When is sexism not sexism?

It isn’t sexist to suggest Emily Thornberry is a little bit rubbish


Dermot Murnaghan interviewing the shadow foreign secretary. Pretty bog standard stuff, routine for a front bench MP. It should have been be oh-so-easy, a matter of A,B,C. But Emily Thornberry happened.

Murnaghan threw Thornberry an off-hand question as they discussed foreign issues in the headlines. ‘What is the name of the French foreign minister?’

Now it is not a crime to not know this. I did not know this, most journalists most likely did not know this off of the top of their heads. And Ms Thornberry could be forgiven for not immediately knowing it too. After all, it was not what she was expecting to be asked about, and a politician can only absorb so much briefing material prior to an interview.

What a capable politician caught on the such a hop would do follows along the lines of, ‘You know what Dermot, I have not memorized everything just yet, I’m taking a leaf out of Boris book’. Humour. Laugh it off, hold your hands up to not immediately knowing the answer and move on. As I say, easy. Any fool can do it, you don’t really need to have political training to manage.

But Emily Thornberry decided to adopt another approach: accuse Murnaghan of ‘sexism’.

Is it sexist or patronising for a Sky News anchor to ask our shadow foreign secretary for the names of people she would have to work with if she were to win office?

No. But Emily does not let this get in the way of the only defence she could think of.

Not sufficient with this Thornberry proceeded to demand Dermot ask her ‘serious’ questions. She suggested he ask her about North Korea and the nuclear issue. Fair enough, so Dermot asked her what the name of the South Korean president was, and which gender the SK President was (worth noting, Park Geun-hye is the first woman to lead South Korea). Thornberry decided ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ was the best approach and upped the anti even further. “I am not getting drawn by you on this nonsense”.

Now, the media is full of sexist and mysogynist representations of women, and demeaning junk too. But asking the shadow foreign secretary to name colleagues she would potentially have to work with if in office does not qualify.

Let me put it this way: if Dermot had asked her about Strictly Come Dancing or the Great British Bake-off, that would be sexist. But females in politics and society have worked for decades to ensure male journalists ask them serious questions. Emily Thornberry demonstrated with her tirade that, sadly, she in particular would prefer not to be handed hard questions.

Murnaghan treated Thornberry as a politician, not a ‘female politician’ or just as a ‘woman’ involving herself in the male game of politics. But instead she lost her cool, flunked the interview and proved totally unable to handle the pressure.

The whole sorry affair damages women in politics and society; untrue accusations of ‘sexism’ is damaging. It detracts from real life examples.

Naming  Jean-Marc Ayrault or not – she can’t keep her cool in an interview, and it is not sexist to point that out. Facts are, Emily Thornberry is just a little bit rubbish. Her gender is neither here nor there.


  1. Yep. Pretty much. it’s not unreasonable to expect a shadow foreign secretary to name the French ministre des affaires étrangère. Maybe not the Korean First Minister though… But I take your p;oint.


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