Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) is a big turn off. So says Mumsnet, the website for women who have had babies, are thinking about having babies, or who are just really into the idea that motherhood is such a blessed state in and of itself that it confers special insight and must be deferred to as often as possible on every conceivable occasion.
One politician who predictably agrees with them is milksop deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Endorsing a petition signed by 56,000 Mumsnet users demanding that PMQs be made more accessible and less combative, he appeared at a specially convened Mumsnet Q & A session to show just how very much he cared about this vital demographic’s views.
Bravely and controversially, he told the assembled mothers that their petition was “brilliant.”
He said it was: “Basically saying: ‘When is Prime Minister’s Questions going to be a) scheduled to the time when people below 65 watch it? When is it actually going to allow other people to ask questions? When is it going to become less of this kind of Punch and Judy formula?”
Clegg went on to denounce the archaism and machismo of the Commons debating chamber.
“And so the whole thing is in a language which wasn’t used since 1867 and in a kind of highly aggressive, sort of, macho, chest-beating, testosterone-driven idiom which is deeply off-putting to – to any normal person.”
Elsewhere, Sky News reported on some of the special insights on Westminster politics to be found among Mumsnet users.
Nicola Turner, mother of four-year-old Lily, said: “I think they’re quite immature in a lot of respects, quite inconsiderate of each other.
Vicky Barton, who has a one-year-old son William, agrees.She said: “The fact that the speaker had to stand up several times and tell them to be quiet and calm down, you get that in nursery or in primary school, you certainly don’t expect adults to have to be told more than once.”
The temptation with news “stories” like this – covered uncritically in the Mail, on Sky, in the New Statesman and on LBC radio; endorsed, as we have just seen, by Nick Clegg – is either to ignore them or report them dismissively with added snark.
Problem is, neither technique quite addresses the serious underlying menace here: a phenomenon which probably deserves the Twitter hashtag #waronmen
Why, pray, should the views on PMQs (or any other political issue for that matter) held by women with children be afforded any more significance than those of, say, cyclists or spinsters or hairdressers? And if we’re consulting Mumsnet, why not Dogsnet and Catsnet and Goldfishnet? Or – indeed – Dadsnet?
The answer, unfortunately, is that Mumsnet represents the vaguely acceptable face of a shrill, manipulative, bossy and often rather nasty neo-feminist movement whose influence can be seen everywhere from the hysterical Twitter trolling of characters like Caroline Criado Perez (the irritant who campaigned successfully to get Jane Austen on the next £10 note – not on her literary merits but on the ludicrous grounds that the author of Pride And Prejudice was some kind of proto-feminist) to the current Salem-style frenzy over the various celebrities or semi-celebrities being aggressively pursued through the courts for various alleged sexual offences at the behest of a new female Director of Public Prosecutions on an apparently holy mission to secure more rape convictions.
Do you like this new enlightened age into which these harpies are dragging us, kicking and screaming, by our rude bits?
Perhaps you do. But only if you agree all men are rapists, that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, that the reason there aren’t more women in the boardroom is because of corporate sexism, that sending sexist emails or tweeting disobligingly about your favourite Guardianista feminist harpie ought to be a career-destroying offence, that any criticism of anyone female is prima facie evidence of incorrigible misogyny, that the reason there aren’t more women engineers and neurosurgeons is because of a phallocentric bias which needs urgently addressing through positive discrimination, that women players at Wimbledon deserve exactly the same prize pot as men even though they play fewer sets and they’re less interesting to watch, that if only we had more female talents like Caroline Lucas and Hillary Clinton in government everything would run much more smoothly and consensually without any of that willy-waving war-mongering which is all men – bless – are really capable of because they’re all neanderthals at heart, rapists too, did I mention that all men are rapists?
Otherwise you might find this new cultural climate a mite disconcerting.