Harriet Harman backs Norwich MP Chloe Smith over Brexit baby criticism
- Credit: PA
One of the most high-profile campaigners for more women in parliament has hit back at a Daily Mail columnist who criticised Norwich MP Chloe Smith and Speaker John Bercow for encouraging her to bring her baby Alastair into the House of Commons chamber this week.
Labour's former deputy leader Harriet Harman, who has long campaigned to make the Houses of Parliament more family friendly, criticised columnist Richard Littlejohn for questioning why the Norwich MP did not leave her baby 'with her mum, or a nanny'.
He wrote: 'I know some of the behaviour in the Commons is childish at the best of times, but that's no justification for turning the chamber into a kindergarten.
'Miss Smith must have known she was out of order. But she almost certainly also knew she could rely on Bercow to back her up. There's nothing the Speaker loves more than burnishing his caring credentials.'
Ms Smith returned from her six month maternity leave this week to vote for the bill which will give the Prime Minister permission to start negotiations to take Britain out of the European Union. Her four-month old baby was only briefly in the House of Commons chamber while the division was taking place when MPs usually informally talk to each other while votes are being cast, and not during any of the debate. The youngster also met prime minister Theresa May.
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Ms Smith and her husband Sandy McFadzean's son Alastair Hugh was born last September.
She said on Wednesday: 'Whichever way you look at it, this was a bit of history and it'll be a privilege to be able to tell our son he was there.'
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She was told by the Speaker that he was one of the first babies ever to be in the House of Commons chamber after he gave her permission to bring in the infant.
It is believed that only a Liberal Democrat and a Labour baby have previously been in the House of Commons chamber before.
Ms Harman, who has just published her autobiography A Woman's Work, used social media to support the Norwich MP.
She said: 'Well done @NorwichChloe,shame on Richard Littlejohn/Daily Mail, thankyou Mr Speaker. Mothers on mat leave should be backed, not vilified.'