Three female MPs brought their babies to the House of Commons while they were sworn in to take their seats this week. Here’s why that’s so significant.
Regardless of whether or not you are happy with the election’s winning political party, the fact that there was a record number of elected female MPs is a reason to celebrate.
Among these women are Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Ellie Reeves, and Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch. It was a particularly significant moment for Creasy, after campaigning for her right to take maternity leave.
Earlier this year, she wrote in the Guardian, explaining that the The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) does not “recognise” that MPs go on maternity leave”. She is now the first MP to have a ‘locum MP’ take over for her maternity period, after giving birth to her daughter Hettie last month.
That’s why the videos and photos of Creasy, Badenoch and Reeves being sworn into parliament with their babies strapped to their chests are so significant. Giving the oath or affirmation of allegiance allows MPs to take their seat in the Chamber, speak in debates, vote and take a salary.
In an Instagram post, Creasy explained: “Under current parliamentary procedure I had to go in today to swear in so that I can have maternity leave and Walthamstow still gets a vote via my proxy… thankfully Hettie not too bothered by the mother of all parliaments…#indiebaby #walthamstow.”
Badenoch is also on maternity leave but she does not have a locum MP covering her.
After being re-elected for her seat in Saffron Walden last week, Badenoch thanked her team and supporters for their support, adding: “Especially just after I had my baby and wasn’t in any fit state to campaign.”
Reeves also gave birth to her baby during the election campaign, before taking the Lewisham West and Penge seat.
She wrote on Twitter: “Today I had to go into parliament to swear in so that I can be an MP. Now looking forward to taking some maternity leave with my five week old baby. My office will run as normal during this time and can be contacted at email@example.com or 0207 219 2668.”
Earlier this year, she explained the significance of the one-year trial for proxy voting for MPs who are new parents .
“MPs have an outdated voting system which still sees many votes going late into the evening or night time, often with little or no notice, with multiple votes taking hours to complete because we have not kept pace with modern technologies, she wrote in the i Paper.
“In fact, so slow has the pace of change been, that it was not until January 2019 that a proxy voting trial was introduced for MPs who give birth or adopt.”
She added: “It was, in part, the introduction of proxy voting, that meant that my husband and I could make the decision to have another child.”
Although there’s clearly still a long way to go for parliament to make work fairer for female MPs with children, this proves that steps are being taken in the right direction.