‘You can’t be a minister and a mum - Prominent Yorkshire MP lifts lid on sexism in politics

Labour MP for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves.
Labour MP for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves.
Have your say

Female politicians are still being confronted by sexism on a daily basis at Parliament according to a prominent Yorkshire MP.

Rachel Reeves lifts the lid on the outdated attitudes in The Yorkshire Post today ahead of next week’s publication of her biography of pioneering miner’s daughter Alice Bacon, the first woman to represent Leeds in the House of Commons.

Labour’s former work and pensions spokeswoman says she was warned by a colleague just before the last election that she would have to forego a ministerial role, if Ed Miliband came to power, because she was expecting her second child who was born in June 2015.

“A male MP suggested that I wasn’t suited to a job in the Cabinet should Labour win because I was due to have a baby. My little brain wouldn’t be able to cope with being a mum and having a big job,” writes the Leeds West MP who is only the second woman to represent the city at Westminster.

“Really? I was pretty shocked, but a national radio station devoted an hour-long phone-in to the subject. I didn’t notice people questioning David Cameron, Gordon Brown or Tony Blair’s suitability for office when they became fathers while serving as PM.”

Ms Reeves also fears the abuse of female MPs will deter more woman from standing for Parliament, comments even more applicable at the end of a harrowing week which saw unemployed gardener Thomas Mair convicted of the horrific murder of her close friend Jo Cox, the Batley & Spen MP, in June

She also laments the fact that the number of women to have won election to Westminster – 450 at the last count – is fewer than the 461 male MPs serving in Parliament at present. “A lot has changed in 100 years, but it is still quite a man’s world,” she adds. “Women like Alice make it a little bit easier today. Many battles have been fought while others remain. I hope my generation of women pass on something better to those who come after us.”