Top Totty conjures memories of Dorothy Goodbody

THERE was uproar in the House of Commons last week following a complaint by Kate Green MP, the shadow Equalities Minister, regarding a guest ale in the Parliamentary bar called “Top Totty”.

Top Totty is a light blonde ale (4 per cent) which the brewer, Slater’s Ales, describes as “a stunning blonde beer full bodied with a voluptuous hop aroma” and has been available for some ten years. The tap contains a cartoon, semi-realistic image of a lady dressed in a bikini, bow-tie, and bunny ears. Kate Green was quoted as being “disturbed” by this, with Commons Leader Sir George Young later frothing: “Action will be taken”, and indeed the ale was removed later that day.

Whilst associating alcohol with sexual success is a no-no under the alcohol advertising rules, the whole episode reminded me of the official complaint levied against Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout back in February 2008 by Alcohol Concern. This product was formally investigated by the Portman Group, the industry appointed watchdog of irresponsible alcohol advertising. Dorothy Goodbody herself might be fairly described as having the appearance of a buxom 1950s style country girl, and she is of course fictitious.

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The complaint against Dorothy was that her pose was somewhat suggestive, and even went as far as to say that she did not appear to have any undergarments. The Portman Group rejected the complaint, saying that the complainant had let their imagination get the better of them and that at worst the image was “slightly saucy” akin to a seaside postcard.

Rules regarding how alcohol can be advertised are there for a reason. But arguably  the opprobrium generated by this beer is misplaced. It is clear that the label is designed to be tongue in cheek and, ultimately, intended to be a bit of fun. Many real ales have “cheeky” names including “Old Bast*rd” and countless others.

The furore seems out of proportion when you consider that the Top Totty cartoon is certainly not titillating in comparison to photos and images which appear daily in some of the tabloid newspapers and celebrity magazines, and is a lot less revealing than the window display of La Senza or the lingerie pages in the M&S catalogue.

• Stephen McGowan is a Director in the Licensing Team at Lindsays