CONSERVATIVE MP Siobhan Bailie has spoken out over the abuse she received after she took maternity leave as an MP.
Speaking to Philip Davies and Esther McVey on GB News, Ms Baillie said: “I was surprised by the abuse, but equally it’s kind of run of the mill that we get so much abuse as MPs.
“So I had it two-pronged, when I announced the pregnancy as a newly elected MP. People told me it was outrageous and that I shouldn’t have stood to be an MP if I was pregnant. Quit a lot of online nonsense and attacks.
“Then when the baby was born, we were in the absolute weeds of the pandemic and I’d been working 16 hour days and had been working right up until going into labour.
“And still people were contacting my team and suggesting that I should be going back to work and that I should be getting out of the hospital bed and answering emails. It just went on and on, and very similar to what Theo has reported in the newspapers this week.
Image: GB News
“I’m in my forties, we can’t all choose our fertility. Would I have liked to have had my babies younger? Yes but that didn’t happen. For some reason knocking on doors as an MP saying ‘Get Brexit done’ helped my fertility and I ended up pregnant.
“Ultimately, one of the things underlying this, and one of the things that the trolls and the nonsense people that send these things don’t realise, is that underlying this is a suggestion that women and women of childbearing age shouldn’t stand for Parliament and shouldn’t be MPs.
“And if that puts off other women coming in, we will be much poorer for it in Parliament as legislators and in the country as well.
“I think it is a minority view. In Stroud and Gloucestershire, it’s a kind place and I have amazing meetings even when people disagree with me. It’s a positive and kind place. Unfortunately, with online you are always going to get idiots; both offline and online. But online, the ability for the cowardly keyboard warriors, makes it a lot easier. I’m not sure they have those views about their own women and daughters, granddaughters in their own families. Ultimately it’s just too easy to attack at the moment.
“I think it is still a tiny minority. It’s 2022, we’re public servants and I know Theo was getting comments like ‘we pay your wages, get back to work’ and I don’t think people would be saying that to other public servants like female GPs or female police officers who take time off for maternity leave.
“I took four weeks off, which is a relatively short maternity leave. MPs can have up to a year off, it’s very much a personal choice.
“But I was also in contact with my team constantly, so much goes on behind the scenes in terms of correspondents and in terms of preparation and response. And if there was ever any urgent matters I would have been contacted immediately.
“I think it’s right [not to have a replacement] as people elect a person, Stroud elected Siobhan Baillee to represent them.
"I don’t think someone else should be going into Parliament and making laws, so it is quite a unique position but equally I think we have to adapt and make this work because ultimately we won’t have women in Parliament.
“So what IPSE has done, the people that organise our office funding.etc, they allow MPs to get funding for a locum to do community work, assist with correspondence and assist with any case work that has increased whilst the MP is off. What my colleagues in Gloucestershire said is that if anything happened whilst anyone is off, they would speak up for Stroud in Parliament if I asked them to. There are workarounds.
“I think the Online Safety BIll is doing quite a lot of what is needed in terms of being able to report and have accounts closed or have things taken down. I’ve done a lot of work on trying to tackle anonymous abuse, and the government has accepted my proposals on verification because it’s much more scary if people are getting attacked and it’s anonymous. So I think there is quite a lot being done, but I think actually we just need to be aware that ultimately we do want women in Parliament and there’s also a lot of Dads in Parliament too.
“Lots of my colleagues have had babies and become fathers, and nobody is attacking them. I think it’s unfair.
“If constituents’ core concern is ‘is the work being done?’ and ‘am I being represented?’ They are fair questions. But they can be asked in a reasonable and constructive way.
“I think we need to have absolute transparency about what MPs receive and don’t receive and then you can see the individual choices that each MP makes. I know there are always calls to tighten up and improve everyone’s maternity leave, but ultimately I think that I chose to take four weeks. I am in a very busy marginal seat and it was the pandemic so that was what worked for me.”