Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which enabled women to vote for the first time, and the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, which allowed women to stand for election in the House of Commons, and in the 2017 Election a record number of female MPs were elected. But all this welcome progress has not been matched by the attitudes of some members of Parliament, as was sadly highlighted by the comments made by Labour MPs Clive Lewis and Jared O’Hara this week, which are too revolting to repeat here. This comes off the back of reports from many of my good friends on the Opposition benches of a sinister lurch towards deep-rooted misogyny, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance from hard core, hard-left Momentum supporters that is resulting in a torrent of online abuse directed at those who stand up and call it out – especially female MPs. There is no demand for special treatment by women in the House of Commons, and we all knew that politics was a rough and tumble business, but we cannot tolerate the more disgusting language and attitudes held by some hard left activists and MPs. These behaviours can only take us backwards and put off so many people who we need in politics to ensure it is diverse and represents the country we serve. I would like to think that our local Labour party members, with whom I work very amicably on so many issues, will join me in a public call for these MPs, who in my view are not fit to be in office, to be suspended from their party as well as a call for the online abuse and harassment of those who stand up and criticise these behaviour to stop.
We have to get this issue sorted on a cross-party basis in order to find and eliminate the ongoing abuse and discrimination that is still sadly a feature of modern-day life. A new study released today showed that almost half of women and a fifth of men have experienced sexual harassment at work or a place of study, and we have heard far too many stories emerging in recent weeks of the terrible abuse and discrimination that women face in all walks of life – from the Harvey Weinstein allegations in the film industry, to the emerging allegations of sexual assault connected with the EU Parliament in Brussels. With planning underway for events to mark the 100th anniversary of the enfranchisement of women, I hope we can mark the occasion by setting our own political house in order.