Mums must not be discounted as unambitious for having children

Stuart Agnew’s comments reveal once again UKIP’s prehistoric attitudes to women.

Mary Honeyball is MEP for London and Labour spokesperson for women in Europe

Last week, East of England UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew told the European Parliament that women “don’t have the ambition to get to the top, something gets in the way. It’s called a baby”.

He went on to say that “those females who really want to get to the top do so”.

These comments are staggering. But they aren’t out of line with UKIP’s 2010 manifesto, a document which advocates scrapping equality legislation that prevents employers from discriminating against women, as well as getting rid of paid maternity leave.

Agnew’s comments reveal once again UKIP’s prehistoric attitudes to women. UKIP is a party with no women as MEPs, which will be running no female candidates anywhere in the East of England next time round. They have consistently – in both word and deed – made commitments to reducing the rights of women.

It’s not surprising that when their only female MEP, Marta Andreasen, left the party in February this year she said that Farage “thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom”.

As Agnew goes to show, Godfrey Bloom really was the tip of the iceberg.

As well as underlining UKIP’s anti-women stance, Agnew’s rant was also intellectually incoherent. He admits that parenthood can be a barrier for women at work, yet seems to think this biological fact is something women can overcome through willpower. In so doing he effectively reduces the issue down to a straight choice for women: have a baby or have a job.

Rather than Agnew’s knee-jerk ramblings we need intelligent provisions in place, so that women can juggle children with a career more easily – better maternity pay, flexible working patterns, affordable childcare and more part time jobs are required. Politicians must be sympathetic to working women – not tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Worryingly, despite policies and candidates which reflect the attitudes of the 19th Century rather than the 21st, UKIP are on course to do well in the European and local elections next year. If this happens it will be a disaster for women everywhere.

We need to take a strong stance on the attitudes of politicians like Agnew, to prevent them permeating further into the mainstream political debate. That is why I have signed this petition condemning Agnew’s comments; mums across Britain should not be discounted as unambitious for having children.

Thankfully, women still have the power to hold politicians to account at the ballot box. I therefore encourage women everywhere to stand up and be counted at the European Elections in May. We must not allow Agnew and others on the political right to make life harder for working mothers.

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