The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Women MPs, bless 'em

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The Independent Online
I BEG to differ, Mrs (Mssss]) Gorman. Those of us trapped within the lowly, nay, despicable gender of 'male' (I jest]) who have also had the privilege of serving under the illustrious nomenclature - steady on, Wallace] - of 'Conservative Member of Parliament' will, I think, see things in a different light to that employed by Msssss (]) Gorman (or 'Man Gore', as I delight in calling her]])

The story so far: Mrs Gorman, Conservative MP for Billericay - or words to that effect] - has penned a tome called, somewhat over-

straightforwardly in my humble opinion, The Bastards. Judging from my brief perusal of the extracts in Vere's excellent little ladies' paper, the Daily Mail, I gather that a large part of it is devoted to cocking a proverbial snook at the 'male stronghold' that is the House of Commons, suggesting it is full of - groan] - 'male chauvinist pigs'.

Now, speaking personally, I have a tremendous amount of time for the redoubtable Mrs Gorman, and I take very seriously everything that she says, though to be absolutely frank, she is not what one would call 'my type', being rather too forceful and - how can I put this tactfully? - brassy for a gentleman of my education and background. That is not to say that I don't think that she would make an admirable barmaid, or even - and I am sticking my neck out a bit here] - landlady, but if I can put it as kindly as possible, I would rather die than be spotted escorting her to dinner at the Savoy Grill, no offence intended.

Nevertheless, when Mrs Gorman takes to the rostrum, rolling pin in one hand, needle in t'other, one should, at very least, allow the poor old thing the dignity of a fair hearing. She claims that the House of Commons is a hotbed of male chauvinist piggery. This means that it is up to us poor, benighted fellows to refute the charge in a fairminded manner, to smack her rotund posterior in the most well-meaning and sophisticated manner possible and to bellow charmingly, 'Naughty little Tess for speaking out of turn] Naughty, naughty, naughty - and don't do it again]'

Might I expand? Throughout my three terms as a Conservative member, I can honestly say that I never witnessed one jot of the so-called 'anti-female prejudice' over which Mrs Gorman continues to shake her pretty little head. Far from it: we treated men and women (mainly secretaries) just the same, and it was indeed notable that the women MPs (forgive me, but something of a contradiction in terms]) were always free to pipe up at all committee meetings in their high-

pitched tones. At no time did I ever encounter a female MP - pretty or, let's be honest, plug ugly - ever being patronised or discriminated against: to claim that they were at any time subjected to 'sexual innuendo' is wholly false - and worthy of a nomination for a good, strong smack on their collective BTMs, methinks]

A number of them were, let me make it clear, absolute poppets, and never made any sort of fuss, being fully supportive of a strong Conservative government, though one sometimes pitied their poor demented husbands, having to cobble together their own evening meal while their 'lovely ladies' went traipsing through the lobbies. And the very fact that Mrs - now Lady, if you will] - Thatcher was permitted to be leader of our party must surely squash flat the dread Gorman. For 11 years we Tories were prepared to squirm under the pressure of Mrs T's stiletto and to take every thump of her handbag on the chin - and yet still Mrs Man-Gore seeks to claim we were chauvinistic. Ah, well - that's women for you, bless 'em]