UK Politics

Jeremy Corbyn to MPs: Why are no women being questioned?

Angus Robertson, Sir Patrick McCoughlan, Tim Farron, Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has accused an MPs' committee of behaving in a "slightly odd" way by questioning "four white men" on the role of women in politics.

The Labour leader appeared alongside Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, the SNP's Angus Robertson and Conservative Sir Patrick McCoughlin at the hearing.

He said women ought to be there too.

But Women and Equalities Committee chairwoman Maria Miller told the senior male politicians present: "With respect, that's your fault, not ours."

The hearing was part of an inquiry into the lack of female representation in the House of Commons.

'Eight white blokes'

Mr Corbyn, who has set a goal of at least 50% of Labour's MPs being women, said British society was "quite misogynistic".

He added: "I hope you are also going to be taking evidence from women representing all of the political parties.

"It seems slightly odd to have four white men sitting in front of you giving evidence about women's representation."

Challenged about allegations of bullying within Labour, Mr Corbyn said: "You are assuming that the party is riddled with intimidation. It is not. There is some intimidation that goes on. I am stamping it out and dealing with it."

Mr Farron acknowledged the Lib Dems were not setting a good example since their number of MPs had been hugely reduced at the last general election.

He said: "To be left with eight white blokes is hardly a great result for diversity or indeed for the party."

MPs cut

The Conservatives have not imposed all-female shortlists for parliamentary seats and Sir Patrick, the party chairman said to do so "would possibly risk a resentment" towards female MPs.

He said: "I would rather do other measures, working with associations, working with women who are trying to get on the candidates' list."

There are currently 191 female MPs. Another, Labour's Jo Cox, was killed earlier this year, prompting a by-election in her Batley and Spen constituency, which is due to happen next week. A contest is happening in Witney, the seat vacated by former Prime Minister David Cameron, on the same day.

When full, the House of Commons has 650 members.

The committee has previously raised concerns that government plans to reduce the number of MPs to 600 could make it harder for women to be selected by parties for winnable seats.

Mrs Miller, a former Conservative cabinet minister, has said: "We need to see proper diversity in public life - an important part of this is making sure the House of Commons is representative of the nation at large."

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