The highlight of the Debate on The Queen’s Speech in the Commons yesterday came from Penny Mordaunt, the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North who proposed the Loyal Address. (Guido has put up the video.)
She noted that the last time it had been proposed by a woman was 57 years ago by Lady Tweedsmuir, the MP for Aberdeen South.
Miss Mordaunt said many of the issues raised by Lady Tweedsmuir remained valid. However:
It is a shame that the response Lady Tweedsmuir received from the then Leader of the Opposition is less able to stand up to contemporary scrutiny. Mr Gaitskell—with gallant intent, I am sure—replied to a nodding Commons that she had probably made some good points but that, alas, he had been unable to respond to any of them, such had been the distraction of her soft, attractive voice. So struck was he that he felt that, despite being a grandmother, she was rather easy on the eye, and he had found it impossible to concentrate on anything she said.
I realise that, in recounting this, I might have left the present Leader of the Opposition with a modern man’s dilemma. Should he now risk insulting me by concentrating solely on the issues raised, and failing to mention that I am also a softly-spoken charmer? Or, if he were to compliment me, would he risk incurring the wrath of the Labour party’s women’s caucus, potentially triggering the newly introduced power of recall? These are perilous times for a chap. Whatever he decides to do, I hope that this will mark the end of the parliamentary leap year. Women parliamentarians should be allowed to propose more than once every 57 years.
Miss Mordaunt is a Sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve – “I am not in my uniform. Alas, Chamber protocol and concerns for the blood pressure of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) prevent it”. Much of her speech was influenced by that experience:
I am proud that the Government are to review the roles in our services currently barred to women, to make sure that we make use of the best talent. In doing so, there must be no compromise of standards, but we must recognise that we cannot set women up to fail. Training must be tailored to enable us to be our best. I have benefited from some excellent training by the Royal Navy, but on one occasion I felt that it was not as bespoke as it might have been. Fascinating though it was, I felt that the lecture and practical demonstration on how to care for the penis and testicles in the field failed to appreciate that some of us attending had been issued with the incorrect kit.
If you have wondered what post-feminism is, doesn’t this good humoured and confident speech encapsulate it? There was a powerful rebuke to old fashioned male chauvinism but also to the dreary, patronising 1970s feminism and its legacy of political correctness.
I can not have been the only one listening to the speech to be astonished that she has not already been made a Minister.