Coffee House

Parliament unusually full of women

11 April 2014

11:44 AM

11 April 2014

11:44 AM

It’s quite easy to grow quite used to the way things are, and only realise that they’re a bit odd when there’s a momentary shift. Today Parliament is packed with women, which is a bit of a shock to the system. They’re in New Palace Yard to film scenes from ‘Suffragette’, rather than as part of a new influx of female MPs or journalists. I have to admit that I often don’t notice how masculine this place is: you just get used to it and by and large Parliament is a very pleasant place to work indeed. It was only when a visiting female journalist remarked after the post-PMQs huddle this week that the discussion had been dominated by blokes asking about the gender balance of the new Cabinet that I realised how few women journalists had been present – and how many men. Only 22 per cent of MPs are women, and some research suggests that only 23 per cent of lobby journalists are women.

suffragette2

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Ministers spend a great deal of time worrying about this (and in the lobby, we mostly assumed that this would lead to Maria Miller’s replacement as Culture Secretary being a woman and possibly a mother). But some of the things the government does to show that it is taking women’s rights seriously are as much about symbolism as they are about anything else. In my Telegraph column today, I try to work out what it is that the women’s minister actually does, and wonder whether it might be better to absorb the role back into government in general, rather than squirrel it away into a special job that has to cover a multitude of rather disparate issues.

Some MPs and hacks like to argue that more women in Parliament would somehow make it a nicer place. It would make it more balanced and representative, but as the late Clarissa Tan wrote in one of her magnificent TV reviews, women ‘can be as greedy and forceful and dangerous as any man’. But there is something rather poignant that a film about the campaign for the right to vote being set in a building that still contains so few women. Those suffragettes might realistically have hoped for a little more progress.


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Show comments
  • Frank

    You need more women in parliament to dilute the current horrors, plus a fair few would probably be chucked overboard if a proper analysis was made of their expense claims and passed house flipping!
    Until parliament is reasonably representative of the nation (compared to the census) in terms of gender, ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation, you will continue to have the bizarre bunch we have now repeating themselves ad infinitum.

  • Agrippina

    The odd thing is that women mostly nurture the children and these boys become men. Somewhere along the road there is a fracture, and something just doesn’t quite add up.

    Cameron, has a mum, sisters, aunts, wife and daughters so I assume he will want them (daughters) to have an equal chance at the top jobs, but not interested enough to do anything for them at present.

    He has an audience with the Queen weekly, he must realise how fabulously talented and wise she is and still not many women around him, perhaps he is gay.

    • Frank

      Cameron appears to be one of those strange adults who appears never to have been seriously humiliated – unlike the rest of adult humanity. It will occur because it always does and when he is humiliated, it will be pretty grim. It will however teach him that all important thing – empathy. At the moment, his all conquering smugness just blinds all of us to whatever talents he possesses. I think that he might be an interesting PM if he gets booted, spends 10 years in the real world and then returns. Until that moment, the quicker we are shot of him, the better.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “The odd thing is that women mostly nurture the children and these boys become men.”

      Or not.

      • Liz

        They’re the product of male-only parliamentary feeder schools.

  • monty61

    Heading is straight from The Daily Mash. Love it.

    • Colonel Mustard

      It would be more true to say that Parliament is full of unusual women . . .

  • paul4id

    People need to accept that the male brain and female brain are inherently biologically different. The female brain is excellent at prioritising nurturing and short-termist emotional needs. This makes it terrible for politics where we are in desperate need of long-run strategic planning and some leadership with balls.

    It’s a bad sign that so many men have swallowed so much of the feminist Cultural Marxist BS, now trying to be modern, “sensitive” and PC as not to offend, that our last Prime Minister with any balls was a woman.

    • Colonel Mustard

      telemachus is always promoting leadership with balls and by balls.

    • monty61

      My daughter the scientist might disagree with you there … don’t believe everything you read in the Daily Mail. Anyway the Blessed Margaret didn’t do too shabbily.

    • Liz

      Which is precisely why we need both men and women to be proportionally represented in all our institutions and decision-making bodies.

