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Harriet Harman was not ‘bullied’ at PMQs today

7 November 2012

6:41 PM

7 November 2012

6:41 PM

Barack Obama’s re-election has naturally perked up the Labour party, on the optimistic basis that the Obama formula for success, sans Obama, could work perfectly well here. But there’s a limit to how far you can take that approach and it was reached, PDQ today, by the feisty editor of the LabourList website, Mark Ferguson, today. The key to Obama’s victory, he correctly observed, was his appeal to women, some of whom took a dim view of some Republicans’ attitudes to rape and abortion. The working equivalent of the Republicans over here, he went on, is obviously the Tories, whose antique and regressive attitudes to women could be observed in, um, the treatment of the Shadow Deputy PM, Harriet Harman, in the Commons today. As he put it:

‘Today though, the real attitude of some in the Tory Party to women was laid bare. Heckling is always a problem at PMQs, but for women it’s far, far worse. Sometimes it’s hard to hear female MPs deliver their questions such is the barracking (or worse, just talking over them). Today, Harriet Harman was given the full hairdryer treatment from the moment she stood up until the moment she sat down. It was relentless, ugly and shocking. No group of MPs would treat a senior male politician in such a way. And yet Harman is considered fair game.’

Now, I appreciate more than most the difficulties women have in making themselves heard; I’m a martyr to the problem myself. But his observations about HH are, quite simply, untrue. During PMQs she was heard with near silence and respectfully when she was talking about the Leveson Inquiry – indeed I wish she’d had a far tougher ride on that one – and it was only when she went on to attack the Coalition’s family policies that the volume rose discernibly. But that was because she was making statements about the cuts to the SureStart programme that were downright provocative. Which is, by the way, her job.


All that the heckling did was give Harriet an occasion to make a joke, which is something of an Event. ‘I’m starting,’ she said, to have sympathy with the hon member for Mid-Bedfordshire….all those rats and snakes, and that was before she went into the jungle.’ Very nice, Harriet.

Does it matter that any stick is good enough to beat the Coalition with, when it comes to suggesting that the Tories are irredeemably sexist? No, not really. But trying to invoke the spectre of Harriet Harman being bullied by men in government when she plainly wasn’t, does suggest that the parallels between the Tories and the Republican Right just don’t work.

Look, I’m not saying that there isn’t still a place in the great scheme of things for a feminist take on things. Today we learned from the Chartered Management Institute that women executives earn, on average, half a million quid less than their male counterparts over their lifetime. Some of that is because women decide perfectly sensibly that they’d prefer a bit more time on the home front than spending all their time at work: less pay but fewer heart attacks. But I just know from the experience of my peers that some of the gap is because women don’t really push their case when it comes to getting paid as much as men; they get on with the job and are hurt and surprised when they find out later that they’ve been undervalued.

If we could focus on perfectly reasonable issues like pay, there might be a case for suggesting that the Government still has some way to go when it comes to its woman problem, which The Spectator, incidentally, was the first to draw attention to. But trying to erect an edifice of oppression on the back of Harriet Harman really won’t wash. Particularly when, as the Speaker noted, the person who got the really rough ride during PMQs – from both sides – was poor Nick Clegg.

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Show comments
  • Mombasa69

    For all their faults, they’re a thousand times better than the last f**king bunch of tossers that were in power.

  • Charlie the Chump

    Poor Nick Clegg?? He gets what he deserves, no more no less.

    • Mombasa69

      At least he had the guts to side with the party that won the largest share of votes, even if he is a dick.

  • jonah

    The harridan Harman ought to be jailed for crimes against the English Constitution, common law etc al.

  • sunnydayrider

    Dreadful woman. Hattie I mean.

  • Sarah

    Who apart from Rod Liddle would heckle somebody about child abuse? That they managed to shut up while she spoke of that is hardly a point in the boys’ club favour, that wasn’t out of respect for her, but respect for their careers.

    It would be nice if treating women equally didn’t automatically mean treating them badly.

    The confrontational, macho chest thumping and boo rah, competitive attention seeking heckling of the men in PMQs is anachronistic, it’s not how women operate and it’s not how they want to operate, there’s nothing egalitarian about ignoring that fact and is bullying to subject them to it. Why else would the men do it afterall?

    • Coffeehousewall

      The trouble is that most women just aren’t suited to working in the House of Commons and it needs to be accepted that politics really is a game for men. The last thing we need is the continuing feminisation of society. It is what has led us to the brink of dhimmitude.

