Louise Mensch playing the 'kids card' and relinquishing her Conservative tenure as the representative for Corby and East Northamptonshire makes for interesting news in a fortnight filled with Olympic success and British pride. And yet, I can't help but raise a cynical eyebrow at the ambitious blonde's reasoning for this ill-timed decision.
After only being in office for half a term, Mensch claims that she was "unable to make the balancing act work for [her] family", even with the unique concessions (highlighted in her letter of resignation) allowed for her by the PM.
Maybe back in 2010 Mensch was suffering writer's block and naïvely thought becoming an MP hungry for public recognition might make for excellent material. I can see the Chick-Lit title on the shelves... "Pretty Political: Can one sassy woman chair the Select Committee of work, life and love?"
Apparently for this MP... No.
So with her parting words, the potential disservice to the position of women in politics as well as the larger working world becomes ever more palpable. As Carole Midgley points out in her Times column, "if an MP can't manage with 12 weeks summer holiday, every half term off and enough money to pay a nanny, what hope in hell is there for anyone else?"
Well I can tell you firsthand there is hope. I can list many highly educated female MPs, with 1, 2, 3 or more kids, who have and are coping commendably with the parliamentary work-life balance, albeit without the addition of Miss Mensch's sizeable fortune. And one of these women just so happens to be my mum.
In 1997, my mother was elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Don Valley. In her 16 years in politics she has worked her way up from the backbench to the Cabinet table, and now in Opposition she continues to hold a senior role.
Being in London 4 days a week meant that growing up, Mum couldn't be there for every basketball game and parents evening. The youngest of 3, I understood exactly the sacrifices the job asked, but was grateful for her effort to ensure she still played an equally central and loving role in the family; not to mention work tirelessly to improve family life for the rest of the nation.
She founded the All Party Parliamentary Childcare Group in 1998 (chairing it until 2003), sat on the Education and Employment, Administration and Modernisation committees as well as campaigning for better working conditions and employment opportunities for single mothers whilst Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform.
Of course, Mum isn't alone in this endeavor; Theresa May, Debbie Abrahams, Meg Munn, Fiona McTaggart and Jessica Lee are just a handful of female MPs who've made and continue to make time for the family and women's equality. But looking at Louise Mensch's parliamentary record, cultivating a media persona and cultural presence seemed to be her raison d'être.
ConservativeHome recently described Mensch as "one of the busiest, most engaging and vibrant voices on the backbenches." Busy, yes. As the poster girl of the Tory Party 2.0 she's been rolled out countless times to comment on every issue under the sun. And after signing up to Twitter in 2009, Mensch found she no longer needed a reporter's microphone to broadcast her opinion. She had 140 characters and the endless platform of social media to put forward her two cents.
In 1,294 days, @LouiseMensch has tweeted and retweeted 22,864 times, which works out at a whopping 17.7 tweets per day (TPD) compared to the average user figure of 4.4 TPD. For some reason David Cameron's infamous comment on Twitter comes to mind ("too many twits make a twat"), but it's Deborah Orr who really questions the warped priorities of the former MP:
"I'm afraid I just wonder why she doesn't use her time more wisely, to become better informed about her surely onerous duties before she makes public comment on them. As for Mensch's admired approachability, her supposedly breath-of-fresh-air determination to "do" politics differently ... well, her attendance at parliamentary votes appears to be 76.4%, which seems rather paltry in comparison to her seemingly eternal presence on Twitter."
In that case, maybe her parliamentary duties (or lack thereof) weren't the undoing of her political career, but her 2 year love-hate relationship with the British media, Twitter and not to #menschn her newly-founded social networking site.
Oops. I think I just did... mention that is.
So now, as Louise Mensch heads off to reunite in New York with her rock and roll hubby, my advice to the future Corby and East Northamptonshire MP is this: if you'd like to enjoy longevity in your Westminster career remember to use a little less social media conversation, and a little more parliamentary action.
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