Stella Creasy is not happy. The MP for Walthamstow, who is also a proud new mum, has been told that according to updated parliamentary rules on "behaviour and courtesies", she must stop bringing her three-month-old son along with her when she sits in the Commons. Creasy vented her anger on Twitter, saying: "Mothers in the mother of all parliaments are not to be seen or heard it seems." She is now demanding a review of the rules.
Labour's women MPs have long argued that the House of Commons should be brought in line with regular workplaces, with shorter hours and paid maternity leave. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but in more normal jobs, mothers leave their babies in the care of others. Teachers, nurses and cleaners would all get short shrift if they turned up infant-in-tow. Creasy has said it "has to be possible for politics and parenting to mix", but MPs can't have it both ways. Politics is either a job like any other, or it is not.
The fact is, politics is not just another career option for middle class professionals. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. Engaging in the cut and thrust of policy-making requires an ideological commitment as well as a sense of duty to the constituents you have been elected to represent. Politics deserves to be taken seriously and this means parliamentarians should give their full attention to matters under discussion.
Creasy seems to have been blessed with an impeccably well-behaved son who has mastered the art of sleeping when mum speaks in the Chamber. But babies can be demanding, unpredictable and disruptive. Dominic Raab has been quick to say that a baby in the Commons "certainly wouldn't distract me or get in the way of me doing my job" but many parents are not so confident they can give their complete attention to a task while a baby is strapped to their chest.
Creasy is surely in the fortunate position of being able to afford the best available childcare, so bringing her son to Parliament is a choice, not a necessity. Baby Creasy may be just three months old but it seems he is already being recruited to make political points about the importance of breastfeeding and attachment parenting. Jo Swinson got there first when she cradled her baby during a Commons debate in 2018, and New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern went one better in becoming the first world leader to take her baby to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
These women present themselves as the perfect embodiment of modern motherhood, juggling maternal duty with high profile careers. But not only is it impossible for women with more normal jobs to live up to this ideal, for many mothers it is also undesirable. Work is often not just a means of earning a living but an opportunity to regain a sense of their own identity.
The updated Parliamentary rules are right: babies do not belong in the House of Commons. MPs are there to represent their constituents, not look after their offspring. If Stella Creasy really wants to help working mothers she would be much better off campaigning for more affordable childcare rather than putting herself centre stage.
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