Jo Swinson: “About to get on tube. Seat offers welcome….but I was happier standing yesterday”

The febrile world of Twitter has been a little obsessed with the fact that Liberal Democrat minister Jo Swinson, who is 7 months’ pregnant, was standing throughout Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, with concerned political correspondents expressing outrage that nobody had offered her a seat.

Then the Daily Mail got in on the act.  Their attitude to women generally can be summed up as patriarchal nonsense. That’s not the word, I confess, I used earlier in a private LDV team discussion, but this is a family site.  I’ve written before about that awful phrase they tend to use about any pregnant woman who steps out in public, that she’s “showing off her bump”, when, actually, she’s  just doing her job, or living her life. The Mail’s attitude stinks of the idea that your identity just vanishes when you’re pregnant and you become this delicate flower that everyone should look after. They constantly undermine women’s life choices, looks, weight, whatever they may be. One week it’s working mothers who get their goat, the next it’s women who stay at home to look after their children. We know what they are like. And so does Nick Clegg as he memorably said a couple of weeks ago.

I was quite perturbed, though,  when the BBC felt the need to report this “story.” Surely it should know better.

Jo had not made any public comment about the story until she tweeted this evening:

I’m sure it’s the last thing she wanted to talk about. I have a whole great list of things she’s been doing this week that I haven’t got around to writing about yet. She summarised her last 24 hours in another tweet to political journalist Paul Waugh:

Most pregnant women continue pretty much as normal in demanding jobs often to within days of their due date. If you’re a nurse, or a teacher or a hairdresser or work in a shop, you are going to have to spend hours on your feet and you’re more than capable of it.  Pregnancy is not in itself an illness.

That said, if I had a seat on the tube and I saw anyone who needed it more than I did, who looked tired, or ill, or was on crutches or whatever, of course I’d offer it to them, whether they were male or female. And when you are tired, at the end of a busy day’s work, that commute on the tube with a 30+ week bump is not going to be your favourite part of the day. One of the LDV team, when we discussed this earlier, talked about pregnant women they knew being pushed aside by fit people who grabbed all the seats. Pushing or jostling anyone is just plain rude, whoever they are.

Ultimately, I find the Mail’s attitude to women much more offensive and harmful to society than anything that happened in the House of Commons yesterday.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Simon McGrath 17th Oct '13 - 10:04pm

    Not sure I follow the logic whereby offering a pregnant woman a seat on the Tube is fine but in the Commons is sexist ?

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Oct '13 - 10:46pm

    I can’t remember where it was, but overseas a few years ago I was on public transport and that country had signs on service that set an order of priority for seats. From memory I think pregnant women were third behind wounded war veterans and people with leg injuries who were not war veterans.

  • Ruth Bright 18th Oct '13 - 8:53am

    Surely though the (admittedly trivial) story resonated because the party has “got previous” in the way it has treated pregnant staff and (as in my case) pregnant candidates. I doubt the other parties are much better but we are vulnerable on this subject.

  • Helen Dudden 18th Oct '13 - 8:55am

    I would have taken the seat in the Commons, I can’t for the life of me see where this MP comes from.

    She should remember that others are pregnant too, and they may have only been to grateful to have been treated like a woman who, is heavily pregnant.

    Sexist no, good manners, yes.

  • Shirley Campbell 18th Oct '13 - 6:06pm

    Strangely enough, in a past age when people acted instinctively rather than prescriptively to everyday situations, common decency prevailed. Of course, all decent persons would “ask” any obviously pregnant women if they would like to take a seat. The persons in question would be at liberty to rebut any concerns as to their well-being.

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