Shaun Bailey accused of 'prehistoric' views on lack of female MPs

Labour releases dossier of Tory London mayoral candidate’s past remarks about women

Labour has accused the Conservative candidate for London mayor of holding “prehistoric” views after he once suggested in an interview that the reason there were so few women in parliament was because women did not want to enter politics.

Shaun Bailey, who will challenge the incumbent, Sadiq Khan, in May’s election, also claimed that women did not stand as prospective MPs because they were “too clever” to enter a profession that was “rough in all the wrong ways”.

The comments, made during a Woman’s Hour interview in 2008, were included in a dossier of comments by Bailey about women released by Labour on International Women’s Day.

Labour accused Bailey of failing to register that women wanted power but faced pay inequalities, fewer role models and sexist attitudes.

Bailey’s team have rejected the claim, saying Labour is “once again trying to spin quotes out of context”.

In the Radio 4 interview, Bailey was asked why so few women were standing to become MPs. He said: “Many women are too clever to get into politics. They look in, see the nonsense and find something else to do with their time. That’s the real thing.”

After being challenged by the presenter, Jane Garvey, for holding views that were a “cop-out”, and after a caller to the show said his views were “slightly patronising”, Bailey said many women chose not to make the step from councillor to possible MP.

“Often they then decide ‘I’m not going to become an MP because this has been rough in all the wrong ways, and if I’m going to go on and make a career, I’d rather not, there are other ways to enjoy myself in this world.’ At the end of the day we’re making the assumption that there are hundreds of thousands of women that are wanting to become MPs – I’m not sure that’s true.”

Women now make up a third of MPs. At the time of the interview it was a fifth.

A University of Bath study from 2018 found that barriers to women entering politics included the gender pay gap and a lack of identifiable role models.

Labour described Bailey’s views as “prehistoric” and criticised his record on women and young girls. In a 2005 pamphlet about the inner cities entitled No Man’s Land, Bailey wrote that good-looking girls “tend to have been around”.

“The boys have got this opinion that if a girl looks clean, and that generally means she’s good looking, she appeals to them, it is less likely she’ll have an [sexually transmitted] infection. If a girl appeals to one that way, she’ll appeal to all of them. She’ll tend to have been around,” he wrote.

Challenged over these comments in an interview with Sky in 2019, he said it had been an attempt to challenge myths in a poor community where young men live in a sexualised environment.

Bailey, 49, has also praised the discipline of teachers when he was at school because they “were men, then”. He later told the Guardian that it was a turn of phrase and he wanted teachers to return to being more straightforward.

In 2010, he suggested in an article for the Sun that teenage mothers pushed people who “do the right thing” down the housing ladder, and in 2008, he told the Guardian that “children are using abortion as contraceptive”, and he supported reducing the upper abortion limit to 22 weeks.

Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “One of the reasons there aren’t enough women in politics is because of men like Shaun Bailey. There should be no place in 21st-century politics for men who peddle archaic stereotypes about women simply not wanting positions of power.”

Bailey, a former youth worker from a single-parent family who is one of the Tory party’s leading black figures, was selected three years ago to take on Khan. He has struggled to make significant indents into his opponent’s support, but some in Labour fear that the coronavirus pandemic will reduce turnout and narrow the polls.

A spokesperson for Bailey said: “Once again, Labour are trying to spin quotes out of context. Shaun was clearly making the point that women have historically been underrepresented in politics, and he was discussing the causes behind that.

“Between unfriendly hours, personal attacks and a lack of childcare provision, too many women have seen politics as an unfriendly environment. If Labour think pointing that out is sexism, then they need to rethink the values they claim to stand for.”


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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