.

POSTAL workers take heed. A strike opens the way for others to capitalise on a withdrawal of service.

Mail order companies, firms that rely on the post and charities relying on sales of Christmas cards and already hit by the recession aren't just going to sit back and go under waiting for postal workers to get back to work.

Enterprising delivery companies, fledgling firms and individuals will be all too willing to leap into the gap and market their services. Once let down, a business never goes back.

Old-fashioned tactics in a modern world can't work. It's not the 1970s. The country, nor businesses, will be held to ransom when the world has to keep moving and companies need to survive.

POLITICS aside, the Tory party conference always looks the most fun because they have the most money.

Images of Conservatives guzzling 149 bottles of bubbly in two hours and openly flouting indoor smoking rules because it's 'great' breaking the law probably reduced David Cameron to tears as he still tries to shrug off the spectre of the posh Bullingdon Club.

One Tory delegate - cigarette in one hand, champagne flute in the other - told an undercover reporter at Manchester's �200-a-night Midland Hotel, where conference guests got though 650 bottles of champagne and 3000 bottles of wine, it was 'great to be breaking Gordon Brown's stupid law.'

Can we then assume that the Tories would immediately reinstate smoking in public and help revive failing pubs?

A surefire vote winner if they did.

DON'T you just envy the closed world of academia?

While the rest of us struggle to keep our jobs, pay our mortgage and stay afloat, Professor Ellen van Wolde has been holed up proving that the Bible never suggested that God created the world but the Earth was already there when he - note The Creator is still male - created humans and animals.

"The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now," she said. How do you follow that day's work?

SHARON Shoesmith, the social work chief when Baby P was killed, has been condemned for caring more about 'handling the media' and 'striking the right tone' in covering up mistakes than the torture and killing of a child.

Hardly surprising. Since the invention of spin and PR gloss, image machines drive government, national and local.

Spin not substance matters. Just look at the party conferences - if the amount of time given to thinking about the party leaders' wives' shoes - Sam Cam's thrifty high street heels worn twice compared to Sarah Brown's luxury Jimmy Choos - was devoted to real solutions to the nation's messes, Britain would be a very different place.

As unpalatable as it seems, Shoesmith was merely reflecting the culture of a large section of the public sector in a tone set by the nation's leaders.

RESTAURANT manager Lloyd Gardner is a rarity in a 'grab it when you can' world.

Driven by altruism rather than greed, Lloyd, 22, handed a �10,000 reward for helping police to track down a violent rapist to the victim.

The woman was left for dead, spent weeks in a coma and is still confined to a wheelchair more than three years after the attack by a man given a double life sentence.

Instead of grabbing the money for doing the right thing and telling the police what he knew, he gave it to the victim to help her rebuild her life: 'I didn't feel like I'd earned it,' he said. 'The fact that such a horrific thing happened to that lady, I thought it would benefit her life more than it would mine.'

Stories like Lloyd's keep us going.

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