MPs, babysitters and cleaners

Just one of those days yesterday (Wednesday)! As I walk into Portcullis House (one of the office blocks for Parliamentarians and staff) my Head of Office hands me a copy of the Evening Standard.

The article was based on an attack by a local Labour councillor. He had taken a line from a training session I gave for women at our Blackpool Conference. What I had basically said was that as these days councillors get paid an allowance, women could think about using it to hire a cleaner or a babysitter – helping to free up their time so they have enough hours to do the work of a councillor on top of all their other commitments. Lord knows it is hard enough for a woman to get out of the house if she is a single parent, on low or no pay – and we need a much more diverse range of people to get into politics.

Cllr Richard Milner apparently wishes to keep women chained to the kitchen – and rather than supporting efforts to bring more women into politics, he preferred to try and score cheap shots about me advocating becoming a councillor in order to get a ‘free cleaner’. Labour should hand their heads in shame over this one. Clearly they don’t believe in equality of opportunity.

Of course he can choose to spend his councillor allowances on anything he likes. He just doesn’t believe women should have that right too! It’s true I can afford help without which I couldn’t do the job I do – but I am out there fighting so that women who cannot afford any help can also enter public life. We need more councillors and MPs for all walks of life and all ranges of personal circumstances, including more women. I had hoped that sexism was dying out – but apparently it’s alive and well in Labour Haringey!

Anyway – I am on the run – and go straight into our Home Affairs team meeting where we run through all the home affairs legislation pouring through Parliament at the moment. Run to Prime Minister’s Questions – unedifying exchange between Blair and Howard. Oh yes you will – oh no we won’t – sort of thing. As I come out and look at my mobile for messages – loads and loads. The Evening Standard sets the hare running – and then everyone wants to know about cleaning ladies and babysitters I am doing all this sitting in the Members’ lobby outside the chamber – and not a woman in sight amongst the comings and goings. I rest my case!

Then it’s Westminster Hall where hundreds of pensioners have gathered to lobby their MPs on the appalling levels of state pension compared with ever-rising outgoings – like Council Tax – hiked up by many more percent than a fixed income can cope with.

The guy on the desk shouts out through the microphone that I am here for any lobbyists from Hornsey & Wood Green. I am retrieved by a group who have come to make their views known. Of course I agree with almost everything they say and will raise the issues they bring to me with the Minister and with our own Work and Pensions Shadow Secretary – David Laws.

Then it’s the ‘Programming Meeting’ where the MPs from all parties who are taking the Violent Crime Reduction Bill through Parliament meet to decide how long the committee stage will be and how many sessions it will comprise. Both opposition parties make the point that the Government itself has put down loads of amendments to its own Bill and both of us have tabled loads too. So the seven sessions allocated may not be enough. However, we are all co-operating and the Minster agrees to be flexible if we need more time.

There has been no time for lunch today. But it’s off to my sister for dinner and when I get home – I have to pour over the Bill and clauses and amendments and arguments – so that I won’t make a fool of myself in Committee the next day…