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Stella Creasy’s maternity comments ‘divert attention’ from other women, says Tory MP

‘Asking for more privileges looks like golden-skirt feminism,’ says the MP

Katie O'Malley
Friday 21 June 2019 16:12 BST
Stella Creasy and Kemi Badenoch
Stella Creasy and Kemi Badenoch (Getty Images)

A Tory MP has said that Stella Creasy’s calls to allow a maternity cover for MPs “divert attention” from other people who need help.

Kemi Badenoch MP for Saffron Walden who is six months pregnant, said MPs who are mothers are treated well, stating: "We should not present ourselves as victims."

Badenoch’s comments come days after Labour MP Creasy said she feels she must choose between “being an MP and being a mum” as a result of parliament’s rules over maternity leave.

Writing in The Guardian, Creasy said the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which regulates MPs’ pay, does not recognise that MPs go on maternity leave and does not provide for paid cover for work carried out outside the parliamentary chamber.

In response, Badenoch has described Creasy’s comments as “hugely disappointing" and said they were "diverting attention away from those we should be helping".

“It’s a demanding job but it offers much greater autonomy for pregnant women than I had in my two previous careers,” Badenoch wrote in The Times about her career as an MP.

“I can’t speak for my parliamentary colleagues but I would find it hard to claim to a constituent on the minimum wage that I have a bad deal.”

Badenoch continued to say that it was “unrealistic” for MPs to expect to have job shares or parental cover.

“Who would listen to a speech being given by a temp who wasn’t entitled to vote on the issue?” she wrote.

The politician added that the majority of constituents want “diverse representation in parliament” and that they accept this can entail a leave of absence for new parents “just as it does for MPs who fall ill”.

The Tory MP continued, adding that while she was “horrified” to read about MPs attending residents’ meetings days after giving birth or in the final stages of a difficult pregnancy, she said there was "absolutely no compulsion to do this.

“We should set an example by fighting these unreasonable pressures, not succumbing to them.”

Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, speaks in Trafalgar Square during the Women's March on January 21, 2017 in London, England. (Getty Images) (Getty)

The politician explained that MPs received a budget of £150,000 to cover staff costs which she argued cover be used to cover leaves of absence.

“Asking for more privileges looks like golden-skirt feminism to improve the lot of well-paid MPs and gives the impression of misplaced priorities,” she concluded.

MPs do not automatically get paid cover if they take parental leave.

In January, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom announced a one year trial that would to allow pregnant MPs or new parents to nominate a colleague to vote on their behalf, a process otherwise known as "proxy voting”.

This isn’t the first time Badenoch has spoken issues surrounding pregnant politicians in parliament.

In January, the Conservative MP was accused of making a “scurrilous slur" after claiming a pregnant Labour politician had delayed giving birth to "make a point" about Brexit.

Labour's Tulip Siddiq defied doctors' advice and postponed her caesarean section by two days to vote down Theresa May's Brexit deal in January, when she was spotted being pushed through the voting lobbies in a wheelchair.

However Tory MP Kemi Badenoch accused Siddiq of making a point to her pro-Remain constituents that was "irrespective of pairing", a system where an MP from a rival party also abstains so they cancel each other out.

Ms Badenoch told the BBC's Politics Live: "I have heard her [Ms Siddiq] speak on this issue privately before, and I think irrespective of pairing, I think she wants to make a point that she is doing this for her constituents.

"She represents a very strong Remain constituency and she wants to show that she did everything she could to stop Brexit. I think that is what this is about."

Her comments were condemned from Labour MPs, who described it as an "outright lie" and a "scurrilous slur" against Siddiq.

Following Creasy’s statement, prime minister Theresa May offered her support, calling on Ipsa to consider changing the rules on funding temporary staff to cover for MPs during maternity leave.

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Conservative leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt also called on Ipsa to “do the right thing”.

“Incredibly moving from @stellacreasy and impossible to argue with her logic,” Hunt tweeted on Tuesday.

“Insidious to force MPs to choose between serving their constituents and spending precious time with their newborn. Come on IPSA, do the right thing.[sic]”

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