Belfast Telegraph

Why mum's the word that must be heard at Downing Street Cabinet table

By Jane Graham

Years of listening to radio phone-ins and reading 'below the line' online commentators have probably given me a perception of the British people skewed unfairly towards the lower end of humanity. Most normal, decent people don't contact radio shows to show off their white knuckles and proudly refuse to consider other viewpoints.

In most cases, the more we take time to investigate an issue, the less likely we are to confidently state a for or against position. The end result of years of intense research or moral reasoning is usually, to use a well-worn philosophical phrase, "nobody knows nuttin'".

This may be the great truth of the universe, but it doesn't work well on a phone-in, where the more committed and red-faced the caller, the more entertaining the show.

Nuance operates like sludge on talk shows. Why give airtime to a boringly wise, fair-minded thinker when you can just put in a call to Hire A Homophobe and get a frenzied lecture from she who will not be moved?

Heavily armed as I am against hope for balance and good sense however, I was still taken by surprise by the vitriol among the Great British Loud regarding the suggestion that having no mothers in the Cabinet might not be an ideal situation.

Conservative Women's response was 'So what?' – as 'most of the mothers who were in Cabinet have proved to be completely useless in defending the interests of mothers who want to care for their children at home' they took the view there was little point in having this social subculture (mums) represented at a high level in government.

Anyway, they frothed, lamenting the absence of mothers was just another way of attacking Theresa May for not having children. Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph possibly summed up the Right's riposte best when he scoffed: "Genuinely. That was the line. No mothers. This is where Left-wing feminism has got to in 2014."

Call me stupid – I find it alluring – but I'm baffled by the notion that asking for one mum in the 23-strong group at the top of a heavily male-skewed power hierarchy is unreasonable/ insulting to women/ leftie feminist madness. Neither do I understand how it's an attack on women who don't have children.

The Cabinet isn't the public answer to the M&S board; it's not a collection of brains trying to figure out how to benefit its shareholders.

Its job is working out how to run a country for the good of its people. The necessity for it be representative of those it serves, to show that it can empathise with all sections of the community, is vital.

The horror of welfare cuts, the slashing of services for the least aided and most desperate, has already proved how damaging a lack of comprehension of poverty among the Oxbridge elite can be.

Whether they're workers or stay at home mums, women whose job it is to rear the next generation are ... well, call me patronising, I'd say kind of crucial.

If they don't have a single voice in the cabinet, the effect on wider society could be catastrophic. She's not a woman I'd usually cite in a debate, but Nadine Dorries told me this week she wouldn't want her daughters to follow in her footsteps because of the "prejudice and abuse" female MPs face "every day".

The Commons, she intimated, is still run by and for privileged men who ignore established work patterns and run hearings past midnight, making it impossible for main carers (usually women) to take part.

"So what?" doesn't quite cut it.

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