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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 18:19 GMT

UK: Politics

Women Labour MPs dubbed 'Stepford Wives'
image: [ Mr Sedgemore delivered his comments at the Tate Gallery ]
Mr Sedgemore delivered his comments at the Tate Gallery

A veteran Labour MP has described some of his new women colleagues in the Commons as Stepford Wives with a "chip inserted into their brain to keep them on message".

Brian Sedgemore, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, made his comments during a speech at the Tate Gallery in London on "New Labour" and the future of fine art under the government.

BBC political reporter Lorraine Davidson says Mr Sedgemore is known as an outspoken MP (2'-37")
He said: "Like all New Labour MPs, I've been programmed by Millbank to stay on message for a thousand years without having my batteries topped up. As such, I should never admit to have given this talk.

"Then there's the Stepford Wives, that's those female New Labour MPs who've had the chip inserted into their brain to keep them on message and who collectively put down women and children in the vote on lone parent benefits.

"Few of them have shown any interest in culture."

The Stepford Wives was a sex-in-the-suburbs novel and film about a group of American husbands in search of the perfect wife, who kill their own spouses and replace them with identical life-like automatons programmed to do the cooking, housekeeping, washing-up and dedicate themselves to making their men happy.

Millenium Dome criticised

Mr Sedgemore also said the Millennium Dome project, now being overseen by Minister without Portfolio Peter Mandelson, would surely go down in history as "Mandy's Folly".

"Are we, are you, prepared to accept New Labour's assertion that the perfect way to sum up 2,000 years of culture is through the Millennium Dome, courtesy of Mickey Mouse and Ryutaro Hashimoto?"

Mr Sedgemore scorned Tony Blair and "New Labour's" approach to art. "New Labour wants art that is pungent as processed cheese, as soul searching as a conversation between Po, Laa-Laa, Dipsy and the other Teletubby, as original as Dolly the Sheep.

"As part of the politics of contentment, New Labour wants colours that do not clash, textures that do not distort and shapes which Cubists would not understand."

Fears for fine art

He claimed there was a real threat to fine art institutions from the new government.

Mr Sedgemore later stood by his speech, including his attack on his own party. He rebutted a suggestion by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that he had never shown any obvious interest in the arts before nor had asked any questions on the subject.

Labour MP, Helen Brinton (Peterborough), dismissed Mr Sedgemore's "Stepford Wives" comment, saying: "I do not find this interesting at all."

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