Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Harriet Harman’s push for gender equality – and her own career

Harriet Harman’s scathing attack on the top men in politics for their failure to advance gender equality has certainly annoyed Damian McBride, who argues that Labour’s deputy leader is talking ‘utter bilge’.

The Standard reports that Harman will say at an event tonight:

‘And imagine the consternation in my office when we discovered that my involvement in the London G20 summit was inclusion at the No10 dinner for the G20 leaders’ wives.’

Presumably she is talking about this dinner, which included the spouses and ‘leading women’ such as Naomi Campbell and Baroness Grey-Thompson. The two male spouses at this summit didn’t turn up because they were busy being men who worked. Although why someone thought that the spouses could only mingle with leading British women (perhaps all the leading British men were busy being busy and important men) isn’t entirely clear. Inviting a few chaps along to a party in Downing Street would have stopped it becoming the ‘girls’ night in’, which sounds frankly terrifying. Perhaps a greater advance for women than whether or not female ministers are left organising suppers for wives will come when political wives neither feel obliged nor have time to trail around the world after their spouses, in need of entertainment while the boys are busy talking politics.

But Harman’s comments suggest that she’s pretty keen, if nothing else, to take the position of Deputy Prime Minister in any future Labour government. Her other ‘imagine my surprise’ comment is about her party’s failure to make her Deputy Prime Minister:

‘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!

‘If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? Would they have put up with it? I doubt it.

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Isabel Hardman
Written by
Isabel Hardman
Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

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