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Men are sitting targets as Ed puts PM on the spot

HARRIET Harman, Labour's indefatigable champion for women's rights, noted at the weekend how it was "raining men" in the Tory Party.

And as PMQs got under way, it was hard not to spot that sitting beside Flashman on the front bench was an array of middle-aged men in grey suits with not a single woman in sight.

Indeed, the only female presence was behind the shiny-haired premier, the grim-faced Tory backbencher Anne MacIntosh, who, as luck would have it for Red Ed, a few days earlier had been shown the door by her constituency party as its General Election candidate.

So it was a bit of a no-brainer for the Labour chief, with HH alongside him, gently to ask the PM just how well his drive for increasing the number of Tory women was going.

At first, Blue Dave stalled and wanted to talk about the floods in Somerset, naturally. But when he finally got round to the "important issue of getting more women into public life" the comrades gave a loud ironic cheer. For once, Ed had that "gotcha" feeling.

As the PM droned on, Labour's frontbench terrier Angela Eagle, was energetically pointing out how, er chaps, there were no women on the Coalition frontline. In the corner standing unnoticed by the Speaker's Chair was Culture Secretary Maria Miller, internally shouting: "Cooey, I'm over here."

Flashman, the lines in his forehead deepening, insisted the Tories had tripled their female contingent and Government policy was helping more women into work. So there.

But Ed was on a roll and mentioned how a picture told a thousand words. "Look at the all-male frontbench before us and he says he wants to represent the whole country. I guess they didn't let women into the Bullingdon Club either."

The socialist brethren was lapping it up as their leader asked the PM: "Does he think it's his fault that the Conservative Party has a problem with women?"

Mr C pointed out a quarter of Tory Cabinet ministers were women, which was below what he wanted, but insisted his party was "making progress".

Then, Blue Dave made what he undoubtedly believed was a killer point - Margaret Thatcher was a woman premier. The Tories roared.

"To be fair to the Labour Party," noted Flashman, "they have had some interim leaders who were women but they have this habit of replacing them with totally ineffective men."

As Conservative cackles rang in his ears, Red Ed delivered a killer riposte, noting how Mrs Thatcher was a "Tory leader who won elections".

At one point, the Speaker had to interrupt the noise to reprimand Master Gove, the disciplinarian Education Secretary, for being a very naughty boy. Voice breaking, John Bercow shouted above the tumult: "You need to write 1000 times: I will behave myself at Prime Minister's Questions."

What fun.

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