The Mail is silly to whip up a storm over a t-shirt

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It wouldn’t be a Sunday without a bonkers story from the Mail, would it?

This week, that pillar of the rabid-right press has got the knives out for Ed Miliband – because he put on a t-shirt without knowing its full history.

The shirt, emblazoned with the words, “This is what a feminist looks like,” was given to him by the women’s-interest magazine Elle, in association with equal rights charity the Fawcett Society, in the hope that he would agree to be photographed wearing it for a forthcoming special issue of the magazine on feminism.

The Fawcett Society had commissioned the shirt and said it had been told the garment would be made ethically.

But Mail on Sunday reporters weren’t satisfied with such assurances! Stung by the criticism attached to their idol David Cameron, after he refused to wear it (on the basis that he didn’t have the time, if the BBC’s News Quiz is any kind of reliable source of information), they travelled to Mauritius, where the shirt was made.

There, they learned that “Migrant women in Mauritius are making the £45 tops for 62p an hour” and that, when they weren’t working, they “sleep 16 to a room and earn less than average wage on island”.

Two thoughts occur: Firstly, the Mail on Sunday is wrong to direct its anger at Mr Miliband (and at Labour’s Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, who wore the shirt in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, to highlight the lack of women in Cameron’s cabinet).

Everybody who put on that shirt and allowed themselves to be photographed wearing it did so in good faith. They did it for the Fawcett Society – a charity that supports ethical employment and equality – and for Elle, to support its edition on gender equality.

How many times have you ever asked if anybody was exploited in the making of a clothing item before buying it?

If anyone has been caught in the wrong, it is whoever the Fawcett Society contracted to manufacture the shirt. If the Mail allegations are accurate, then the organisation was misled, the t-shirts will have to be withdrawn from sale and the charity will (now) have to apologise to anyone whose name has been besmirched by association with it.

Secondly, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the Mail to be criticising the treatment of migrant workers who have been paid less than the average wage and forced to live in overcrowded conditions.

The Mail‘s attacks on people who immigrate into the UK are now the stuff of legend; it supported Lord Freud after he commented that some disabled people could be made to work for less than the minimum wage; and it is a strong supporter of the Bedroom Tax and other changes to housing-related social security benefits which can lead to eviction for families who cannot make ends meet in David Cameron’s low-wage, no-benefit Britain. When people become homeless, their local council has to pay for them to be housed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, often sharing with many other people, often in entirely inappropriate conditions.

In writing the article, the Mail set out to expose Ed Miliband as a hypocrite.

In fact, all it has done is expose its own double-standards.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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15 thoughts on “The Mail is silly to whip up a storm over a t-shirt

  1. Alan M Dransfield

    Sorry Peter but I agree the Mail should cover this story because it just reflects the stupidity of Millaband. He should have known better than to wear such a T/Shirt.
    Well done the Mail.

  2. joanna may

    The DM makes a mockery of free speech! There was, once upon a time factories that were specially adapted that disabled people could cope with, now those that are still around (very few) are going to be privatised by Fester Mcvile!!!!

  3. marzia27

    One can be guilty of naivety.

    A politician cannot afford it.

    £45 for a T shirt? How many people can afford it?

    I am not a reader of the Mail and have never been BUT neither am I prepared to defend my side (I am a Labour member) blindly.

    I DO ask where any garment I wear comes from.

    I am as selective as humanly possible.

  4. wildswimmerpete

    If that Thatcher t**d hadn’t destroyed our manufacturing industry to spite the unions while toadying to her City chums, that t-shirt would’ve well been made in cotton-spinning Lancashire, up the road from me.

  5. jaypot2012

    So do we go into every clothes shop and ask if their stock is ethically made? Or do we do what the “Fail” has supposedly done, and go out to all the countries that employ slave labour, (Oh hang on a minute – we are one of those countries), and check on each item we want to buy?
    We should be making ethically made clothing in this country with our people being paid a proper wage instead of outsourcing to countries where the employed are treated like we are!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your first point is a question posed in the article – how can anyone condemn Miliband for failing to ask that question when it is extremely unlikely that we ask it ourselves.
      How many of us have bought clothes from Primark that were made in the Rana Plaza factory, before it collapsed? http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/16/primark-payout-victims-rana-plaza-bangladesh
      How many Mail on Sunday reporters were wearing unethically-sourced clothes when the t-shirt article was written?

    2. Jim Round

      I’ll ask a similar question again, how much would it cost to manufacture a T-Shirt in Britain?
      Costs must include paying the living wage, Tax and NI, insurance, gas, electric, rates, machinery and maintenance etc…
      I can’t seem to find or get an answer.

  6. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    In politics, optics is everything and Britain’s right-wing press, often accused of being a mouthpiece for the government, never miss an opportunity to cast the opposition parties in an unfavorable light.

    Your superb blog piece adroitly exposes the hypocrisy of the Mail and is deserving of wider attention. Do me a favor, Mike, and ask the Guardian or the Huffington Post UK (or other mainstream publications of your choosing) to consider it for publication.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I have done this.
      Let’s see if we can get a bit of mainstream recognition for Vox Political!

  7. Ameli

    Why did they go to all that trouble when right under their noses the ConDems are encouraging zero hours and homelessness to name but two issues that could be highlighted for the public consumption and disgust. All the way to Mauritius, well I never

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      They support the Tories. They went all the way to Mauritius in order to undermine Ed Miliband and Labour – but hopefully my article (and any others by like-minded people) will throw it back in their faces by highlighting their own hypocrisy.

  8. aturtle05

    My question is: Can the Fail on Sunday prove that the rags used in creating their paper are ethically produced?

  9. amnesiaclinic

    The lady who tried to revitalise the high streets eventually produced Kinky Knickers which were sold at a reasonable price by Liberty’s. She employed unemployed youngsters and trained them up managing to source Nottingham lace and bring a factory back into commission with the original staff to train them. It was fascinating as I think all of them had never worked before and were suddenly doing 39 hours . It is possible but having the tv programme obviously boosted sales.
    Why don’t we ask where our clothes are made and by whom? Many of us do and buy Fair Trade or People Tree or Greenfibres. They last and last and you know the profits are being ploughed back into their communities to provide education and healthcare. The sale prices are really good and help stretch the budget. Otherwise it’s the charity shop for recycled clothes! And I darn and mend my own!
    And yes, I think political leaders should know where their clothes are sourced. They can afford to pay a premium and set an example. Perhaps we should know where IDS buys his underpants as we pay for them!

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