IS Stella Creasy correct when she says, ‘I’m pregnant and forced to choose between being an MP and a mum’?
First of all, I need to put it on the record that I’m a man. I have no uterus. It is not my business whether she carries a child or not, or whether she wants to be a parent, beyond being happy for her that she is. I have no sexist view towards her as I myself have three children. I honour motherhood. I embrace it.
But what I do have a say in is the matter of being an MP, which in my understanding is a matter of honouring a contract undertaken and signed by someone elected to be a spokesperson for a constituency.
When my children attended senior school, they were allotted a teacher for five years, for the sake of continuity. My son had the same male teacher for the duration. My twin daughters, however, had a female teacher whom they saw for approximately six months in the first three years, and thereafter followed by a different teacher for the rest of the time. The continuity was broken by the teacher’s ability to carry children and enjoy motherhood, and to take time out from her job for that purpose.
When I stood for council in 2016, they made a ruling that members would sit for four years, for the sake of continuity. Everybody entering into that race knew the contract they were signing up to if they won. It would demand time, effort and commitment to attend various meetings and committees.
Likewise when I signed my contract for my job 14 years ago, I agreed with the fine print that I would be available for a two-shift pattern and able to work for 37.5 hours per week. In return, they would pay me for my services.
The questions we should raise, then, is not whether Stella Creasy is forced to choose between becoming a mum or being Labour MP for Walthamstow but whether, if it was a contract she might not be able to fulfil, she should have made that choice in the first place. Or having made that contract and realising she does not want to fulfil it, to stand aside.
To serve one’s country is an honour. To be elected as a mouthpiece for your constituents, to serve and vote on their behalf does take time, effort and a devotion to duty beyond other jobs.
The Parliamentary rules have stated since 2011 that the time of office will be at least five years. If one wants to run for that position and has the good fortune to be elected, should the person not honour the agreement thereafter? Is five years too long to put your plans to one side? Stella Creasy has had since her election in 2010 to consider this. Continuity is important, so are constituents’ needs and your duty as an MP. It’s an office with responsibilities that should not be entered into lightly.
The whole position smacks of inconsistency. Ms Creasy has been clear-cut in her advocacy of women’s rights – not least for abortion, a debate I am not going to enter into. But if she (and other women) are going to stand on a platform about women’s rights then perhaps they should also consider their responsibilities – not least that of honouring the contract she made with her electorate – which demands a level of duty and attention that she now, understandably, feels she cannot give.
‘No community should miss out on representation because its MP is pregnant’ she asserted, ‘nor should my opponents be able to argue there’s a cost to my constituents because I may succeed in my quest to conceive.’
But her constituents will miss out and there is a cost. If in labour, and afterwards on maternity leave, who knows best the constituents’ cases? Herself or a locum? And on what or whose mandate is the locum appointed?
Ms Creasy appears to want to have her cake and eat it. Rather than trying to get Parliament to bend rules and set the undemocratic precedent she demands for her personal needs, wouldn’t she be more honest to step aside for a by-election? She has been brave enough to say that her baby’s needs must come first. Now she needs to accept the consequences. Being an MP is an elected role not a transferable job. If she wanted extended maternity leave, being an MP was not the vocation for her.