      Men cannot and do not represent women’s needs, perspectives or priorities. And society becomes skewed, overly combative, violent, exploitative, unequal.

      If you want to see what a masculine society looks like, look at Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, or the Uk or the US. Not good for anyone.

    • Agrippina

      I must inform HM Queen immediately.

  • Liz

    “I have to admit that I often don’t notice how masculine this place is”

    That’s a worrying admission of unobservantcy coming from a journalist. When ever I see international governments, religious parliaments, panels, armies, protests, riots, wars, the second thing I notice, after the decor is that it’s a sea of men.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Didn’t notice many men at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and 30,000 women took part in the December 1982 protest there. A sea of women, protesting, like.

      Personally I think militant feminism has probably shot its bolt and its antics are now decidedly counter productive, succeeding only in creating gender war and putting most men’s backs up.

      • Liz

        It was an encampment, a peaceful encampment. That’s what a sea of women looks like.

        Not say, like the Tottenham riots, the poll tax riots, the student riots, the London riots, the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, the Chinese government, the North Korean government, the Vatican, the British parliament – that’s what a sea of men looks like.

        • Colonel Mustard

          You said “protests”.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Tired of suffragettes. Tired of the causes of suffragettes.

    It is so “last century” and there are more pressing issues that should be concerning us now.

    • Liz

      Yes, female rights are less important than men’s. They’re only women afterall.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Never said that. Check your prejudices.

        • Liz

          So what are the more pressing issues that women’s rights?

          Children’s rights?
          Animal’s rights?
          Martian rights?

          • gerontius

            “So what are the more pressing issues that women’s rights?”
            Human rights

            • Kitty MLB

              Indeed, we are all humans. Feminism, it was supposed to be
              about intellectual equality and respect. Not losing “femininity”
              and constantly battling with the male gender. Its still about
              individualism and not all becoming one gender.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Human rights.

            • Kitty MLB

              Indeed both yourself and gerontius below are correct.

            • Liz

              Women are human too.

              • Colonel Mustard

                So are men.

    • dado_trunking

      I must agree. Many obsess with the Pistorius trial (we have seen similar trials before) to compensate for delinquents here walking free every time.

  • Bellevue

    As a woman and a mother….. I find this SO patronising. Who cares in this day and age, how many women/mothers are in parliament?
    Most women have far better things to do with their lives than join the bearpit/kindergarden of Westminster.

    • Liz

      Umm because that’s where the laws that affect you and your children are made and women have different needs and perspectives to men?

      It’s meant to be a representative parliament of the people. Not of one type of person.

  • saffrin

    “Ministers spend a great deal of time worrying about this”
    That explains why the country is in such a mess.

  • Swiss Bob

    All the men are otherwise ‘engaged’.

    • Frank

      Yes, (a) getting young interns drunk and then making a sexual lunge, (b) filling in their expense returns, and (c) sending tweets and selfies.
      By the way, why is it proposed that Patrick Mercer only gets a 6 month ban. Why should his constituents not have an MP for 6 months? Sack him now.

  • Ed LoveNest

    women should stay in the kitchen and thats a scientific fact!

  • dado_trunking

    Let me resign to fabricating this response post PMQs: It’s about time.

  • HookesLaw

    Anyone who thinks that more women in parliament would make it a nicer place clearly has never met Angela and Maria Eagles – not to mention Caroline Flint.

    • HookesLaw

      PS
      At least the parliament building was in existence at the time of the suffragettes. I remember watching a tiresome film about Nelson and the tower of Big Ben was used as a backdrop in the window of a government office.

      • saffrin

        I remember a time when our MP’s were on opposing sides.

    • Peter L

      Ah c’mon!

      Surely Hattie Harperson is worth a mention – a “feminist” who got her Old Man into Parliament on an all-women shortlist?

      • Liz

        There are plenty of all-male short lists. Nobody seems to mind that positive discrimination, or rather no white men do.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Why mention race? You really do have a chip on your shoulder about white men. Racist and misandrist.

