Leading article: If only Blair's Babes would complain

Share
Related Topics
IT WAS a formidable sight a year ago as they gathered round Tony for that picture. Some were ingenues; some craven followers of the line; others first-rate additions to the legislature - in proportions no different from the new men in town. What the women had in common wasn't the "Babe" tag or the suits. What they offered was the promise of their numbers - here, at last, a critical mass, sufficient women members of the majority party to make a difference to the conduct of the House of Commons itself. Surely they, New Labourites, modernisers, would want to launch an assault on this temple of antediluvian working practices, stupid ceremony and the dullest of rituals. Yet they haven't. They have fitted in, kept mum, gone with the manly flow of things as they always were. Some women MPs have even become apologists for the system, its hours and its paraphernalia. Their capitulation ranks as one of the greatest disappointments of the Blair era.

That's why the Tribune attack on "whingers" is misplaced. If only they had complained and done something about it. Feminists! Then at least we might have seen them pressing unstoppably for alterations in the antiquated practices of the place. It's not a question of party loyalty. Women MPs elected in Blair's landslide were obliged to hew closely to the line on big- ticket issues such as taxing and spending - though it has been surprising how little back-up they have offered Harriet Harman in her battles over quintessentially "women's issues" such as childcare. What is so dismaying is that as a group, a formidable parliamentary phalanx, they have done nothing to force Ann Taylor's hand during her review of Commons' conduct. Why shouldn't debates take place when the rest of the country works; why no experiments with electronic voting, properly equipped offices, regional sittings (for select committees), new rules of debate? If the job takes an unacceptable toll on family life, change it.

Yet this ambiguity of attitude on the part of the women elected in 1997 is, unfortunately, all too symptomatic of this government's worst tendencies. It looks good. The rhetoric promises much. But when it comes to the sheer slog of institutional change, the will and the energy are just not there.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The rules were simple: before the results are announced, don’t mention the S-word

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Howard Jacobson has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for the second time  

In praise of Howard Jacobson

Simon Kelner
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week