Finally, they’ll let a woman overthrow democracy

Harriet Harman’s feminist campaign for speaker is really about stopping Brexit.

Ella Whelan

Ella Whelan


Gender politics doesn’t wash with voters. Hillary Clinton learned that lesson in 2016 when her ‘Grandma knows best’ campaign fell flat. Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall came to the same realisation in 2015 when emphasising their womanhood failed to win either of them the Labour leadership. But it seems some people are blind to the lessons of history. Labour MP Harriet Harman has, predictably, focused her bid to become the next speaker of the House of Commons on her gender. Harman has thrown her hat into the ring following the welcome resignation of John Bercow.

‘We’ve now got more than 200 women members of the House of Commons and I think it would show that parliament has changed to have a woman in the chair’, Harman told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge. ‘If we put a man in the chair it will render all those women invisible’, she continued. Presumably, she had already forgotten that Theresa May (a woman) had been running the country – disastrously – for the past three years until just two months ago. And she seems also to have forgotten that we have already had a female speaker: Betty Boothroyd. And yet, Harman was supported by colleagues on Twitter. ‘It’s time for #MrsSpeaker’, tweeted fellow Labour MP Gloria De Piero. ‘It is surely time for a woman’, said Scottish Labour MP Margaret Curran. MPs from both Labour and the Tories started using the hashtag ‘#SpeakHER’.

Harman has form when it comes to playing the lady card in politics. In 2014, her stunt persuading fellow MPs to take selfies in t-shirts saying ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ backfired badly. The Mail on Sunday alleged that the shirts were made by women enduring dire working conditions in sweatshops. During the 2015 General Election, Harman was ferried around the country in a pink bus emblazoned with ‘woman to woman’ for a ‘kitchen table tour’. This was widely criticised as patronising. In 2016, during a discussion on the EU on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Harman attempted to display her feminist credentials by praising the Kardashian sisters for their ‘bravery and pioneering spirit’. However, she was caught out when asked if she celebrated women who got naked for money if they weren’t billionaires like the Kardashian family. Harman, a staunch campaigner against Page 3, had previously dismissed its mainly working-class models as merely ‘fodder’ for male readers.

Some have pointed out that having a female speaker wouldn’t exactly be groundbreaking – Boothroyd was speaker between 1992 and 2000. But Harman’s attempt to frame the debate about the next speaker around gender is wrong for a more important reason than that. It avoids the key question about the future speaker – whether he or she will play an impartial or a partisan role in the Brexit process.

Harman has promised to be ‘scrupulously neutral’ when it comes to Brexit. But this is hard to believe. Only a month ago, she was tweeting things like: ‘No Deal Brexit would be catastrophic. We will all work together to enable parliament to prevent the deep damage a No Deal Brexit would do to our country!’ Could someone who tweeted the following – ‘I wish Leave hadn’t won. Labour and Keir Starmer [are] trying to make the best of a wrong decision’ – really be trusted to not take a side? Harman also warned before the referendum that Brexit could be a ‘major step back’ for women’s rights. If she truly believes this, could she, as a lifelong feminist campaigner, be scrupulously neutral on the issue?

Of course not. Harman is simply another Brexitphobe vying for a position of power in parliament. Fellow Labour MP David Lammy tweeted that, as speaker, Harman ‘won’t be cowered by the establishment’ and will ‘stand up for democracy’. This kind of self-delusion among anti-Brexit politicians – that they are somehow the rebels at the gate rather than living embodiments of the Remain establishment – tells you all you need to know about a figure like Harman and her supporters.

Recently, we’ve had a nightmare female prime minister, a female leader of a thrice renamed party of democracy-dodging defectors (that’s you, Anna Soubry), and a female leader of the Liberal Democrats who wants to cancel the referendum result outright (Jo Swinson). The public doesn’t care what genitals rest on the speaker’s chair – we want a parliament that can be trusted to deal properly with the directions given to it by voters.

She can ride in all the pink minibuses she likes, but Harman will convince no one – man or woman – that her bid for the position of speaker is about anything other than maintaining parliament’s resistance to the Leave vote.

Ella Whelan is a spiked columnist and the author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism.

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Ven Oods

20th September 2019 at 8:12 pm

I’m all for more women in politics, just, please God, not like Harman. Or Thornberry, since I’m in prayer mode. Abbot I can hack, since she has a high amusement quotient. And, still praying, no more Mays either.
Thank you, Lord.

Richard Wheatley

20th September 2019 at 6:00 pm

Flagrant playing of identity politics card – must be a word for that. Silly.

