Yesterday on the Radio 4 Week in Westminster programme Isabel Hardman interviewed two MPs who were elected for the first time in the last 3 years. Sarah Champion was elected in November 2012 in a By-Election following the resignation of Denis MacShane and she spoke about the sexist and offensive gestures made by Members of Parliament on the opposite benches when she first arrived. These related to her body and she explained to listeners that the MPs acted out the idea of people weighing ‘melons’ in their hands. She did not name the men yesterday but explained how she spoke to the speaker of the House of Commons and as a result the behaviour of these men was modified and there has been no repeat since. The evidence of this modification was that when Flick Drummond was elected in May this year, she explained to Isabel, that she did not experience anything similar. Clearly she does not sit opposite the same men as Sarah does!
That is it. These offenders were never publicly identified, assuming that they were re-elected they continue unchallenged in their role as representatives of constituencies with on average some 35,000 women. Some of them may even be Ministers in this Government, we have no way of knowing. At least they are no longer behaving in a loathsome manner, and the behaviour in the Chamber of the Government of the United Kingdom is now apparently free from such gestures. However these men continue to work in that place. The mindset that led to those gestures being made continues to roam the corridors of power, it continues to help to shape and make our laws. If these gestures were made in a Primary School, a quiet word might nip the behaviour in the bud, indeed at that age it may even be possible to try to change attitudes. However men in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s probably won’t change their attitudes if they are merely spoken to, indeed there is an argument to suggest that they may never change their attitudes. Surely if they are prepared to display this attitude in the House of Commons, their actions should be disclosed to their electors, those men and women who they are meant to be accountable to? This gives us a real opportunity to clean up behaviour in our Parliament. Otherwise we are left wondering how many of the male Tories were involved.