Tories 'deliberately mock women MPs for their northern accents' says Pat Glass

MP for Durham says you have to go to an all-boys public school to fit in in Parliament

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A Labour MP has accused Tories of deliberately mocking northern female politicians because of their accents during Commons debates.

Pat Glass, who represents Durham North West, said it was not just older Tories who were guilty of barracking Labour women, and blamed the macho Westminster culture.

In an interview with the Sunday Sun newspaper, she said new South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck was also singled out “because of her Sarah Millican-style accent”.

Mrs Glass told the Press Association: “The hardest thing I found going into Parliament was the culture.

“If I had gone to an all boys public school I would have fitted in, but I didn't.

“What I found is if a woman gets to speak, particularly women with an accent, then there is orchestrated barracking.

“You don't get to see it on television because the camera is fixed on the person who is speaking and not on the orchestrated response.

“I get the impression they think women who are northerners should not be there.”

In one debate Mrs Glass broke off from speaking to highlight the problem, and the Deputy Speaker Dawn Primarolo intervened.

She feared the atmosphere was putting off women from playing an active role in politics - but that nothing will change until more women become MPs.

David Cameron has been accused of “failing women across the country” with a picture of the PM’s all-male front bench at PMQs earlier this month being shared widely as an example of the Tories “problem with women.”

The lack of women in senior positions in government is increasingly becoming an embarrassment for the PM. Even more damning for Cameron, one of the two female MPs who were visible behind him at PMQs that fateful Wednesday had just been deselected citing “ungentlemanly behaviour”. Anne McIntosh, MP for Thirsk and Malton MP said this had brought “great discredit to the Conservative Party” and added that her claims were being looked at in the “highest ranks” of her party.

Miliband's accusations that David Cameron runs his party “like an old boys network” comes after Conservative ministers were accused of carrying out a “cull” of women who head public bodies. This came amid a growing controversy over the sacking of the chair of Ofsted, the schools inspectorate Sally Morgan. Harriet Harman said it was “raining men” in the Conservative party. The following week saw women all over the Conservative benches, amid accusations that the Tory party were now cynically flooding the commons to prove a point.

The Conservative party has 48 women MPs and 256 men, while Labour has 86 women and 169 men. The Lib Dems have just seven out of 57 MPs. The front bench was all men on Wednesday because Home Secretary Theresa May was missing from her usual front bench position. The Labour bench included senior figures such as shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh.

Additional reporting by PA