Female shadows for Lib Dem MPs

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The Independent Online
Would-be female MPs are to be invited to shadow leading Liberal Democrats to experience life at Westminster, including the spectacle of seeing men behaving badly in the House of Commons. Jackie Ballard, the party spokeswoman on women's issues, is asking all Liberal Democrat MPs to accept a woman as their shadow for up to a year. She is hoping this will prepare women for the laddish culture in the Commons, and not put them off being candidates. Liberal Democrat female MPs complain that the Commons is run on 19th-century rules as a debating society, where grey suits still dominate, in spite of there now being more women on the Labour benches.

Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, a former doctor, compared the atmosphere to being at medical school in the late Fifties, when she was 18. She said the worst offenders were Tories Nicholas Soames, Michael Howard and Michael Heseltine, who were like "grandiloquent" consultants, hanging around "thinking they are the bees' knees". Colin Brown

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