Blair Babes or Blair's Babes was a term sometimes used to refer to the 101 female Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Labour Party elected to the House of Commons in Labour's landslide 1997 general election victory, after images of the new prime minister, Tony Blair, with 96[1] of them on the steps of Church House in Westminster were widely publicised.[2] The photographs have been called "infamous".[3] The phrase is attributed to the Daily Mail.[4] The term has been criticised as trivialising women in politics, and the group of women MPs to which it referred have been studied as a group.

Background

The 1997 general election saw more women elected to the House of Commons than ever – 120, exactly double the 60 elected at the 1992 general election. Aside from the 101 Labour MPs, there were also 13 Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats, and three from other parties (including Speaker Betty Boothroyd, previously a Labour politician). However, many of the new female MPs grew disillusioned, and nine either chose not to stand or lost their seats in the 2001 general election. Despite two female MPs winning by-elections between 1997 and 2001, and other women being elected, the total number of female MPs fell to 118 at the 2001 general election. A further 22 stood down or lost their seats at the 2005 general election, although the number of female MPs increased again to a new record of 127.

Perception

According to The Times, Margaret Moran, MP for Luton South, described the "perception that the 1997 intake of female Labour MPs are all robotic clones" as "complete tosh".[5] Moran said that she herself was not a Blair Babe, but a "Blair Witch".[5] The columnist Polly Toynbee condemned the term as a "casual, misogynist tag."[6]

Implications of the term

The sociological implications of the term and the experiences of Labour's women MPs were extensively analysed by Sarah Childs in her 2004 book New Labour's Women MPs: Women Representing Women.[7] It has been identified as a trivialising way to refer to women in politics, similar to Cameron Cutie.[8] Tony Blair's wife Cherie Blair did not like the term.[9] Margaret Moran said it should not be used.[10] The term has also been used within Parliament to stigmatise some women MPs, separating "young attractive" Blair's Babes from "brainy babe[s]".[11]

Some of the group believe that the term was harmful to their ability to bring about change, and that it encouraged a focus on their appearance.[4] It has been reported that the Daily Mail used the term "to challenge Labour's claim that having 101 women MPs would make a difference".[4]

Experiences of Blair's Babes as a group

This group of women MPs has sometimes been used as a way to examine women MPs' experiences in Parliament, as in a Guardian article by Rachel Cooke in 2007.[3] Cooke's interviews of ten of the women found that some of them had experienced bullying, sexism and cliques in Parliament, as well as working hours that conflicted with family life.[3] They have also been the subject of "where are they now?" articles.[12]

The journalist Lucy Ward has written of the group,[13]

The story of the so-called "Blair Babes" ... is a unique tale of soaring expectations, disappointed dreams and indignant rebuttals, with a few political casualties thrown in along the way. It reveals much about the party which, at first, set so much store by women's election, and about the image-obsessed government Britain elected.

As of the 2019 general election, there are ten Blair Babes left in the House of Commons, out of a total of 219 female MPs.

