Labour MPs have spoken to Amber Rudd about abuse they have received from campaign group Momentum, she told the Commons, as she called for action to “stop the level of hate that comes at women”.
The Home Secretary said it was “incredibly important” to call out abuse, after saying she puts up with “hate” because “female voices matter in politics and in life”.
Labour’s Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) said it needed to be recognised that abuse comes from “all sides” of the political spectrum, and said: “I think the more we make it a party political issue that actually prevents us from making progress.”
But Ms Rudd replied: “I don’t really share her view, and speaking honestly I don’t think it is about being party political because the fact is I have plenty of Labour MPs who have come to talk to me about the abuse that they have received from Momentum – it is not just us who receive it.
“It’s fine if some members of the Labour Party don’t want to call it out but I think it is fair that we do call it out because I don’t think it’s helpful to ignore it.”
Ms Rudd, delivering a statement on the suffrage centenary, announced the opening of a “large grant scheme” to allow local community groups to bid for suffrage projects worth up to £125,000, as part of a £5 million fund to celebrate the milestone.
Shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Dawn Butler said it was “utterly disappointing” to hear “another re-announcement”, and said: “Labour is the party of equality, with a proud record of advancing women’s rights and we are so proud of our achievements and ashamed of the Tory Party’s determination to undo and remove the safeguards for women.”
Ms Rudd, who is also Minister for Women and Equalities, said she was slightly “disappointed” by Ms Butler’s tone, adding: “I wish that she could perhaps be a little bit more celebratory about today.”
She said: “What are we going to do about stopping the hate going towards women? If we want more women, which we do, to enter politics, we want more women councillors, more women MPs, we want to stop, we must take action to stop the level of hate that comes at women and a lot of that does come from Momentum.”
Ms Rudd called for the parties to work together to make sure it did not happen, adding: “It is incredibly important that we all call this out.”
Labour’s Harriet Harman, the Mother of the House as the longest continuously serving female MP, was applauded by some MPs after she was called to speak by John Bercow, and welcomed the Government’s move for the Law Commission to consider making it an offence to “threaten and abuse” parliamentary candidates.
SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) said she would be doing a “disservice to suffragettes” if she “did not say that today we still have a Government that pursues policies like the rape clause, that pursues social security cuts which hit women’s budgets, 85% of cuts have come out of women’s pockets and we have yet to see justice for the Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaigners”.