Fay Weldon’s book What Makes Women Happy was published in 2006. From the first page:
The brutal answer to what makes women happy is, ‘Nothing, not for more than ten minutes at a time.’
I was reminded of this sentence when I read a piece in today’s Times, ‘Family friendly hours blamed for loneliness of long-distance MPs’ – here. Given that the key demographic change since 1997 – the first year of the first Tony Blair administration, with Harridan Harman appointed as the first Minister for Women – has been the increased proportion of MPs who are female, I think we can reasonably assume that the ‘loneliness’ primarily concerns female MPs. Extracts from the article:
Scrapping late-night sittings and votes was supposed to make parliament more family friendly. Instead, the end of the culture of drinking and socialising has led to growing levels of loneliness among MPs…
Until 1999 the Commons sat from 2.30pm to 10pm from Monday to Thursday. Changes were made by the New Labour government to make the hours more family friendly, sitting earlier first on Thursdays, then Wednesdays and since 2012 also on Tuesdays. The Commons now only sits until 10pm on Mondays.
Anne Milton, the government chief whip, said, ‘It can be quite a lonely life. There has been a lot of discussion recently about that. People [translation – women] can be quite isolated. I think there was a natural camaraderie when the house did sit all night. Now if the business finishes at 7.30pm or 8pm on a Tuesday evening you go home to your flat, or you’re staying in a hotel, and you possibly don’t see anyone else, and you are aware that your family and your kids are a long way away.’
So parliament bent over backwards, scrapping centuries of tradition to accommodate the wishes of prospective female MPs, and still the women aren’t happy. Women want the prestige and income that flow from senior positions, without accepting with good grace the associated challenges, so the inevitable whining starts.