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19 April 2010

Harman the feminist takes on male critics

And says the Tories “haven’t changed” on equality.

By James Macintyre

Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader reportedly “sidelined” from this election campaign, has been interviewed by the New Statesman for this week’s magazine. She discussed her role, the widening choice between the parties and the debates, and gave a very personal view of David Cameron.

But there was an interesting aside that goes to the heart of what the radical deputy leader is about.

Asked about her male critics in the media as well as politics, she pointed to a study conducted with the Government Equalities Office, showing that, in Harman’s words, “there has been a real sea change in women’s and men’s attitudes: people have decisively turned their back on the idea of men-only decision-making. And looking at that survey, I [see I] am in the mainstream.

“So a lot of those people making those comments are out of date . . . It’s a bit like public opinion on civil partnerships. One minute we are leading on that and the next minute it is conventional wisdom.”

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Invited to name the names of “those people making those comments”, she paused, and then said that there are “Too many to mention!” The lifelong equality campaigner added: “You know, it’s a crowd, but that is not where people are. We didn’t argue it because that’s what people think, we did it because it is right.”

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And Harman had this to say about Tory “modernisation”:

I think the married man’s tax allowance, which does not go to families where the woman is working, is really not what modern women are doing today. The judgemental, the smug married, pointing the finger at people who’ve separated, I just think is downright objectionable.

On the other hand . . . ironically, they are putting forward things where we’ve already done it, so I suppose you could say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and they’re trying to . . . lean in that direction.

If you think about their position on lesbian and gay rights, for example, Cameron has tried to make them look modern, but then Chris Grayling didn’t want to be heard to say what he did [suggesting that Christian B&B owners should be allowed to bar gay couples], but once he’d said it, because he believes it, they didn’t deal with it.

It just shows that they haven’t changed. They absolutely haven’t changed.