  • AdemAljo

    Batty Hatty, the marvellous bint,
    Sat in the house with a head full of lint.
    She stood to attention and tried to ignore
    The ingenious wit from the great Tory floor.

    ‘Bullied!’, ‘What horror?!’, our Hatty was treated
    To cries from her leftists, the right being cheated
    Of a genuine battle ‘gainst this old crone’s stint,
    Our own Batty Hatty, the marvellous bint.

    • Sarah

      See. This idiocy is what women are dealing with.
      Luckily it’s obvious these people have a short time left on this earth. Plain minds like his don’t survive evolutionary processes as he’ll never pass on his genes.

      • FrederickForeskin

        I’ve already told you darling, now get your lazy arse into the kitchen and put the fucking kettle on.
        What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?…Nothing, you’ve told her twice already.
        Boom, and, indeed, boom.

      • AdemAljo

        I once knew a Pinko named Sarah,
        Who’s comments would never quite spare her,
        From thing’s like this prose,
        She felt bloody nosed,
        ‘Cos others would simply ensnare her.

      • dorothy wilson

        For goodness sake Sarah grow up!

  • William Blakes Ghost

    all those rats and snakes, and that was before she went into the jungle.

    Well one thing’s for sure being involved with the Labour party, Mad Hattie will be more than experienced in the ways of reptiles and vermin!

  • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

    Oh come off it, Ferguson! Harriet Harman? Bullied? I can’t imagine anybody in the House of Commons LESS likely to get bullied.

    I’ve seen many things in my life, but Harriet Harman compared to a nervous, retiring wilting-violet type? That’s a new one!

  • Rich How

    Harman was instrumental in a policy which has bullied 8 million Britons from using pubs, private clubs or coffee houses: the smoking ban. She an elitist, philistine snob, whose true politics make Cameron look like Tom Payne.

  • 2trueblue

    Did we watch the same PMQ’s? HH being bullied? Just look at the picture, teeth bared, grinning.

    I thought that Clegg held up his end very well and Harman did not land many punches.

    This is no cpmparison between the next election here and the one just played out in the US. Obama won very narrowly on the health versus wealth ticket. Look at the voting pattern.

  • Keith

    Yes, this is why Mrs Thatcher was never able to impose herself in government. She was always being bullied by men.

  • HooksLaw

    Labour never worried about shouting Thatcher down, and then they called her ‘strident’; when she answered back.

  • Jules

    Cameron and the Tories have a woman problem. A majority of women will vote Labour according to the polls, Tory policies are negatively affecting women more than men and after the reshuffle there are now LESS women in Government and the Cabinet.

    Consider this: 7% of the British population are educated in fee paying schools, 51% of the British population are female. The Cabinet is dominated by privately educated men with only 5 out of the 31 members being women.

    • Henry

      I think you mean FEWER not LESS…and why should it matter about the demographic of the House of Commons? This is a meritocracy, leave the number of women to the free market not endless Labour quotas and bureacracy.

      • Colonel Mustard

        A meritocracy? Unfortunately not. The men vs women meme is now well established, as are other identity politics divisive confrontations. Never has this Kingdom felt less United.

  • Mirtha Tidville

    Just had a good laugh at this one..Hattie being bullied……other way round, surely..

  • barbie

    I’ve never seen or heard H Harmon bullied by anyone. In fact in some cases she’s the one doing the bullying. Today she held her own, it was the lack of dicipline by the other MPs who we should worry over, just a rabble. What the rest of the world think of parliament I’ll never try to say. The Speaker is clearly having problems keeping order and seems to think it’s women causing the problems, shouting at one over three times. He should look closer to home, perhaps!!!

  • Slicer

    Harriet Harman is a sexist, bigot. She got treat like an equal, she can deal with it.

    • Sarah

      Hate to break it to you, but men don’t get to decide what equal is gonna look like. We don’t like the way you do things, so they’re going to change.

      • Robert_Eve

        Dream on.

      • FrederickForeskin

        Calm down dear and put your knickers on and go and make me a cup of tea. You’ll never get through that glass ceiling by posting such silly comments on an irrelevant website like this.

        • Sarah

          Shut up Mr Foreskin.

          Do you think I don’t recognise you?

          • FrederickForeskin

            You do? Well that’s told me. go on then darlin, name me, who am I?

      • dorothy wilson

        Who is “we”? If you mean women in general you are wrong because I certainly do not subscribe to your views.