WHEN Harriet Harman offered me her sympathies, I was rather taken aback. I had just started work as a political reporter at Westminster and thought it was quite the most exciting job ever. And yet here was a member of the new Labour Government commiserating with me for having the misfortune to work in the male-dominated lobby of political journalists covering the male-dominated House of Commons.
Views on gender in politics still range from the Harriet Harmans at one end of the spectrum to the Ann Widdecombes at the other. The Widdecombes believe it is patronising to suggest that women need special help to become MPs and that, other than the need for separate bathrooms, there are no particular differences between male and female politicians. The Harmans, on the other hand, have long campaigned for positive action to get more women into Parliament and believe female MPs are more likely to raise social issues such as domestic violence and childcare.
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