List

# Name Constituency Elected Lost seat/
Stood down
Notes
1. Diane Abbott Hackney North and Stoke Newington 1987
2. Irene Adams Paisley North 1990 2005 Retired, ennobled as Baroness Adams of Craigielea in 2005
3. Janet Anderson Rossendale and Darwen 1992 2010 Served as a government whip in 1997 and then under-secretary in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Reshuffled after the 2001 election. Lost seat to Conservative Jake Berry. Died in 2023
4. Hilary Armstrong North West Durham 1987 2010 Served as Government Chief Whip of the House of Commons and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury from 2001 to 2006 then Minister for the Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Social Exclusion from 2006 to 2007. Retired in 2010, subsequently ennobled as Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top.
5. Candy Atherton Falmouth and Camborne 1997 2005 Lost seat to Liberal Democrat Julia Goldsworthy. Died in 2017
6. Charlotte Atkins Staffordshire Moorlands 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Karen Bradley
7. Margaret Beckett Derby South 1983 Previously MP for Lincoln (1974–79). Retiring at the end of the 58th Parliament
8. Anne Begg Aberdeen South 1997 2015 Lost seat to SNP's Callum McCaig
9. Liz Blackman Erewash 1997 2010 Retired
10. Hazel Blears[14] Salford/Salford and Eccles 1997 2015 Retired
11. Helen Clark, Helen Brinton at the time[15] Peterborough 1997 2005 Lost seat to Conservative Stewart Jackson
12. Karen Buck Regent's Park and Kensington North/Westminster North (2010-) 1997
13. Christine Butler Castle Point 1997 2001 Lost seat to Conservative Bob Spink. Died in 2017
14. Anne Campbell Cambridge 1992 2005 Lost seat to Liberal Democrat David Howarth
15. Judith Church Dagenham 1994 2001 Retired
16. Lynda Clark Edinburgh Pentlands 1997 2005 Retired
17. Ann Clwyd Cynon Valley 1984 2019 Retired in 2019 and died in 2023
18. Ann Coffey Stockport 1992 2019 Resigned from the Labour Party and joined Change UK. Retired
19. Yvette Cooper[16] Pontefract and Castleford/Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford 1997
20. Jean Corston Bristol East 1992 2005 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Corston in 2005.
21. Ann Cryer Keighley 1997 2010 Retired
22. Claire Curtis-Thomas Crosby 1997 2010 Retired
23. Valerie Davey Bristol West 1997 2005 Lost seat to Liberal Democrat Stephen Williams
24. Janet Dean Burton 1997 2010 Retired
25. Julia Drown South Swindon 1997 2005 Retired
26. Gwyneth Dunwoody Crewe/Crewe and Nantwich 1974 2008 Previously MP for Exeter (1966–70). Died in office
27. Angela Eagle Wallasey 1992
28. Maria Eagle Liverpool Garston/Garston and Halewood 1997
29. Louise Ellman Liverpool Riverside 1997 2019 Resigned from the Labour Party and retired
30. Lorna Fitzsimons Rochdale 1997 2005 Lost seat to Liberal Democrat Paul Rowen
31. Caroline Flint Don Valley 1997 2019 Lost seat to Conservative Nick Fletcher
32. Barbara Follett[17] Stevenage 1997 2010 Retired
33. Maria Fyfe Glasgow Maryhill 1987 2001 Retired
34. Linda Gilroy Plymouth Sutton 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Oliver Colvile
35. Llin Golding Newcastle-under-Lyme 1986 2001 Retired. Ennobled in 2001 as Baroness Golding of Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
36. Eileen Gordon Romford 1997 2001 Lost seat to Conservative Andrew Rosindell
37. Jane Griffiths[18][19] Reading East 1997 2005 Deselected
38 Harriet Harman Camberwell and Peckham 1982 Retiring at the end of the 58th Parliament
39. Sylvia Heal Halesowen and Rowley Regis 1997 2010 Previously MP for Mid Staffordshire (1990-1992). Retired
40. Patricia Hewitt Leicester West 1997 2010 Retired
41. Margaret Hodge Barking 1994 Retiring at the end of the 58th Parliament
42. Kate Hoey Vauxhall 1989 2019 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in 2020.
43. Beverley Hughes Stretford and Urmston 1997 2010 Retired, ennobled as Baroness Hughes of Stretford in 2010.
44. Joan Humble Blackpool North and Fleetwood 1997 2010 Retired
45. Glenda Jackson Hampstead and Highgate 1992 2015 Retired. Died in 2023
46. Helen Jackson Sheffield Hillsborough 1992 2005 Retired
47. Melanie Johnson Welwyn Hatfield 1997 2005 Lost seat to Conservative Grant Shapps
48. Fiona Jones[20][21] Newark 1997 2001 Lost seat to Conservative Patrick Mercer. Died in 2007
49. Helen Jones Warrington North 1997 2019 Retired
50. Jenny Jones Wolverhampton South West 1997 2001 Retired
51. Lynne Jones Birmingham Selly Oak 1992 2010 Retired
52. Tessa Jowell Dulwich and West Norwood 1992 2015 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Jowell of Dulwich in 2015. Died in 2018.
53. Sally Keeble Northampton North 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Michael Ellis
54. Ann Keen Brentford and Isleworth 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Mary Macleod.
55. Ruth Kelly[22] Bolton West 1997 2010 Retired
56. Jane Kennedy Liverpool Broadgreen/Liverpool, Wavertree 1992 2010 Retired
57. Oona King Bethnal Green and Bow 1997 2005 Lost seat to George Galloway (Respect). Ennobled as Baroness King of Bow in 2011.
58. Tess Kingham Gloucester 1997 2001 Retired
59. Jackie Lawrence Preseli Pembrokeshire 1997 2005 Retired
60. Helen Liddell Monklands East/Airdrie and Shotts 1994 2005 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke in 2005.
61. Fiona Mactaggart Slough 1997 2017 Retired
62. Alice Mahon Halifax 1987 2005 Retired. Died in 2022
63. Judy Mallaber Amber Valley 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Nigel Mills
64. Christine McCafferty Calder Valley 1997 2010 Retired
65. Siobhain McDonagh Mitcham and Morden 1997
66. Anne McGuire Stirling 1997 2015 Retired
67. Shona McIsaac Cleethorpes 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Martin Vickers
68. Rosemary McKenna Cumbernauld and Kilsyth/Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East 1997 2010 Retired
69. Gillian Merron Lincoln 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Karl McCartney. Ennobled as Baroness Merron of Lincoln in 2021.
70. Laura Moffatt Crawley 1997 2010 Retired
71. Margaret Moran Luton South 1997 2010 Barred from standing as the Labour candidate
72. Julie Morgan Cardiff North 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Jonathan Evans
73. Estelle Morris Birmingham Yardley 1992 2005 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Morris of Yardley in 2005.
74. Kali Mountford Colne Valley 1997 2010 Retired
75. Mo Mowlam Redcar 1987 2001 Retired. Died in 2005
76. Diana Organ Forest of Dean 1997 2005 Retired
77. Sandra Osborne Ayr/Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock 1997 2015 Lost seat to SNP Corri Wilson
78. Linda Perham Ilford North 1997 2005 Lost seat to Conservative Lee Scott
79. Bridget Prentice Lewisham East 1992 2010 Retired
80. Dawn Primarolo Bristol South 1987 2015 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Primarolo of Windmill Hill in 2015.
81. Joyce Quin Gateshead East/Gateshead East and Washington West 1987 2005 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Quin of Gateshead in 2005.
82. Barbara Roche Hornsey and Wood Green 1992 2005 Lost seat to Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone
83. Joan Ruddock Lewisham Deptford 1987 2015 Retired
84. Christine Russell City of Chester 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Stephen Mosley
85. Joan Ryan Enfield North 1997/2015 2010/2019 Lost seat to Conservative Nick de Bois. Regained seat in 2015. Resigned from the Labour Party and joined Change UK. Retired
86. Debra Shipley Stourbridge 1997 2005 Retired
87. Clare Short Birmingham Ladywood 1983 2010 Resigned from the Labour Party and retired
88. Angela Smith Basildon 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Stephen Metcalfe. Ennobled as Baroness Smith of Basildon in 2010.
89. Geraldine Smith Morecambe and Lunesdale 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative David Morris
90. Jacqui Smith Redditch 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Karen Lumley
91. Helen Southworth Warrington South 1997 2010 Retired
92. Rachel Squire Dunfermline West 1992 2006 Died in office
93. Phyllis Starkey Milton Keynes 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Iain Stewart
94. Gisela Stuart Birmingham Edgbaston 1997 2017 Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston in 2020.
95. Ann Taylor Dewsbury 1987 2005 Previously MP for Bolton West (1974–83). Retired. Ennobled as Baroness Taylor of Bolton in 2005.
96. Dari Taylor Stockton South 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative James Wharton
97. Joan Walley Stoke-on-Trent North 1987 2015 Retired
98. Claire Ward Watford 1997 2010 Lost seat to Conservative Richard Harrington
99. Betty Williams Conwy 1997 2010 Retired
100. Rosie Winterton Doncaster Central 1997 Became a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons in 2017. Retiring at the end of the 58th Parliament.
101. Audrey Wise Preston 1987 2000 Previously MP for Coventry South West (1974–79). Died in office

