In Brief

Harriet Harman: sexism cost me deputy PM job

Harman accuses Gordon Brown of discrimination and David Cameron of 'window dressing'

Harriet Harman has said she was not made deputy prime minister in Gordon Brown's government because she was a woman.

"Imagine my surprise when having won a hard-fought election to succeed John Prescott as deputy leader of the Labour party, I discovered that I was not to succeed him as deputy prime minister," she said.

"If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? Would they have put up with it?"

In a speech delivered to the House of Commons last night and reported by The Guardian, Harman highlighted several other cases of sexism she had experienced during her political career. She said she was also discriminated against on several occasions for having children, often by her own party.

A long-time campaigner for women's equality in Westminster, Harman also called for greater ethnic diversity and said she wanted to see more people with working class background in parliament as well as greater representation of people with disabilities.

She criticised David Cameron too, accusing him of "window dressing", or deliberately misrepresenting the number of women in his cabinet by having "the few Tory women MPs clustered around the prime minister, so that they can be picked up by the TV cameras while the rest of the government benches are nearly exclusively men".

Brown's former aide, Damian McBride, called Harman's claims "utter bilge" on Twitter and wrote a blog post dismissing her criticism.

"We had decided in advance that no matter who won the deputy leadership, male or female, we didn’t want them styling themselves as the deputy PM, or assuming they’d inherit the responsibilities and trappings that went with that," McBride wrote. "If Alan Johnson had won, we'd have done the same."

Harman responded by telling LBC radio that McBride was "sacked from being in the employment of the government for denigrating women and he's doing it again now".

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