'I’m a gay woman with strong northern working-class roots,' Angela Eagle told Robert Peston on Sunday. 'I think I’m the right person for this job at this time.' In case we didn’t get the point she followed it up this morning by boasting: 'I’m a northern working-class girl who understands modern life.'
How outrageous that Jeremy Corbyn’s challenger should bring her class, her geographical birthplace and her sexuality into the leadership debate, suggesting that they would make her a more suitable leader than Corbyn. Or maybe it isn’t outrageous that someone should draw on their personal experiences while campaigning for office. I certainly haven’t come across anyone else making the point I have just made, and neither did I hear anyone protesting when Stephen Crabb talked about his council house upbringing while launching his leadership bid, nor when Sadiq Khan went on ad nauseam during the London mayoral election about his father being a bus driver.
In which case why was it such a scandal when Andrea Leadsom suggested that being a mother gave her valuable experience for being Prime Minister? If being northern and working class makes you better able to understand a section of the population then surely being a parent helps you understand the demands on millions of other parents. Moreover, having to juggle the needs of work and childcare and still follow a successful career surely shows the world that you have valuable skills in time-management.
There is a good reason for the inconsistency. Leadsom was savaged for her motherhood remarks because the metropolitan liberal establishment was determined to get its own back after suffering a crushing defeat in the EU referendum. It targeted Leadsom because it has a hate for anything it regards as the promotion of traditional family life. It operates in a kind of reverse of Clause 28 – it will praise alternative lifestyles to the point that even Tory MPs are feted as heroes if they come out, but it will not tolerate anything which seems even slightly to celebrate a traditional family life of two married heterosexual parents bringing up their own children.
As I wrote here in April, the latest form of ‘discrimination’ being promoted by the left is that childless employees earn less than new fathers do. Never mind that there is an obvious explanation – new fathers have to work harder because they have to earn more to support a family, especially at a time when their wives or partners are probably taking maternity leave – the TUC somehow tries to float the idea that employers are deliberately paying childless employees less.
I am sure that being childless will not detract from Theresa May’s ability to do the job of Prime Minister. I am equally sure that being a northern, working-class lesbian won’t help Angela Eagle be a good Labour leader, if she succeeds in getting the job (though she does have some good qualities as a parliamentarian). But it speaks volumes as to who wields the real power in Britain when a prime ministerial candidate is crushed for boasting about being a mother.