John Bercow MP and equality in the House


June 16th 2009

John Bercow MP – contender for the role of Speaker in the House of Commons.

The Conservative MP for Buckingham John Bercow, is standing for the position of Speaker in the House of Commons. He is well liked and respected in Labour circles, even though he is a Conservative, and he is said to have the backing of more than 100 Labour MPs.

Members of his own Party aren’t so sure though, as some believe he leans too much to the left. For the past 17 years the Speaker’s Chair has been sat in by Labour members. Some think a left leaning Conservative who is relatively young and forward looking would help to modernise the House in the wake of the MPs’ expenses row. Mr Bercow is 46 years old, one of the youngest contenders for the job.

John, a member of the Advisory Board, told our reporter Georgie Hemmingway, how he would help further equality in the House, and clamp down on sexist exchanges in the Chamber. Mr Bercow said he would “take a robust line” against such behaviour and that “everybody should be treated equally”.

John tells Georgie: “The culture at PMQs tends to be boisterous and it can sometimes become brash, I don’t think it is representative of the House most of the week. “It’s very important we don’t get rid of passion in politics but that we do have good order and that people treat each other civilly and with respect. From time to time I know some female members have felt they are subject to particularly unfair and disproportionate heckling.

“It does sometimes happen, it is extremely unfortunate and when it does happen it is to be deprecated. There are members who feel it does happen too much and that a robust line against it does need to be taken. I make no comment about the present or past Speaker’s.”

He went on to say that “rudeness” in the Chamber should not be tolerated: “It is incredibly important that everybody should be equally treated and there should be no question of rudeness being tolerated and abusive words being made, and female members should have an equal opportunity to express their views in common with other members of the House. I think sometimes women have had a justified grievance that they have been cut off more quickly or been subject to unfair heckling and it is very important that should be avoided.”

Mr Bercow said he had a strong record of supporting equality in the House and that he didn’t feel there was a need for another “female speaker” in the House. He said he supported All- Women Short Lists and the Government’s new Equality Bill. He said that his own record on equality was a very good one, and that if he was elected he would take that record forward in supporting fairness and equality of treatment in the House.

Other contenders for the role include: Conservative’s: Sir George Young, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Sir Patrick Cormack, Richard Shepherd, Anne Widdecombe. Lib Dem Sir Alan Beith, Vince Cable, Ming Campbell. Labour’s Frank Field, Margaret Beckett, Sylvia Heal. Independent, Richard Taylor.

Susan Kramer Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park Women and Politics

Keeping a calm head in politics has never been more needed, as more and more of MPs so called “extravagant” expenses are paraded in the “Daily Telegraph” fairly or unfairly.

What’s more the “WAGs” group, Women Against Gordon Brown, appear to have been orchestrating moves to make the Labour Party confront the need for a leadership challenge sometime in the future – if not now!

Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park since 2005, has been tough enough to get out there and talk about the need to reform parliament, restore trust in politics and politicians, and to say she thinks the “Telegraph” is just doing its job.

Susan made her career in finance as a Vice-President of Citibank, a leading international bank and set up her own company before moving into politics.

So will women be put off going into politics and what advice would Susan give to aspiring women politicians? Surprisingly Susan tells aspiring women politicians that they need to develop “tough hides”.

She said:”I don’t want to hide that this is a tough world, it is, and you have to have the kind of hide with you that lets you cope in this World. I would hate people to think it is gentle, it isn’t, but I think collectively when women are in here there is more of an atmosphere to make change happen than there has been for a generation.”

Dolma Gyari and Ngawang Lhamo – Women in Tibet Tibetan Parliament.

The Tibetan Parliament-in-exile is located in the hill town of Dharamsala in northern India. Formed by the Dalai Lama less than a year after the uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule that led to his exile, the Parliament looks after the Tibetans across the world and provides a model for their homeland.

Dolma Gyari is the first woman to be elected as Deputy Speaker of the parliament-in-exile, and has since been re-elected three times. She has been a political activist for a number of years, and believes passionately about the power of women to make change.

Member of the Tibetan parliament Ngawang Lhamo was born in Tibet, escaping into India as a child. Originally a teacher, she became General Secretary for the Tibetan Women’s Association before founding a school for children with special needs. reporter Lucy Fairbrother spoke to the two women MPs about why their roles are so important to them as they visited the UK parliament.

Lesley Abdela MBE – Women in Nepal


Lesley Abdela, of Shevolution, has been working with other British based NGO groups to ensure that the UN Security Council Resolution 1235 is implemented, to help women’s rights to be put top of the international agenda in conflict zones like Afghanistan, Congo, Nepal, Northern Ireland, and Sri Lanka.

Lesley has helped write a report for the Associate Parliamentary Group on “Women, Peace and Security”, which draws up a global checklist for women in these conflict zones. Lesley has looked closely at what is happening in Nepal and thinks there are grounds for optimism.

Lesley commented: “In Nepal not just the British government but other government’s too and with the UN, there are lots of little bits going on all over the place to help women, but when it came to the actual peace talks the women were excluded from the top talks throughout. As in the other countries in this report the UN 1235 resolution is implemented at the grass roots levels, the middle levels, but not at the top levels.”

Janet Hanson CEO and founder of 85 Broads

The title might seem slightly disrespectful but Janet Hanson’s global network of women called “85 Broads” was named after the office address of Goldman Sachs where she worked in New York, not the other type of “Broads”!

As global CEO and founder of “85 Broads” Janet Hanson has built up a global network community of 20,000 trailblazing women who want to create greater success for themselves, each other and the communities in which they live to affect change for women globally.

“85 Broads” recently launched its Cambridge Chapter at Judge Business School at Cambridge University where Boni Sones, Executive Producer of met up with the ebullient, entertaining and wise Janet Hanson.

Janet said: ”I think at Goldman Sachs, it was luck that made me form 85 Broads. I felt so lucky to have an extraordinary career there that when I left, I thought to myself how do I make sure that other women who are coming up the ladder know how much fun it is?

“The purpose of 85 Broads was to feed all of that excitement and inspiration to them and to cheer from the sidelines, that was the real impetus behind it. There are lots of women out there who want you to succeed and help you build your career. I wanted them to know they were supported by us even after we had left.”

Thanks to Judge Business School for letting us broadcast this podcast. Do listen, you’ll learn alot.