Vitriol broke out in the House of Commons on Monday when the Tory MPs Paul Howell and Shaun Bailey told Sarah Owen, an opposition whip and shadow levelling up minister, to “sit down” and “shut up”.
The incident was a continuation of a clash earlier this month, when Howell told Owen and other female Labour frontbenchers to “shut up” during a debate on the economy. He apologised when he saw their shocked reactions.
On Monday (28 November) Howell then raised a point of order about Owen after she retweeted a Huffington Post article reporting that he had been accused of failing to declare his ownership of 17 properties during the debate, which referenced mortgage rates. The House of Commons code of conduct states MPs should “draw attention to registered or unregistered interests on almost any occasion when someone else might consider them to influence what you say or do” in parliament.
Howell called Owen’s tweet an “attack on his integrity” and asked Rosie Winterton, the deputy speaker, if she should apologise to him in the Commons chamber. Owen responded with her own point of order, saying: “Outside this place thousands of people are struggling to pay their mortgage or afford one home, let alone 17 and may have found [his property portfolio] non-declarable, but relevant.”
Owen went on to ask the deputy speaker how she should respond when an MP tells her to “shut up” in parliament. “What message does this send to women who want to be in politics when they see men like that?”
As she made her point of order Howell and Bailey yelled at her to “sit down” and again to “shut up”, resulting in MPs shouting across the Commons at each other.
Winterton told Bailey that his conduct was “not very courteous”, and said that the incident “was not a very good advert for how our parliament should work”.
A Labour source said: “Not content with telling female MPs to shut up in parliament, [Howell] now seems to think they should shut up on social media too. It’s good to know that between managing his extensive property portfolio and reassuring us that it definitely doesn’t influence his views on the mortgage crisis, Paul finds the time to monitor Labour MPs’ tweets.”