The Sun has dropped Page 3 – but don't expect it to cover up completely

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

In Sun splash sub terms it would be "44D-Day". For those who campaigned long and hard against what they considered the demeaning portrayal of women, it was a long fought victory, but in the office of the editor the decision to drop page 3 models was taken purely for pragmatic reasons.

Forty four years after topless women became a fixture in The Sun and the term 'page three' a euphemism for bare breasts, the institution has, with no fanfare, been spiked.

And the silence is not surprising. David Dinsmore, the editor, is not one for the grand gesture, especially when he and his circulation team will be looking at the sales figures over the next few months to calculate whether the decision was good, bad or neutral – enabling them to 'reverse ferret' with minimum fuss.

The gut feeling is that there will be no effect; sales figures will continue to slide in line with the market, but over time the Sun will be a more female-friendly publication. Dinsmore must look with avarice at the number of female readers of the Daily Mail and know that in a changing and challenging market no sector can be ignored or marginalised.

When I worked on The Sun in the glory days of a 4m daily circulation, dropping page three was never considered – if it ain't broke don't fix it. But now the Sun, as with other pop papers, is struggling and big decisions have to be made, although quietly.

Dinsmore's touch was apparent during the Scottish independence campaign when many expected his paper to back the Yes vote. Instead he kept schtum and can look back in satisfaction at his decision.

At a recent lunch where Dinsmore was the guest, he spoke about maintaining Sun traditions – ground-breaking stories, humour and top class sports coverage – but was coy over page three.

It had been apparent, even before Dinsmore, that page three was on the way out when the captions became ironic: "Tracy, with her pert figure, wonders what Churchill would have thought of the decision to make 10,000 soldiers redundant."

The Sun will still have the glamour and there has been no editorial decision to ban topless pictures completely. If next summer Samantha Cameron drops her towel while changing on a beach in Cornwall, trust me the snap will be used.

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government

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