Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party has hit the headlines for daring to question whether women should ostentatiously breastfeed in public. “Nigel Farage says breastfeeding women should sit in a corner” screamed the Guardian. But closer inspection reveals that he was merely advocating for the rights of businesses to set their own rules on their premises – and for mothers to show consideration and good manners.
The row broke out after Louise Burns, 35, claimed that a waiter in top London hotel Claridge’s approached her with a “ridiculous shroud” and asked her to cover up whilst breastfeeding her 12 week old daughter. She also claims that the waiter told her it was hotel policy – something that Claridge’s has since denied.
When questioned about the incident on LBC radio, Farage said: “I’m not particularly bothered about it, but I know a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable, and look, this is just a matter of common sense, isn’t it? I think that given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that’s not openly ostentatious.
“Frankly, that’s up to Claridge’s, and I very much take the view that if you’re running an establishment you should have rules.”
When asked by the presenter whether new mothers should go to the toilets to breastfeed, Farage replied: “Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be – that’s up to Claridge’s. It’s not an issue that I get terribly hung up about, but I know particularly people of the older generation feel awkward and embarrassed by it.”
The government jumped on the anti-Farage bandwagon, with No 10 saying that it was “totally unacceptable” to make new mothers self-conscious about breastfeeding in public.
But Farage hasn’t sought to make anyone feel uncomfortable. He’s merely pointing out that, in a free and equal society, one group doesn’t have the unfettered right to feel totally free and comfortable at the expense of others who are being made to feel uncomfortable. Rather, there must be consideration on all sides.
Speaking to Breitbart London, he said: “The media fabrication over breastfeeding has been extraordinary. Let me get this clear, as I said on the radio and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want.
“What I said was… and it is immensely frustrating that I have to explain this… is that if the establishment in question, in this case Claridge’s, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be. I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No.
“We do however have to recognise that businesses have a responsibility to all of their customers, some of whom may well be made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding. It’s a two-way street: breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop, and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It just a question of good manners, and in this case, accurate journalism.”