INTERVIEW: Harriet Harman
Looking back to when she was first elected 30 years ago, Harriet Harman MP, 62, says she did not really know what she was getting herself into.
Her younger, heavily-pregnant self was branded both “a tribal feminist harridan” and “an inspiration” as she promised voters in the 1982 Camberwell and Peckham by-election that she would champion women’s rights and get more women in Parliament.
“I did not realise quite how long you have to struggle for things in order to get change. If you said we need more women it was like you were being rude to the men and they felt as if you were criticising them. In my first speech in the House of Commons I spoke about recognising that most of the women in Camberwell and Peckham were not only bringing up their children but also bringing home the bacon, and they got no back up. It was all very controversial. We really, really had to fight.”
Since then, the proportion of female MPs has increased from three percent to 22 percent, mothers have more support social services, and Harman has rocketed up the political ranks.
Now Shadow Culture Secretary and Deputy Labour leader, she has been in and out of government, hired and fired by the cabinet, making mistakes and records, all followed scrupulously by the media.
Harman, who has been a prominent voice in favour of statutory regulation of the press post-Leveson, was blasted in the papers for sending her children to selective Catholic school, caught up in the expenses scandal, and snapped walking through Peckham wearing a stab-proof vest.
As I list them, it is the final point that she reacts to instantly: