Westminster misogyny will put women off politics, says Baroness Ruth Davidson
Misogyny in Westminster will put women off entering politics, Baroness Ruth Davidson has said, as she called on men to take responsibility for their actions.
Her comments come as UK Government minister Michelle Donelan rejected calls for an all-women Tory shortlist for the by-election to replace disgraced MP Neil Parish, who resigned after he admitted to watching porn in the House of Commons.
The MP for Tiverton and Honiton claimed he had accidentally watched porn after searching online for tractors, but admitted the second instance was deliberate.
Ms Davidson said it was clear the behaviour was not acceptable and she was “glad” Mr Parish was resigning.
She said: “The idea there is any workspace where that is acceptable is nonsense, it clearly isn’t, and I have to say I’m not a regular Googler of farming and tractor websites, but I am pretty sure if I put in tractor, that is not what would come up and I certainly wouldn't be watching it.
“The man clearly has got problems and issues that he has got to work out, but you can’t do that in any workplace and certainly not in the House of Commons or any Parliament in this country.”
Asked about the culture of misogyny in Westminster, the peer said the issue was “much wider than some guy watching Pornhub at work”.
She said: “You do get treated differently when you are a woman in politics and you get treated differently online.
“In terms of my own experiences, you get talked down to. I’ve been to places where my male chief of staff was given the tour and not me, and he was spoken to and not me even though I was a party leader and generally higher profile.
“I’ve had comments, leers, inappropriate arms that linger too long, hands that go too low, all that sort of stuff.
“I’d like to think my ‘sod off’ force field is quite large, but it doesn’t always save you, and it’s not acceptable.”
Ms Davidson said it was “heartening” that male and female politicians and journalists had come forward to speak out against the behaviour.
She said the behaviour by some men was “never about sex, they are always about power”.
The former Scottish Tory leader added structures within Westminster needed to be examined after Labour MP Liam Byrne received transcripts and names of those who complained about his bullying behaviour.
She said: “If the way in which they treat somebody who is junior to them or even a comparator of them is a way that they wouldn’t want their own daughter to be treated or their own wife to be treated or their own mother to be treated, then they need to look at themselves because they should not be treating anyone like that.
“This is about a whole lot of men that need to take responsibility for their own actions.”
Ms Donelan, the universities minister, said the best way ensure more female MPs were elected was through encouragement and breaking down barriers rather than imposing all-women shortlists.
“We don’t do it by putting in quotas, which I find quite demeaning to women,” she said. “Women can get there on merit.”
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