Lords Diary - Baroness Bertin
Mondays are the new Fridays in our household.
I love my children dearly, but the weekends are when my husband and I work the hardest. If someone were to pop in unexpectedly on a Saturday afternoon, they would be justified in thinking they had interrupted a particularly noisy and disruptive burglary. I therefore hate the question that gets put to many parents, and to mothers in particular: “Do you work?” – the answer to which all stay-at-home parents should respond is, “Yes I do – and bloody hard.”
Once we have done the big push out of the door and the older children are deposited at school – something I will never take for granted again – an inner calm washes over me. Peace at last and space to think.
It is recess this week for us on the red benches, so there is less of a juggle with late night speeches and whips. However, when the Lords is sitting and going full pelt into the night, it is far from family friendly. My long-suffering husband is perpetually baffled by the hours we keep at our end of the House. “Why can’t you start work earlier and finish earlier like most other organisations in the country?” I still need to perfect my response to this. Whilst this has become a running joke in our household, it does raise the more serious point of whether going into politics is an attractive career for most normal people – especially those with a young family.
The reshuffle this month brought with it opportunities for women. On one level it passed with flying colours by promoting strong women to key departments but on another level failed, with BEIS having no female ministers at all. Not many businesses these days would dare admit to such gender bias. So whilst we now have a record number of female MPs, this journey is far from over.
Old habits die hard and I am still a news junky from my press secretary days. And several stories over the past weeks have broken my heart – the terrible deaths of a mum and three children at their home in Killamarsh, and then the equally senseless killing of Sabina Nessa in south-east London.
Since the horrific death of Sarah Everard last March, 77 women have been murdered in the UK. Seventy seven. The vast majority have been at the hands of a partner or ex-partner, and have been barely picked up by the media. As one commentator put it this week, women being killed in this way seems to be treated as “white noise” and is often just accepted as a sad reality of life. This has to stop. It has made me more determined than ever to amend the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill that is now back with us in the Lords. As it stands the bill misses a crucial opportunity to ensure all local authorities include domestic abuse and sexual violence in their strategic crime prevention plans. With the femicide rate sky high, and rape and abuse as endemic as it is, there is no place for localism on this issue. It is a national problem and needs much more decisive action.
To end on a lighter note, my favourite moment of the week was hearing once again my children talking about the “Power Olympics”. Even though the Paralympics finished over a fortnight ago, they are still obsessed with them. I have not corrected their mispronunciation, as I think they are quite right. They would settle down every evening and watch the highlights – endlessly asking how they could qualify to take part, as they looked much more fun than the summer Olympics. The coverage of this event has helped show so many of us that having a disability shouldn’t be seen as a drawback and should be embraced. It’s now Friday night and I will raise a glass to that.
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