Conservatives ‘target abuse at Northern women MPs’

Anne McIntosh was deselected by Conservatives in Malton Thirsk and Filey.
Anne McIntosh was deselected by Conservatives in Malton Thirsk and Filey.
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A LABOUR MP has accused Conservative opponents of orchestrating abuse during Commons debates against Northern female counterparts because of their accents.

Pat Glass, who represents Durham North West, said it was not just older Tories who were guilty of barracking Labour women, and blamed the macho Westminster culture.

In an interview yesterday, she said new South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck was also singled out “because of her Sarah Millican-style accent”.

Mrs Glass said: “The hardest thing I found going into Parliament was the culture.

“If I had gone to an all boys public school I would have fitted in, but I didn’t.

“What I found is if a woman gets to speak, particularly women with an accent, then there is orchestrated barracking.

“You don’t get to see it on television because the camera is fixed on the person who is speaking and not on the orchestrated response.

“I get the impression they think women who are Northerners should not be there.”

In one debate, Mrs Glass broke off from speaking to highlight the problem, and the Deputy Speaker, Dawn Primarolo, intervened.

She feared the atmosphere was putting off women from playing an active role in politics – but that nothing will change until more women become MPs.

The claims follow accusations about the Tory leadership’s attitudes to women amid further criticism it is struggling in the North, with the economic recovery concentrated on the South East.

Conservative difficulties have been exacerbated by the shock de-selection of Thirsk and Malton MP Ann McIntosh, one of the party’s most senior backbenchers and its only female MP in Yorkshire, as its candidate for the General Election next year.

David Cameron faced embarrassment at Prime Minister’s Questions in the wake of her ejection when Labour leader Ed Miliband pointed out that the Tory frontbench was all male, accusing him of having “a problem with women” within his party and claiming his austerity policies had hit women hardest.

Mr Cameron has pledged to increase the number of female Tory MPs but has seen four of his 2010 intake either resign or announce they will not stand again.

He has come under fire from his own side for failing to promote women fast enough after pledging to bring the proportion of women in the Cabinet to a third.