THE Labour MP Stella Creasy is advertising for a double – or to be more accurate ‘for a temporary MP to act in her place for seven months, to ensure “casework, campaigns and community concerns of the residents of [Walthamstow] are not neglected” over the course of her maternity leave’.
Well I never – I could have been reading Trollope. Bad enough then that the appointment of an MP was in the local lord’s gift. Stella gives the term pocket borough a whole new meaning. Creating a ‘replacement MP’ in her gift – a benefice at her disposal – I don’t think even the Victorians could have dreamt up.
We learn that the locum MP, to be paid £50,000 a year pro rata for, would be based in Creasy’s constituency rather than Westminster, and would not, you may be relieved to know, be able to vote or sit in the Commons.
That, I suppose, is something. No doubt there will be a flood of applicants.
It was not many months ago that Ms Creasy first mooted this enterprise in the Guardian by way of tugging at our heart strings. ‘I am pregnant,’ she announced, ‘and am forced to choose between being an MP and a mum.’
‘MPs are not entitled to maternity leave . . . the battle for equality is far from over.’ Enlisting her Labour colleague Tulip Siddiq in her cause she detailed how she too had also suffered, ‘forced (my italics) to postpone a C-section so she could cast a vote in the debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in January’.
Not content with this quite specious argument – I can’t think that anyone made her or Tulip Siddiq do anything, getting pregnant or becoming MPs, both being, I imagine, matters of choice – the heroic Ms Creasy then played her full MP martyr card in her quest for equality:
‘During my first miscarriage, aching and bleeding, I joined a protest for the extradition of a man who had raped and murdered a constituent. The day after I found out that another baby’s heartbeat had stopped, I led a public meeting on gang crime. I even scheduled the procedure to remove the body on a day I didn’t have a constituency advice surgery. Heartbroken by all the years that I have struggled with fertility, I’ve kept these events to myself and made sure my constituents have never been affected.’
Now any woman or couple struggling with infertility deserves our deepest sympathy and has mine. There are few things harder to bear than the unfulfilled desire for a child. Yet Ms Creasy’s account is appalling in more ways than one.
Did she have to run such risks with her unborn child, or indeed with her own health, to continue to be the MP she wanted to be? Did anyone expect her to make this sacrifice? Other MPs do get ill. Did her Walthamstow constituents consider her to be as irreplaceable as she seemed to believe herself to be?
For the issue is not, as she speciously states it, that ‘no community should miss out on representation because its MP is pregnant’. To the contrary, the issue is whether anyone entering a contract they may not be able to fulfil, for whatever reason, should have entered it in the first place. Especially in the case of the special duties and indeed privilege of being an MP. Or whether on finding that you cannot honour it, you should stand down to allow the election of someone who can.
Even more fundamental perhaps is the question of whether Parliament is the sensible or appropriate career option for any woman of child-bearing age or young mother? Why is this necessary, when healthy women today have working life spans of 50 years to fit motherhood and career into, and when there is no upper age limit on entering Parliament?
The question then surely is whether young motherhood and being an MP match, whether the attempt to do both at the same time is sensible or fair – on the mother, on the baby or young child, on colleagues and, last but not least, on constituents? The answer is a pretty categorical no, it’s not.
But this is a day and age when just to warn young ambitious women that they will feel differently when they have a baby, just as Ms Creasy has essentially admitted, is a complete no no – or, that regardless of the help they secure, they’ll feel torn. Nor are we allowed to mention even the mothering instinct that comes to the fore on childbirth, that thank God Ruth Davidson was brave enough now to acknowledge when she said that by remaining leader of her party she’d be unable meet her own and her child’s needs.
This is all heresy to the Stellas of this world. Stepping aside is not an option she appears even to have considered. Give way? Not for her Mrs Thatcher’s moral correctness who, after giving birth to her twins, wrote to the party chairman to say she did not want to be considered as a candidate for that reason.
From Conservative Archive: Margaret Thatcher writes to party chairman John Hare in 1953 saying she doesn’t want to be considered as candidate for six months as she’s just had twins, though didn’t realise they were going to be twins til they were born pic.twitter.com/Y5VgKk6Ld0
— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) October 1, 2019
Such temporary sacrifice the martyr Stella, whose equalities agenda trumps her notion of duty as an MP, seems not to have considered. She would rather demand our complicity in her dishonesty that she is both irreplaceable and replaceable at the same time; that her rights must trump those of everyone else.
If that means corrupting Parliament’s most fundamental electoral rules, never mind – it is just one piece of a ‘much bigger equality puzzle’.
Were I one of Creasy’s constituents I would be doubly dismayed if I found out that it was taxpayers who will essentially paying for her constituents to have two MPs, one of whom they have had no say over and neither of whom will attend the Commons for more than half a year.
This is not progress. It is deceitful nonsense.