Beckett attacks `laddish Labour'

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LABOUR'S FEMINIST credentials suffered a double blow yesterday when Margaret Beckett attacked "laddish" elements within the party and the Government was accused of undermining its own women's unit.

Mrs Beckett, the Leader of the Commons and one of only three women in the Cabinet, said she had been a victim of sexism at the hands of Labour and the media.

"It's a problem for anyone who the lads don't think is one of the lads," she said. Mrs Beckett added that the idea of "Blair's babes" trivialised the role of women in Parliament.

Her criticisms were backed up by senior Labour sources, who accused ministers of failing to give the Government's Women's Unit the high-profile backing it needed. The unit was moved into the Cabinet Office last year in an attempt to give it the same status as the Social Exclusion Unit, but has not received the same degree of publicity or support.

Mary Ann Stephenson, from the Fawcett Society, said: "Tony Blair has campaigned a lot for the Social Exclusion Unit but there is a feeling that not the same publicity has been given to women's issues."

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