Gina Ford

[Well done Nick Clegg. See: The Family Bed.  Avoiding eye contact, letting cry for 12 minutes!  And separate bedrooms.  Traditional non contact childrearing, breeds emotional problems.]

Baby guru Gina Ford tells Nick Clegg: You're being childish

By Dan Newling

As a politician, he usually relishes a bit of verbal rough and tumble.

But Nick Clegg might rue the day he started his latest war of words.

The Liberal Democrat leader has found himself on the wrong side of parenting expert Gina Ford  -  and perhaps the millions of voters who follow her methods.

 Mr Clegg started the slanging match during an interview in which he had intended to publicise the Liberal Democrats' political independence.

Lib Dems to scrap free childcare pledge as Clegg admits voters must be treated 'like grown-ups'

As the interview was starting, his female questioner realised that the father of three had been up all night looking after his ten-month-old son.

So she suggested he try using Gina Ford's famously strict parenting techniques.

'Don't get me on to Gina Ford!', Mr Clegg, 43, groaned in answer.

He went on to lambast Mrs Ford's methods as 'absolute nonsense' and likened them to 'sticking children in broom cupboards'.

He recalled following the parenting guru's advice with his first son, Antonio, and said: 'It was like following a sort of Ikea manual. It made us feel strangely passive parents.'

 And he described how, on one really fraught night, he and wife Miriam finally lost patience with Miss Ford's guide book The Contented Little Baby Book.

He said: 'I will never forget  -  in the middle of the night Antonio woke up. Miriam said to me, "What does the book say?" I remember saying to her, "Okay, we have got to stop this. I have subcontracted my parental instincts to this book".'

Yesterday Miss Ford hit back. She told the Sunday Times: 'What is sad about this statement is that it comes from a supposedly intelligent man who would have us believe that he is capable of running Great Britain.

'Clegg may think that his comments are funny  -  and indeed they are, as he has just insulted the parenting choice of more than two million voters.'

She added: 'If the Liberal Democrat party wishes to be taken seriously, it should perhaps look to getting a more mature leader who takes seriously the beliefs of all potential-voters.' Miss Ford, a 54-year- old Scottish former maternity nurse with no children of her own, has been dubbed 'The Queen of Routine' for her advice to stick to a parenting timetable in which children are fed, comforted and put to sleep at the same time every day.

She advocates 'controlled crying', in which they are not comforted when they start to wail.

Her approach runs counter to modern, more liberal, parenting instincts. As such, it has split the parenting world.

Her fans claim that the Gina Ford method means that babies easily get into a natural rhythm and are happier.

However, her detractors have likened her methods to animal training and claim that it is cruel and unnatural.

In 2006, Miss Ford launched a libel action against the website Mumsnet for comments made by users about her which she claimed were defamatory. The case was settled out of court.

Perhaps sensing political injury, Mr Clegg yesterday appeared to wave the white flag of surrender.

'We are not seeking a row with Gina Ford,' his spokesman said. 'Nick spoke personally about something very prominent in his life.

'He spoke, not as an expert, but as a father who is very involved with his children.'

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