The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
Westminster Hour, Any Questions and Equality
Posted Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 12:18

I have just completed an interview for BBC Radio 4's, 'The Westminster Hour', which will be broadcast a week on Sunday. I would have been nervous about this a week ago, however, the prospect of Jonathan Dimbleby and Any Questions, which is broadcast on Friday evening and Saturday morning, kind of makes the Westminster Hour feel like a walk in the park!

The interview was about women in Parliament - my view is unfortunately out of step and may be seen as unfashionable with some, however, I am totally convinced I am right and therefore I will not budge.

The broadcaster put to me that isn’t it the case that in Parliament we need an equal number of men and women; that we need true equality and that women MPs are needed to deal with women's issues whether or not they realise it.

Nadine in Parliament

Well what is equality?

Inflexible long working hours, and the anti-family culture in the form of having to live away from your home four nights a week and then working in your constituency a further two days,  means that the number of women who aspire to become MPs is limited - it was ever thus and always will be.

Politics is a fierce working environment; it takes a long time - unpaid - to get here in the first place, oh and whilst your working at trying to get here there is no guarantee you will succeed.

Hide your head in the sand and ignore it, or accept that women are still mothers and homemakers and you will begin to understand the problem.

Women are the cohesive glue which binds family, communities and society together - and the majority of them like to sleep in the same house as their children and the same bed as their partners for most of the week, most weeks of the year, because that’s what normal people do.

I fully accept that the scenario is slightly different for those female MPs who have London based constituencies, or for those local Associations who don’t mind their MP living in London with their family - however I suspect that those type of Associations are few and far between.

This means that the profile of women who do aspire to become MPs can be limited.

I put this point to the interviewer; if you have half men and women MPs, and the majority of the women MPs are London based, single, City Lawyer types, are those female MPs any more able to deal with the problems faced by a mum on a Liverpool council estate who cannot get a special needs placement for her child, than an MP who is a man, with a special needs child?

I think not. So I ask again, what is equality? What is the point of setting arbitrary targets? Who benefits?

We also spoke about all women shortlists, to which I am totally opposed. I could never hold my head up if I had entered this place by having been given an advantage in order to get here just because I was a woman – it would rob me of my dignity and pride.

I suppose that my main message to the interviewer was this, if you want to be an MP you have to accept that it is a tough and aggressive environment, it's not always nice, but despite that, it can be the best job in the world.

Come here because you want to serve your local community and your country; come here because you have a proven track record of achievement and can give back something of what you may have learnt or picked up along the way. Come here because you have an ability to relate to and understand the problems faced by your constituents on a day to day basis, but don’t come because you think the numbers need to be made up!

David Cameron has opened a door which was almost shut, and said to women come on in. The Conservative Party's Women to Win scheme has held the hand of women as they walked up the path which lead to the door, but women in the Conservative Party have walked through that door alone and unaided. They have crossed the threshold as a result of their own abilities and on their own merit - and long may that be the case.

Equality is a level playing field surely? To be given the same chance as anyone else - of whatever background or gender - to shine in an equitable environment. Since when has it been about fixing the numbers?

I would post a picture here that was taken the moment I was selected to become the MP for Mid Beds. It was taken by Ellee Seymour. Whereas Ellee may be an excellent blogger, she is a rubbish photographer and therefore I will save you the pain of posting that picture!

Tomorrow I will be blogging on what the new council structure will mean for Bedfordshire.

 
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
Common sense? You sure you'r an MP?
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
Agree with most of what you say Nadine but surely David Cameron's reforms have simply institutionalised discrimination - against men. Women make up around 25% of applicants to become Conservative candidates and around 25% of candidates approved as such. But the reforms introduced resulted in women making up 50% plus of the A list and at least 50% of shortlisted candidates. How can this be anything other than discrimination? As you say yourself, for a variety of reasons, fewer women apply to become MPs. Fact of life. In the Conservative Party, this proportion is 25%. By all means try to boost this figure, but not by forcing a 50% quota of women first. By definition, good quality men are losing out, poor quality women are being promoted and nobody emerges with any credit.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
For the last two hundred years women haven't had a look in, stop carping anonymous. Did you hear men muttering about how many good women weren't being selected? Nadine is right though, we need more women, but not at any cost. I was one of the A listers, it wasn't an experience I was very comfortable with, but I went along with it. We will never have 50% of each gender and it is time for people to accept that.
 
 
Marianne Clarke said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
Bang on the money Nadine. I say that as a 25 yr old female and I want to be an MP. I wouldn't want to leave my boyfriend for four nights per week, and he wouldn't want me to leave him, or our future family. This means I have to find a London constituency, which is what everyone wants so chances are slim. We have decided that the best thing is maybe to have a family first and then take on Westminster later, when I am about 40,which when you look at many women today will make me just a mere lass! I realise that for men it's different, but like you say, I want to be a mum. It's a fact of life which I think if women just accepted would make us all a lot happier.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
Nah, she's not an MP, she smiles and she sounds normal.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
Anonymous I'm not carping I'm stating facts. Try contesting them? You can't. Any discrimination in the past was equally outrageous but not institutionalised. Frankly if we'd started with a 25% quota I'd consider that fair whilst we try to boost overall numbers. It's the leap to 50% which is crass - as you seem to agree. You'll never know whether your status as an A lister was based on merit or based on gender. Hardly fair on you or anyone else.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 26 July 2007
This blog is like a breath of fresh political air!The obvious, spoken without fear.Well done, you will go far.
 
 
StevenL said:
Responded: Friday, 27 July 2007
What is 'equality'? Good question! Whenever I fill in applications for public sector jobs these days I am often expected to demonstrate that I am 'committed to the principals of equality and diversity'. It's socialist nonsense, that's what 'equality' is. I wholeheartedly support 'equal opportunities' and am against any form of 'discrimination' based on 'prejudice', however this whole 'equality' thing has taken leave of it's own principals. The Human Rights Act 1998 makes it unlawful to discriminate (in most cases) on the grounds of someone's political opinion. Yet many state employers are now doing this. Just when id 'equal opportunities' become 'equality' anyway? How come nobody noticed? More to the point how will the ideological political ground between 'equality' and 'equal opportunites' be fought over? Or will the main parties just ignore it as a potential minefield?
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Friday, 27 July 2007
Well, and accurately, said.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Friday, 27 July 2007
We need more women like you ! Those who are not trying to be politicaly correct and state the no nonsense facts.
 
 
 
Contact Nadine
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
via e-mail at: nadine.dorries.mp@parliament.uk
or Telephone on 020 7219 5928

 
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