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12 October 2016

Guess who appeared before a Westminster committee on women in Parliament? An all-male panel, of course!

Four witnesses spoke at the Women and Equalities Committee to discuss the position of women in Parliament after 2020. They were all men.

By Media Mole

Who do you send to discuss women in Parliament? If you answered “a woman”, you’re wrong. At least, if this morning’s meeting of the Women and Equalities Select Committee is anything to go by.

The all-male panel – or, as your mole likes to call it, the manel – was convened to address the position of women in Parliament from 2020. The discussion, which ironically took place in the Thatcher Room, discussed both the still low number of women MPs, and the treatment of those women.

The witnesses? Four men: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, Angus Robertson MP, who heads the SNP Westminster Group, and Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Chair of the Conservative Party.

(Take note: Prime Minister Theresa May did not send a woman, like, oh, I don’t know, her Women and Equalities minister, in her place.)

The witnesses, who chose to colour coordinate their outfits for the session.

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The conversation was not wholly encouraging. McLoughlin, for instance, explained that the Conservatives avoid all-women shortlists to give local associations freedom in selecting their candidates, although he was able to reveal to the Committee that sometimes all-female shortlists arise by chance – a shocking revelation surely indicative of plummeting standards among Tory misogynists.

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Corbyn, meanwhile, promised to “continue” to keep making a big effort to stop trolling and interrogation, and pledged to create a gender-balanced parliamentary party. But the Labour MP and Committee member Jess Phillips sounded unimpressed when she began asking him about all-women shortlists.

The Labour leader also brought up sexist coverage in popular newspapers (which he accused the panel of “probably not” reading), saying this is “where a lot of this stuff comes from”.

Noble indeed. Yet, despite this progressive chat, it was impossible to ignore the fact that this was four white men lined up to discuss women – a visual reminder of where the power still lies in politics.

On that basis, this mole would like to suggest a further question for the witnesses: would any of them consider resigning in favour of an equally qualified woman?