Trouble McTrouble

20th September 2019 at 2:16 pm

I just want a speaker that WON’T be Bercow – a clear double case of Napoleon Syndrome and Narcissistic Personality Disorder if ever I saw it. The real reason he’s turned rules and laws of Parliament on their head to stop Brexit is mostly to cling to his job for as long as possible – let’s face it we pay for his kids movie channels, his sports channels and millions spent on him and his wife jetting around, as well as more millions spent on his grace and favour homes to turn them into the literal illustrations of Bad Taste. No doubt if he’d backed us leaving the EU, those he bullied (who all appear to be remainers like Sourby) would’ve bayed for his blood until they were listened to. But by stabbing the British public in the back, his favourite thing to do already to be fair, he’s hung on by his fingernails until HE chooses to go sometime in early November. Though I wouldn’t take that as gospel, because he also said he’d go in June and reneged… I’ll believe it when I see him actually gone. I just pray to the Holy God of Chocolate that he doesn’t get made a Lord – can you see this little no mark sitting in the House of Lords? Little legs stuck out in front of him like a grumpy 3 year old on a big person’s chair? Lording it (literally) over the rest of us? Goddess of Maltesers NO! I feel sick at the thought.

I think the BEST speaker we ever had, in my personal opinion, was Betty Boothroyd – she was everything a speaker should be and, sadly, I think her kind will never come again. Politics in general and parliament in particular are populated with those who’ve never really worked a day in their life (and no, answering questions from constituents and sitting in a big room playing on your phone or sleeping whilst others drone on doesn’t count) and so don’t really see parliament and being an MP as anything more than a way to press their own agendas (see the SNP and their sole view of getting out of the UK and nothing else) or lining their own pockets (see the proroguing of parliament by John Major to avoid awkward questions about the expenses scandal – the irony of which is apparently lost on him).

Poppy Piway

19th September 2019 at 4:13 pm

Best man for the job would be Steve Baker. Principled, fair, just and a true statesman.
Best woman…………….jury is still out on that one! On second thoughts maybe Suella Braverman or Priti Patel – both icons of their time and also true statesmen.

James Green

19th September 2019 at 2:53 pm

Hattie first came on the scene in 1977. Lefties had heard that a group of Asians, chiefly women, were fired from their jobs at a photo-processing company in London called Grunwick. The proprietor having the name of George Ward was in for a very hard time thought the lefties. There was no way that such a gammon-faced arrogant bigoted racist slob was going to dismiss ethnic minorities in such a manner–upon catching sight of George, they were dumbfounded to see that his face was the same colour as those he had fired from his premises. For two full years, Hattie and her sidekick Jack Dromey, bussed numerous agitators from as far away as Newcastle to help in keeping up a daily verbal attacks on GW outside the gates of Grunwick—it all ended with the fired Asians remaining fired, and nothing at all was gained from the years of indignation playedout on a little side street of London!

Hana Jinks

18th September 2019 at 4:18 pm

I took a screenshot of my comments, Smella Kneelin’, and l can assure you that if they don’t get thru then l is gonna be raising things a level or two with you.

Ven Oods

18th September 2019 at 2:19 pm

A woman in the Speaker’s chair might be no bad thing: Betty Boothroyd seemed able and popular.
On the other hand, HH would be a disaster. And just think of all the grace-and-favour porn vids that might be chalked up to the taxpayer’s tab!

Jane 70

18th September 2019 at 12:39 pm

My choice would be Kate Hoey, whom I admire for her steadfast support for Leave and her courage in standing up to the Corbynistas.
Unfortunately, she will be standing down at the next GE.
Alternatively, JRM, whose witty erudition and languid composure would be most refreshing in comparison to Napoleon’ s biased theatricals.
I wish the likes of Harman and the rest of the sisterhood would stop playing the wimmin card: we just need an effective, impartial and sensible bod to take over; gender not relevant.

John Millson

18th September 2019 at 8:21 am

Whilst not agreeing with the anti-feminist slant of this, I agree Harriet Harman’s record is probably too controversial. She would be divisive right now.
But for his reckless partiality over Brexit and his bullying, Bercow was a great speaker.
To follow we definitely need someone else with ‘balls’ – a proper ‘commoner’.

steve moxon

18th September 2019 at 9:17 am

Cite me one tenet of feminism that withstands even cursory scrutiny.
There isn’t one.
And you can go back as far as you like: Mary Wollstonecraft failed to understand that the legal framework actually was designed to be in the interests of women in general. That it might not in all respects suit an upper-class twit like her passed her by. Everything in the mythology of the suffragettes is a re-write of the actual history, ignoring the major democratic deficits and the role of local franchises.
You can range geographically as far as you like: all forms of ‘female cloistering’ turn out to be female initiated intra-sexual competition for high mate-value pair-bond partners.
Contemporary feminism is 100% ideological bull completely contradicted by findings in science at every turn.

