Britain’s top-selling daily newspaper ‘The Sun’ has seemingly dropped one of its distinguishing features – its infamous topless ‘page 3 models’. After 44 years, the feature has been discontinued, apparently in response to changing attitudes and a feminist-led campaign in opposition to it.

On weekdays, the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid has printed bare-breasted British models on its third page for over four decades, often with incongruous and implausible speech bubbles where the models purport to give their opinions on the hot-button issues of the day. But on Monday (January 19th) the traditional ‘page 3’ wasn’t there, with readers being redirected to The Sun’s website for pictures.

Helen Flanagan
Helen Flanagan was a 'Page 3 Girl' during the noughties, helping her to acting fame

Fellow Murdoch outlet ‘The Times’ later made the announcement that the feature had been “quietly” dropped. Spokesman Dylan Sharpe told ‘The Times’ that “Page 3 of The Sun is where it's always been, between pages 2 and 4, and you can find Lucy from Warwick at,” but added that there was no official comment on whether the feature would end permanently.

The ‘page 3’ feature has been the centre of occasional controversy for a great deal of time, with some accusing it of promoting anachronistic values since the mid-1980s, but ‘The Sun’ has always defended its popularity with its core blue-collar readership. But in 2012, an online campaign ‘No More Page 3’ was launched with the tagline “boobs aren’t news”, and it has slowly gathered momentum since, with over a quarter of a million signing a petition that implored The Sun’s editor to “stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects”.

Labour MP Stella Creasy welcomed the halt, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “The sexualisation, the objectification of women in this way was basically saying to all of us that what mattered, frankly, were our breasts not our brains.” Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman also hailed the decision, adding that ‘The Sun’ was at last “moving into the 21st century”.

However, glamour model Laura Lacole told the Belfast Telegraph that: "this is a blow to an entire industry that affects women. That is not in aid of the feminist movement, that is regressing something, it is taking away a right of women to express their sexuality.”

This is clearly an issue that will rumble on for a while yet, with some online forums already discussing the possibility of a ‘Bring Back Page 3’ campaign.

More: Girl Guides back ‘No More Page 3’ campaign to halt The Sun’s topless models