Monday, December 15, 2008

Jo Swinson on the male dominance of the Commons

Saturday saw the 90th anniversary of the first general election at which some women were able to vote. marked the occasion with a feature on women in politics.

In it Jo Swinson made a good point about the effect that the male dominance of Westminster has on debate there:

Swinson cites the response to Nick Clegg's performance during this week's prime minister's questions as an example. Clegg got up to ask about a single mother who came to his surgery as an example of lower-income groups facing criminal penalties for being unable to pay back money given to them mistakenly in tax credits. He probably wasn't thinking about the interview he gave to Piers Morgan nearly a year ago in which he admitted sleeping with about 30 women. MPs were.

He only managed to say: "This week a single mother came to my surgery in Sheffield…" before someone on the other benches shouted: "Thirty-one". MPs laughed for a good long time.

"I was appalled they started laughing and applauding," says Swinson. "I know he made those ill-judged comments a year ago, but you hear the phrase single mother and the first thing you think is sex? And then I thought – if this room wasn't 80 per cent male would it be the same reaction?"

Of course, if Nick Clegg had not boasted about his sexual conquests to Morgan in the first place he would not now be ridiculed in this way.


Niles said...

Except of course Clegg didn't boast. Piers Morgan was asking a stupid question, and insisting on an answer by escalating the figure. When he asked, "So how many women have you slept with? 10? 20? 30?" Clegg interrupted with "certainly no more than that"

Yes, he should have told Morgan to take a running jump, but it's not as if he went into the interview to boast about his notches, he got played into revealing something that subsequently got quoted out of context and became a myth.

Meral Hussein Ece said...

I suspect most women - and men, were appalled by MPs behaviour last week.Its the worst kind of public school boy hysteria that seems to pervade Parliament. Totally agree with JO - things must change.

Jennie Rigg said...

What Niles said. Giving an honest answer to repeated badgering from a twunt does not equal boasting.

Liberal Neil said...

Even if Clegg got it worng, it doesn't change Jo's basic point.

Too many MPs are sitting there thinking about how to score a point or belittle others, rather than actually debate real issues.

Many male MPs (on both sides of the house) compound this by their sexist attitude.

Imagine how you would feel about this behaviour if you were a single mother in Clegg's constituency who needed to see him about a benefits problem.

Martin said...

I take Jo's point, but a schoolboy sense of humour is a pre-requisite of being an MP. Jo should just enjoy her superiority. Having said that I've sat in enough female dominated environments to imagine... "A single-mother came to my surgery this week. Honestly when will people learn that pink nails just don't go with a black outfit - and trainers, oh dear..."