Working mums: “Why are we going back in time?” Letter to the editor

Official portrait of Stella Creasy MP by Richard Townshend. Wikimedia Commons

Dear West Country Voices,

I was absolutely fuming when I saw in the news that MP and mother Stella Creasy was told that she could not have her baby with her when she was in the House of Commons. I was completely shocked because surely this is not anything new? MPs have been taking their babies with them to Westminster since Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson who, I believe, was the first in 2018.

As well as this, we watched and congratulated the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, when her 3 month old baby accompanied her to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Jacinda stated that she wanted to inspire change and “create a path for other women”.

And yes, it really does inspire us as women; we watch and we realise it is possible for women, indeed even new mothers, to have these important roles in government.

So, why are we now going back in time and suddenly telling women that, actually they can’t? We claim we’re trying to make Westminster more representative, for all backgrounds, ages and genders, and yet now we’re saying “no”. These political mothers are not taking their babies with them for a day out; MPs must be physically present at Westminster in order to represent their constituents’ views during Commons debates.

Regardless of whether breastfeeding or not, babies need close attachment in order to get the best start in life, and it is an essential component for baby brain development. This is something we should be welcoming! We should be empowering women and encouraging both a strong connection with their babies while at the same time carrying out important roles for the country.

Babies aren’t a negative distraction anyway; they’re usually either asleep or feeding, so what’s the big deal? Let’s just compare this to the behaviour of the shouting, jeering and heckling MPs…(although some MPs are sleeping, too, I’m told).

I’m not an MP myself, but I am a District Councillor and a mother to two young children. I am proud to say that both of my children have regularly accompanied me to council meetings as babies, and I am pleased to say that this has always been welcomed by Torridge District Council staff and fellow councillors. Women! Do not be disheartened, we will continue to fight the fight, and we will not be silenced by outdated, patriarchal rules and opinions.

Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin

Liberal Democrat Torridge District Councillor