References

  1. ^ The five absent female Labour MPs were Kate Hoey, Clare Short, Glenda Jackson, Lynne Jones and Julie Morgan.
  2. ^ All-women shortlists clear new hurdle, BBC News, 21 December 2001 (including iconic photograph of Blair Babes)
  3. ^ a b c Cooke, Rachel (22 April 2007). "Oh babe, just look at us now". The Observer. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Perkins, Anne; Ward, Lucy (24 May 2001). "The rise and fall of Blair's babes". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b Mark Inglefield. "A fair cop", The Times, London, 2 September 2000, p. 22
  6. ^ Better than men, The Guardian, 16 March 2001.
  7. ^ Sarah Childs (31 July 2004). New Labour's Women MPs: Women Representing Women. Routledge. ISBN 1-135-76616-9.
  8. ^ Mavin, Sharon; Bryans, Patricia; Cunningham, Rosie (October 2010). "Fed-up with Blair's babes, Gordon's gals, Cameron's cuties, Nick's nymphets : Challenging gendered media representations of women political leaders". Gender in Management. 25 (7). doi:10.1108/17542411011081365. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Cherie Blair Really Did Not Like Term 'Blair Babes' Used To Describe Intake Of Female MPs In 1997". HuffPost. 20 January 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  10. ^ Maguire, Kevin (17 October 2005). "Village life - Kevin Maguire bids farewell to Blair babes". The New Statesman. Archived from the original on 22 July 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  11. ^ Sylvia Shaw (28 May 2020). Women, Language and Politics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-1-107-08088-1. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  12. ^ "The 'Blair babes': Where are they now?". BBC News. 8 May 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  13. ^ Ward, Lucy (2000). "Learning from the "Babe" experience: how the finest hour became a fiasco". In Coote, Anna (ed.). New Gender Agenda: Why Women Still Want More. Institute for Public Policy Research. pp. 23–32. ISBN 9781860301209. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Brown knifed by 'Blair Babe'". The Metro. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  15. ^ "'Blair babe' lashes out at PM". News 24. 8 May 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Yvette Cooper: 'Blair Babe' is now among party's brightest prospects". Yorkshire Post. 21 January 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  17. ^ Walker, Tim (30 September 2009). "Barbara Follett, the original Blair babe, 'preparing to quit the Commons'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  18. ^ Elliott, Francis (21 July 2013). "Sex and booze tales set to make 'Blair babe' cross the floor". The Independent. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  19. ^ Leapman, Ben. "Blair Babe dumped and replaced by gay man". Evening Standard. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  20. ^ "Drink kills 'disgraced' Blair Babe". The Times. 5 February 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  21. ^ Price, Karen (5 February 2007). "Widower's grief over 'Blair babe' death". Wales Online. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  22. ^ "The rise and rise of 'Blair Babe' Ruth". Bolton News. 16 December 2004. Retrieved 22 July 2021.

Further reading

See also