          • Liz

            Because white men disproportionately dominate every single institution. And unless you believe white men are innately more talented than black and brown men and white and black and brown women. More talented than Chinese men and women. And we know that isn’t true because women are outstripping you in every academic measure and you have mediocre IQs. Then the only explanation is that you have a system of positive discrimination in place for your own advancement, including male only short lists for many positions.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Really? Every single institution? Have you checked the ratio of men to women within the education system?

              73.3 per cent of full and part-time regular teachers are female.

              65.1 per cent of full and part-time head teachers are female.

              92.0 per cent of full and part-time teaching assistants are female.

              81.5 per cent of full and part-time other support staff are female.

              And the Civil Service? 53% female.

              PS My IQ is not mediocre . . .

            • Daniel

              Because white people are the predominant race in the UK, men tend to have the right qualifications for these roles as men have more interest in politics. Remember the Labour leadership elections a few years back, how many women put their names forward and didn’t back down from the final shortlist? Just the one, Diane Abbott.

              Feminists make everything a gender issue (and race, in this case) when it is irrelevant to the point and it happens that most of the people involved turn out to be male, you go to show that “feminism is needed” by victimising women and needing to find a scapegoat at every conceivable opportunity.

              All-male shortlists are made out of merit, all-female ones exist to fulfill party quotas. If it is such a big deal to you, why won’t you pursue a future in politics instead of ranting and raving on the internet? Feminists these days, all talk and no action.

        • Harold Angryperson

          Somebody tell Chris Donald, quick – Millie Tant has escaped the pages of Viz and she’s on The Speccie!

        • Peter L

          Well, just look at what I started!

          I merely wished to point out a startling piece of
          hypocrisy. While we’re at it, could I just add that it’s equally hypocritical for people like our Hattie, from a privileged background and educated at top public school St Paul’s, to claim preference over others on grounds of some nebulous discrimination.

          On the wider issue I note that women now outperform men at A level, at University, and in entrance to the leading professions (70% of new doctors are female). Women also earn more than men to the age of 30. Well done to them – that shows the advantage of cracking on, as opposed to whingeing “it’s sooo fair!”.

          • Colonel Mustard

            “On the wider issue I note that women now outperform men at A level, at University, and in entrance to the leading professions (70% of new doctors are female). Women also earn more than men to the age of 30.”

            That’s mostly because young men are now growing up without confident and inspiring male role models in their lives and in environments where controlling female “needs and perspectives” predominate. The Americans have a very crude term for this effect but it seems to produce men who either have exaggerated machismo and are aggressive towards women or who are completely wet and feminised.

    • saffrin

      Or ever been married.

    • Liz

      You need a critical mass of something before it has an influence. Picking out individual women who have to work in male environments doesn’t tell us anything about what parliament would be like if it was genuinely representative and 52% female.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Terrible I should think. We would be inundated with even more nanny laws telling us what we can and can’t do.

        • Liz

          Honestly, men’s lack of self-awareness never ceases to amaze.

          Who do you think it was that invented a legal system and stuffed it full of laws and regulations?
          Who invented the regulatory bodies?
          Who invented the hierarchies and structures we all have to abide by?
          Who ran the inquisitions? And invented the punishments?
          Who invented the role of judge and jury?
          Who created masters and head masters and chiefs and priests and prophets and lords?
          Who are the dictators and theocrats and clerics and heresy-hunters?

          You guys went absolutely mental in control freakery while you had the chance. Particularly when it came to women’s behaviour which you seemed to believe you were in charge of.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Yes, but the nanny laws and bad law has increased with the proportion of female MPs. Probably something to do with emoting.

            • Liz

              Total prejudiced rot.

              This country has had to deal with generations of nanny laws and bad laws, emanating from self-entitled males who wouldn’t even allow women to be part of the decision making process. Which is how we’ve ended up with libraries of statutes ruling every single aspect of our lives, none of which serve women well.

              Tough luck, times up.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Attacking modern men for the supposed transgressions of their forefathers is no more than revenge. Be careful you do not become what you rail against, although that seems to be the trend for all “victimhood” groups with grievances.

          • Mike Purves

            As Maria Miller has recently reminded us, political women are right up there with the guys when it comes to greedy, self-enriching behaviour. Jaqui Smith, Blears, Moran, Dorries, Cooper, et al.

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