POLITICS

Ed Miliband Aide Anna Yearley 'Called Northerners Backwards,' Austin Mitchell Claims

24/08/2014 16:27 BST | Updated 24/08/2014 22:59 BST

A senior aide to Ed Miliband has denied an accusation she called Northerners "backwards" for not nominating enough female MPs.

Anna Yearley, Miliband's political secretary, was accused of saying this by Labour's Austin Mitchell, the Great Grimsby MP who was in hot water this week over his comment about women in parliament.

She took to Twitter to claim this was not true.

Mitchell, who controversially said he did not think it was a good thing to have more women in parliament because he believed that they preferred to to discuss family and "social issues" rather than "big issues like 'should we invade Iraq?'"

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mitchell had said that the "feminisation" of Parliament would make MPs "more preoccupied with the local rather than the international... and small problems rather than big ideas and issues".

The Labour party has worked to boost its number of women in parliament by such methods as all-female shortlists for parliamentary candidates and Ms Yearley was, according to Mitchell, trying to get northern party associations to boost their takeup of this.

He told The Mail On Sunday: "‘Ms Yearley said Yorkshire and Northerners are very backward when it comes to choosing women and something had to be done about it.

"She may be right, but Northerners have the right to choose whoever they want. She is a woman on a mission. I find her attitude condescending and it irked me."

‘She talked to me as though I was an educationally subnormal old-age pensioner. She said, “You think the best person for the job is always a man, but I think the best man for the job is a woman.”

The party also denied she had said the words Mitchell claimed.

"These claims are untrue," a Labour spokesman told the Daily Mail. "We want to see more women in Parliament and we make no apology for introducing, and using, all-women shortlists."

Labour MP Karl Turner, whose constituency is in Hull, said the claim was "claptrap" and told Mitchell he had to stop "complaining about imagined happenings".