PMQs Verdict: The Tories show they aren’t the British Obamas – they’ve got a serious women problem

November 7, 2012 1:19 pm

Well that was always going to be an anti-climax, and so it transpired. 5 hours after Barack Obama gave one of the finest acceptance speeches of all time – a soaring work of hard rhetoric and dreamy imagery – we were back down to earth with the hardest of bumps.

It’s PMQs, Jim – but not as we know it.

Prime Minister’s Questions without either the Prime Minister or the opposition leader tends to be a somewhat bloodless affair – verging on pointless – and this, I’m afraid was little different. Harman landed a few jabs on Clegg, but he’d clearly decided to get some cheers from the Tory benches (he just wants to be loved, bless him) so he came flying out of the traps, attempting to windmill Harman, with some success.

Well done Nick, you got cheered by the Tory Right. Even Peter Bone was nice to you. Well done. Pat on head. Dave WILL be pleased…

But as today is the (glorious) day of Barack Obama’s re-election as President, it might be worth comparing and contrasting between our two political systems. Particularly when it comes to women. Barack Obama’s (now increasingly comfortable looking) victory, was secured with the support of women voters. Mitt Romney and his Republican band of men with…dubious…views on rape and abortion were, shockingly, a turn off for women.

Cameron has in the past been said to fret about his own “women problem”. That led to brief but transparent attempts to flank the PM with female MPs at PMQs and other similarly flawed stunts. 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. Not that it will bother Harriet unduly, I’m sure – she’s tough – but that doesn’t excuse it.

Meanwhile on Twitter, Tory MP Michael Fabricant decided it would be appropriate to refer to Yvette Cooper as “Yvette Cooper-Balls“. That is not her name. It has never been her name. It is no more her name that Ed Balls-Cooper is the shadow chancellor’s name. It’s almost like  Fabricant felt like Cooper (an MP of 15 years, a former minister, the current shadow home secretary) would only be recognised if she used her husband’s name. Or perhaps Fabricant considers the name to confer ownership of some sort. The precise meaning was unclear, the inference – that Cooper doesn’t have her own identity and can’t decide so much as her own name, was horrible.

What rot, to be polite – a politeness that Fabricant barely deserves, having not extended it to Yvette Cooper.

If the Tories want to be the British Obamas (stop laughing at the back)  – and they will want that, because 90+% of Brits were supporting Obama in the election (only 13% of Tories supported Romney) – then they need to think hard about the way they treat and address women.

They could start with their opponents.

If not, the women voters of Britain will have a fairly clear choice. We saw in America what a decisive impact that can have.

The choice is theirs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1310648189 Jesse Samasuwo

    Would you have preferred it if the back benches were completely silent during Harriet Harman’s questions? I would find it even more sexist if they had silently listened to her, given that both sides always heckle whoever is speaking. I believe passionately in equality: Harriet Harman should be heckled as vigorously as Ed Miliband. 

    (And if you want to talk about poor treatment of female politicians, how about the Police Federation and Theresa May?)

  • Pingback: Harriet Harman was not 'bullied' at PMQs today » Spectator Blogs

Latest

  • News Polling Tories heading for another embarrassing by-election defeat

    Tories heading for another embarrassing by-election defeat

    UKIP are on course to double their number of MPs, with a new poll in Rochester and Strood showing Mark Reckless thirteen points clear over the Tories. Labour, meanwhile, are currently in third, lagging 21% behind. The poll, carried out for the Daily Express, finds this is the voting intention for November 20th: UKIP 43%, Conservatives 30%, Labour 21%, Lib Dems 3%, Greens 3% The fact that Labour are polling tallies with the party’s decision not to make this by-election a priority. However, […]

    Read more →
  • News This is what the Tory in charge of the NHS thinks about mental health

    This is what the Tory in charge of the NHS thinks about mental health

    Alastair Campbell appeared on BBC Three programme Free Speech this week to talk about mental health, and his experiences of depression (you can watch the full episode here). In it, he tells the story of meeting Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, who couldn’t understand Campbell having depression because of his “great life”. While the idea of someone with such a simplistic understanding of mental health issues being in charge of the country’s health service is shocking, it goes […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Setting out an agenda for fixing Britain’s broken workplaces

    Setting out an agenda for fixing Britain’s broken workplaces

    The Smith Institute’s new report ‘Making Work Better’, published today, sets out an alternative agenda for a new government to tackle Britain’s poor performing workplaces, which are holding back the recovery and costing the nation billions in lost income and in-work benefits. The 100-page report by Ed Sweeney, former Acas chair, marks the beginning of a pre-election push by Labour to address the concerns of Britain’s 30m workers. The report (the product of a nine month inquiry) examines the good […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Wales David Cameron’s efforts to prove how much he loves the NHS reveal how little he understands it

    David Cameron’s efforts to prove how much he loves the NHS reveal how little he understands it

    This week I was tempted to write about the fact that UKIP have befriended a holocaust denier in the European Parliament. But I really can’t abide any more pictures of Farage’s ridiculous face haunting about my doors, and so I’m not. You can just contemplate the disappointment of that thought yourselves. So let’s talk about something equally disheartening: PMQs – yes, the place where dignity goes to die. Fellow LabourList writer Maya Goodfellow ambivalently noted that Miliband had ‘landed a […]

    Read more →
  • News Woolf and May should “meet survivors groups” over Brittan links, say Labour

    Woolf and May should “meet survivors groups” over Brittan links, say Labour

    Labour have spoken out about complaints that Fiona Woolf QC, head of the public inquiry into historical sex abuse, has links with Leon Brittan. Brittan was the home secretary at the time when the dossier about alleged pedophiles went missing. And Woolf, who is also Lord Mayor of London, admitted yesterday that since 2008 she had dinner with Brittan and his family on five separate occasions but she has said she has “no close association” with him. A number of Labour MPs […]

    Read more →