I got the time today to watch back some of the Sky News and BBC coverage of the count of the Norwich North by-election on Sky+. What astonished me was that when Chloe Smith turned up to the count, they commented very precisely on the colour of her top.
Would they have dreamt about doing so in such detail if she were a man ? Of course not. it is bad enough that it is suggested that she is too young to be an MP, but with the press seeking to make comments about what she is wearing it surely makes us all realise how much harder it is for women to get in to politics and be taken seriously.
On teatime I was travelling to my old political stamping ground in North Norfolk with Radio 5 live on and was amazed to hear so many comments being read out about Chloe Smith that were concentrating almost exclusively on her age. Now I didn't vote for her (quite evidently), but was disgusted by the implication that at 27 she should be nowhere near parliament. I pulled over and texted this response to the presenters.
"I am a Lib Dem voter and activist in Norwich North and have was involved in the election and was at the count today. I don't consider Chloe Smith's age to be a problem. It is policy and judgement that matter and she should be judged on these, not her age. Perhaps if more young people were interested in politics we might not be wedded as a country to so many outdated principles and rules that don't serve the modern world"
I hope Chloe Smith does a good job, but I don't believe she would do any better job if she was 47 rather than 27, indeed given the energy required to be a decent constituency MP (and I have seen how much energy it requires at close hand in North Norfolk), the fact that Chloe Smith does not possess a bus pass is surely an advantage ?