HARRIET HARMAN has suggested that Gordon Brown sidelined her because she was a woman when she made a speech last night blasting sexism in Westminster.
The Shadow Culture Secretary linked the former Prime Minister’s decision not to make her Deputy Prime Minister to her gender and recounted how she was relegated to a dinner for leaders’ wives at a major summit.
But the claims were immediately dismissed as “utter bilge” by Mr Brown’s former spin doctor Damian McBride, who appeared to accuse the Labour chairwoman of being “useless”.
Ms Harman was elected as the party’s deputy leader in 2007, the same year Mr Brown became Prime Minister.
Although she did not name him directly, Ms Harman said that “even getting to the top is no guarantee of equality”.
“Imagine my surprise when having won a hard-fought election to succeed John Prescott as deputy leader of the Labour Party, I discovered that I was not to succeed him as Deputy Prime Minister,” she said.
“If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? Would they have put up with it? I doubt it.
“And imagine the consternation in my office when we discovered that my involvement in the London G20 summit was inclusion at the No 10 dinner for the G20 leaders’ wives.”
She added: “We must remember Caroline Flint’s denunciation of women being used as ‘window dressing’.”
Ms Harman is renowned for campaigning on gender equality, work that has seen her labelled Harriet Harperson and harridan Harriet by some.
She told how she was urged to fit in by being “clubbable” in the bars of Westminster but her refusal to toe the line led to a “nasty” response, including from her own colleagues, who briefed the papers when she had mastitis, a condition that causes a woman’s breast tissue to become painful that is usually linked to breastfeeding.
“Because I didn’t conform, the punishment for being different was often nasty,” she said.
But Mr McBride was quick to respond to the claims that Ms Harman had missed out because of her gender, insisting that Mr Brown only judged his team on whether they were “useless or not”.
“It’s utter bilge from Harriet,” he said.