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4 November 2016updated 05 Oct 2023 8:23am

A single week in Westminster shows how outdated Parliament can be

And it's not just Philip Davies. 

By James millar

It’s not just the Good Parliament report that shows how far Westminster has to go on becoming a more welcoming and representative place.

It’s the continued pathetic attitudes on display.

On Wednesday, MPs debated the Good Parliament report, written by no-nonsense academic Professor Sarah Childs and commissioned by Speaker John Bercow, which sets out steps that could be taken to improve our democracy and make parliament more representative just a couple of hours after an incident that showed the whole place up.

When the report was published in July, the media found a reference to boobs and ran with it. Journalists were fixated on the recommendation that the palace and the culture be more breastfeeding friendly, ignoring the other equally eminently sensible ideas about making the buildings more accessible to people with disabilities and keeping tabs on the diversity of select committee witnesses (or lack of diversity as the case currently is – the majority are men from London).

The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman led the debate. Appropriate, as she attracted some opprobrium in the summer when she took her young children to a meeting of the Scottish Affairs select committee. And no, it wasn’t because it was cruel to make them listen to Pete Wishart quizzing witnesses, but because it’s not the done thing. With Scottish schools on their summer break and no childcare facilities in Westminster, she had no choice.

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Philip Davies, MP for Shipley and spokesman for stupid people everywhere, of course turned up to the Good Parliament debate and said he thought it was “tokenistic claptrap”. Which was as helpful as his effort to hijack women and equalities questions last week with a question about International Men’s Day, which is presumably not tokenistic at all.

He added, “We do not need to patronise women”, before patronising women: “They are more than capable of rising to the top.”

More than capable but not actually at the top in equal numbers for some reason.

Davies does think Parliament needs to be more representative, it’s just it needs more working-class people – i.e. the only thing he thinks is lacking is more people like him.

Chris Bryant dismissed him as a “splendid chap but just wrong about everything”. Quite where he gets the idea that Davies is splendid is hard to fathom.

But it was not Davies’s typically dire intervention that showed up how far parliament has to go in being welcoming to women.

Just a couple of hours previously there had been much jollity at Prime Minister’s Questions as Theresa May got mixed up about the parentage of Conor McGinn’s baby.

The MP for St Helens North had shared on social media at the weekend the tale of his daughter Constance’s arrival. She was apparently in a hurry to arrive, leaving McGinn to act midwife as the baby was born on the living room floor.

Jeremy Corbyn offered his best wishes to McGinn and urged MPs to “admire his work”. The PM, who clearly didn’t spend her weekend on social media, got her congratulations wrong and for some reason blamed Patrick McLoughlin which was neither funny nor actually made any sense.

But no-one mentioned McGinn’s wife Kate. The one who’d done the hard yards of squeezing a baby out with no medical help, in what was no doubt a fairly scary situation.

The MPs had a big old laugh and no one seemed to think of the woman, the mother involved.

That showed up the attitudes in parliament more than any academic research in the Good Parliament report.

And it showed why the reports recommendations need urgently to be implemented.

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