John Millson

18th September 2019 at 10:20 am

Of course the sexes cannot be treated as separate ‘classes’ in the Marxian sense, but just to suggest: patriarchy is the ‘innovation’ the change to the ‘norm’?
Clearly not all men are the ‘oppressors’ just as all women aren’t the ‘meek’.
If women (and men) can bring in a better non-patriarchal equal society then we all prosper.

steve moxon

18th September 2019 at 4:13 pm

But ‘patriarchy’ is a purely ideological notion and has no basis in reality, being a radical failure of understanding re how people and society tick. All social system functions to maximise reproductive efficiency, and with the female the limiting factor in reproduction then proximally it is the female interest that is served, not the male.
Nowhere in biology is dominance inter-sexual. Actual (transitive) hierarchy is specifically a male-male affair — it requires the SRY gene (on the Y chromosome) to process ‘winner effects’ — functioning to assort males according to genetic quality, for females then to chose accordingly. Ancestrally and in many ways today, most males lose out. Females do not lose out, because the male sense of in-group is all-inclusive and symbolic, expanding beyond the male hierarchy to encompass everyone in, for example, the same workplace, university department, etc. By contrast, female sociality is exclusionary: idiosyncratic individual female personal networks and top cliques are all built on an exclusionary principle, even to other females, and more so towards males — the female sense of in-group features a four- to five-fold same-sex preference.

John Millson

18th September 2019 at 8:05 am

‘…we want a parliament that can be trusted to deal properly with the directions given to it by voters.’
If we are talking about situations, such as the unprecedented, *non*-advisory 2016 EU referendum, then ‘yes’. In normal situations, absolutely not.
Voters don’t ‘direct’ MPs.

steve moxon

17th September 2019 at 11:45 pm

Man-hating femascist totalitarian bigot, Harpic was well summed up by Frank Field when once I interviewed him for a TV docu: “thick”.
Few women are less representative of women (never mind people in general) than is Harpic.
She’s get as far as a play-off for the title of the very worst MP in the Cpmmons.

Amin Readh

18th September 2019 at 4:11 am

Piss of you vile little tit!

steve moxon

18th September 2019 at 8:11 am

Wha hae! Glad to annoy any hate-mongering ‘identity politics’ fascist.

Jerry Owen

19th September 2019 at 5:21 pm

Such eloquence .

Poppy Piway

19th September 2019 at 4:10 pm

Apart from her PIE and pedo-loving shenanigans which were headline news in circa 2014. In fact most of it is still online and it is a real eye-opener on how these we-men fe-men-ists look at the world.
As far as I am aware from the females within my own circle, not one of them buys into this false fe-men-ist ideology spouted by HH and her ilk.

steve moxon

19th September 2019 at 5:09 pm

Yes femascism is getting pretty unpopular. It’s still all the rage with our useless elites, of course, but it’s set for spectacular implosion. Not a single tenet of feminism has any basis in reality, and there’s only so long even dumb elite folk stick with a self-fullilling prophecy when the prophecy repeatedly never comes true.

Mike Ellwood

17th September 2019 at 10:38 pm

I think they should give the job to Lindsay Hoyle. Much preferred his down to earth style over that smarmy chancer Bercow.

A Game

17th September 2019 at 6:57 pm

God, she sounds a nightmare. Women don’t need any more “sistas” that use womanhood for personal gain. If its going to be a woman, it has to be whichever one didn’t bring up their sex as a promotional tool.
(Though I love the look of that pickled, crispy Tory bloke with the Trumpish hair. He looks like he’d nod off, possibly a good thing after that pantomime of a pantomime, Bercow. And why didn’t Bercow invest in voice lessons? He needed them.)


17th September 2019 at 6:48 pm

>>If you want a Speaker that won’t be cowered by the Establishment<<
How do you cower someone? Not, very bright are you David?

Sandy Robertson

19th September 2019 at 4:42 pm

Sorry if I’m being thick, but who is the David you are replying to? I can’t see any comment by a David.

Sandy Robertson

19th September 2019 at 4:48 pm

Apologies – I see you were referring to that eejit Lammy’s comment in the body of the article. D’oh.

Jim Lawrie

17th September 2019 at 6:44 pm

Presumably Harriet Harman sees herself as more of a fаnny than the other female candidates since she insists that is a material fact. Meg Hillier, like Harriet, Labour and privately educated, Oxford PPE Or the Conservative, privately educated, Eleanor Laing, Edinburgh law grad, Rangers supporter who almost always wears blue, best of the bunch, male or female.

Michael Lynch

17th September 2019 at 6:36 pm

She hasn’t got a chance. Made too many Tory enemies, is tarnished by the PIE scandal and has used identity politics far too often for her own good. She is an ideologue and that’s all we need after Bercow’s anti democratic antics.

steve moxon

18th September 2019 at 9:22 am

Indeed. She’s not known as Harridan Harperson for nothing.
She’s a symbol of what’s wrong with the political classes and why people can’t stand them.

Dominic Straiton

17th September 2019 at 5:57 pm

A talking shop in Parliament is a pointless sham as they are the instrument, through the executive, of power. Thanks to Dr Starkey on Brendan’s podcast everyone is aware of this fact.Harperson ,if chosen could be the very last speaker.

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