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Labour MP Austin Mitchell: 'Women are weakening Parliament'

'More attractive body of candidates' will apparently be too gentle, apart from that 'obsessive feminism'

The “feminisation” of the Labour Party has meant older men are being replaced by “more amenable and leadable” women who are unable to focus on international issues, an MP has said.

Veteran MP Austin Mitchell, who has represented Great Grimsby since 1977, claimed his party was being weakened by all-women shortlists and growing numbers of women in an article for the Daily Mail.

He wrote that more female MPs would make the Commons "less exciting" and preoccupied with "family issues" and "small problems rather than big ideas".

“Whatever the state of Labour’s policies for the next election, there is little doubt that it will be fought by a younger, more attractive body of candidates,” he wrote.

“The parliamentary party is undergoing the biggest process of feminisation and rejuvenation embarked on since fabulous pink Camay soap promised to make us look a little lovelier each day.”

After announcing in April that he would not be standing at the next general election, the 79-year-old claimed ageism was “rampant” in the Labour Party and that many MPs over 60 were being pressured to stand down.

Many were being shifted into the House of Lords, Mr Mitchell said, dubbing it a “marvellous political retirement home”.

Ed Miliband has championed his party's equality policies and accused David Cameron of 'failing women' at PMQs

Complaining that Labour’s “pool of experience is being drained”, he claimed the rise of women would “feminise” party policies.

“Our new preoccupations will be social, educational and family issues, all brought to the fore by the feminisation of Labour through the obsession with All-Women’s Shortlists,” he wrote, calling the lists a “suspension of party democracy”.

Mr Mitchell added: “It cannot be denied that feminisation and youthification will make Parliament brighter, smarter and nicer.

“Yet the Commons will also be more preoccupied with the local rather than the international (not necessarily a bad thing) and small problems rather than big ideas and issues  (a very bad thing as it will be less exciting and lead to sixth-form essays read out word for cut-and-pasted word, replacing oratory).

“The Left will be even smaller but the party more manageable and reasonable, for apart from obsessive feminism, women MPs are more amenable and leadable and less objectionable.

“But it might not make us tougher.”

Labour introduced all women shortlists at its 1993 annual conference, when the House of Commons was composed of more than 90 per cent men.

The first lists lead to the selection of Jacqui Smith, who became the first British female Home Secretary.

Jacqui Smith was elected through an all-women shortlist in 1997

The suggestion that female politicians would weaken the party provoked outrage on Twitter.

Several Labour Party members distanced themselves from the MP's comments, with Linda Smith, an activist in Oxford, writing: “Today’s vile rant by Austin Mitchell is not anti AWS it's anti women. Sickened to be in same party as that man.”

Mr Mitchell is no stranger to Twitter rows, having sparked another furore in May when he compared Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca to rape.

He tweeted: “Cameron dare not stop Pfizer because he dare not offend the US in any way. Roll up rapists.”

Women's Minister Nicky Morgan described the tweet as “deeply offensive” but Mr Mitchell condemned an "aura of political correctness".

After Louise Mensch resigned as a Conservative MP in 2012, he tweeted: "A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics."

In response to criticism on social media, Mr Mitchell tweeted on Sunday: “Who's anti women? All my aunties were women!”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party repeated support for all-women shortlists but declined to comment on the “specifics” of his article.

He added: "Labour is working to increase the diversity and representativeness of Parliament and has a proud record of increasing the number of women and ethnic minority MPs."