Westminster’s stupidest row yet

The ‘stupid woman’ episode is a new low for British politics.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Staff writer

With 100 days to go until the official Brexit date, the government and parliamentarians are at loggerheads over which way to best betray the largest democratic vote in British history. This raises urgent, era-defining questions over who rules: Westminster or Brussels? The people or parliament?

And yet, the question that has gripped the season finale of the Westminster village soap opera is whether Jeremy Corbyn mouthed ‘stupid woman’ at Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. Corbyn’s team insists he actually mouthed the words ‘stupid people’ at the Tory backbenches.

Most normal people might think to themselves: so what? Some might think Theresa May is a stupid woman. But MPs and the media went into meltdown. The ‘stupid woman’ jibe made the top of the 10 O’Clock News and the front page of practically every newspaper. (Rare is the day that a Daily Star frontpage splash on Madeleine McCann is more relevant than the frontpage splash of The Times.)

The press summoned a crack team of lip-readers to divine Corbyn’s exact mutterings. He said ‘woman’, according to the experts. A group of Corbynista sleuths produced slowed-down footage to counter these claims. Sadly, the media fell short of inspecting entrails or consulting an oracle in their search for the all-important truth.

According to the people who run the country, the phrase ‘stupid woman’ is a sexist outrage. Theresa May called on Corbyn to apologise because ‘100 years since women got the vote’, women might be put off from entering parliament if they hear such outrageous language. For health secretary Matt Hancock, the comments were ‘sickening’. ‘This misogyny now runs deep in Corbyn’s Labour – and it goes right to the top’, he crowed. Tory MP Anna Soubry claimed that the ‘stupid woman’ jibe was yet another example of the ‘abuse’ that women in politics have put up with for decades.

There is nothing offensive or sexist about the phrase ‘stupid woman’. But even language that offends should be par for the course in political debate. It is better to have politicians who occasionally let passion get the better of them than it is to have no passion in politics at all. Politics should not be a dull, dreary, technocratic exercise – it should be about competing visions of the world. People were once willing to die for their politics, now they complain of having to endure playground insults.

The fact that our elected representatives have worked themselves into such a frenzy over this mildest of slights is revealing. It tells us that the right is as snowflakey and pathetic as the left. All sides in politics are now willing to weaponise hurty feelings and fake outrage to score the most desperate political points.

It also tells us that today’s politicians are simply not up to the role we have entrusted to them. Voters granted them the responsibility to represent their constituents and govern the country. Instead, they are absorbed by the most pathetic Westminster pantomime. This episode is a new low for British politics.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.