19/08/2014 09:01 BST | Updated 19/08/2014 09:59 BST

Labour MP Austin Mitchell Says Women Shy Away From 'Big Issues'

John Stilwell/PA Archive
Austin Mitchell, representative for Great Grimsby, during a photocall for Labour MP's at The House of Commons, Westminster.

Labour MP Austin Mitchell has suggested that women prefer to discuss family and "social issues" rather than "big issues like 'should we invade Iraq?'."

The veteran Labour MP, who is standing down next year, made his controversial remarks as he told BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour why he did not think it was a good thing for there to be more women in Parliament.

"I think the problem is simply this, that parliament with more women is going to be more anxious to discuss issues relevant to the people, that is to say family issues, social issues," he said. "And less inclined to discuss big issues like should we invade Iraq."

Tory defence minister Anna Soubry called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to disown Mitchell's "ridiculous remarks".

She added: “Austin Mitchell is at it again, talking nonsense and insulting women with his absurd theories. To say that women don’t care about the big issues is just not true!"

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

He added: "The Left will be even smaller but the party more manageable and reasonable, for apart from obsessive feminism, women MPs are more amenable and leadable and less objectionable. But it might not make us tougher."

See also:

  • Austin Mitchell To Step Down As MP For Great Grimsby
  • Labour MP Austin Mitchell Calls Pfizer 'Rapists' In Controversial Tweet
  • Austin Mitchell Tweets Nazi Slogan Jibe About Jean Claud Juncker
  • Mitchell is no stranger to controversy, having previously branded the American drugs giant Pfizer "rapists" and invoked Nazi slogans to mock the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.

    In response to Mitchell's latest comments, a Labour party spokesperson said: "Labour is working to increase the diversity and representativeness of Parliament and has a proud record of increasing the number of women and ethnic minority MPs. In working to achieve this we believe that Labour Party members should play a major role in selecting their candidates.

    "If people want a Parliament that is more open, plural and democratic then we need to make big changes. Labour has the most successful record of women’s representation in comparison to all other political parties and will always have equality as a core value.”