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.Reuse content