Sexist jokes demean women in Parliament - Diane Abbott

Joking about sexual harassment is one of the reasons the issue is not being dealt with, Diane Abbott has said.

Her comments came after Environment Secretary Michael Gove was forced to apologise for a "clumsy" attempt at a joke in which he likened being interviewed by BBC presenter John Humphrys to "going into Harvey Weinstein's bedroom".

The shadow home secretary said she did not find Mr Gove's remarks funny, and told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show making light of harassment was undermining and demeaning for women and Parliament.

Ms Abbott said: "I heard it and I didn't think it was funny - particularly in Parliament, making sexual harassment a joke is one of the reasons it's not being dealt with.

"You've got to realise that it's undermining and demeaning for women and undermines and demeans the institution."

Ms Abbott also told the programme that the culture for women in Parliament had improved since she was elected in 1987 but said there was "still a long way to go".

Asked whether she recognised there was a dangerous culture for women, Ms Abbott said: "Yes, and if anything it was worse when I first became an MP.

"You would have sort of micro-sexual aggression - so women would get up in the chamber and Tories opposite would do this gesture like they were weighing their breasts.

"There was harassment, there were jokes which weren't that funny - it was partly to do with the fact it was a very male environment - 650 MPs, when I went there just 20-odd women.

"It was partly to do with idea of all these men away from home, it was partly to do with the fact there were eight bars and the very long hours and the bars were open for as long as we're sitting, and partly with the notion that what happens in Westminster stays in Westminster.

"It was worse - it's a little bit better now - but there's a long way to go."

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