“Wife, mother, Councillor, MLA, and Minister of a Department?”

Notwithstanding Peter Robinson’s remarks in my interview with him for Total Politics about the reluctance of members of his political party to give up their double and triple mandates whilst there are serious questions about why a government minister thinks she should run for the office of a humble councillor. By local UUP man (and former Environment Minister, Sam Foster seems have walked into a Palin trap of his own, when he wrote to the Fermanagh Herald this week. He counts Arlene’s mandates up to five, it would seem. Mark Devenport:

in his letter, the UUP man describes the late DUP Councillor Joe Dodds as “a man’s man.” He goes on to describe the UUP candidate Basil Johnston as “a single person”, and then he continues “Seriously, I have to ask the question: how does Arlene expect to contend with the number of responsible roles she wants to carry and to do each one well, but not to neglect any, e.g. wife, mother, Councillor, MLA, and Minister of a Department?”

Now the American right has effected a late (very late – ed) conversion to feminism, I doubt that one is going to be left to lie…

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  • Carson’s Cat

    One would presume Sam Foster has written the letter to hiw party leader then requesting his resignation.

    After all, it must be impossible for Reg to carry out the duties of being a husband, father, Belfast Councillor, MLA and Minister of a Department.

    But I suppose Reggie’s a big tough man so can cope with it.

    Having went and taken a look at the Fermanagh Herald after reading Mark’s blog piece I also note a nice repost to another Ulster Unionist piece of rubbish where they claim their candidate will be a “full-time councillor” – the problem being that it’s impossible to be a full-time councillor given that its only a part-time role. Given the UUP candidate also has a full-time job (farmer) it would make it all the more difficult to be a full-time representative.

    However, he’s a man of course so I suppose all things are possible.

  • rex

    However, he’s a man of course

    unlike the little boy initially proposed by the DUP

  • Does it really matter – i mean really?

    It is easy to see why the DUP have chosen Mrs Foster

    she’s a friendly face, good personality, well known in the area etc etc

    Lets be honest was there need for the election in the first place?

    She is the candidate and it is perfectly lawful as of 10/09/08 for her to stand and until such times as it is unlawful….

    it’s only Council at the end of the day – not the breakin of a town lannnnnn as they say..

  • Carson’s Cat

    Rex
    So sexism and ageism are both ok then?

    The comments thread over on Devenport’s blog are more and more interesting with Slugger’s own UUP blogger Michael Shilliday actually seeking to defend the comments.

    Its all just about one step away from asking how exactly the dishes get washed in Arlene Foster’s household with her out and about all day….

  • Complete and utter mess from Sam Foster and yes it cannot be defended (although MJShilliday is giving it a good go). ‘How do people have jobs AND a family’. Here’s me thinking that women are better at multi-tasking than men!

    There may be a reason only one women ran for the UUP in March 2007.

  • Peter Brown

    In all honesty that’s why I got frozen out in the UUP – I got married in 2003 and it was all downhill from there (politically at least in case my wife reads this!) and as for starting a family in 2004 well obviously that was the final nail in the coffin for my UUP career as I was clearly no longer a mans man!

    You cannot defend the indefensible Michael (here or on the BBC website) especially when the UUP Leader is doing the same (the by election issue is irrelevant) – its another case of UUP do as we say not as we do for Reg and indeed Sam himself who should remember how many jobs he had in 1999-2001 before attacking his niece in law…who wrote this for him?

  • Basil Brush

    Stupid really stupid from Sam Foster.As a UUP member I am not going to try to defend him.Especially as the UUP should be trying to promote female members in the party rather than making cheap digs at someone because she has a family.

  • Carson’s Cat

    And Nigel Dodds has entered the fray – statement from the DUP website:

    “It certainly is scraping the bottom of the barrel when political knockabout stops and mud-slinging starts. The core of former UUP Minister Sam Foster’s arguments in a letter to a Fermanagh newspaper are that a woman cannot hold down the same roles which are currently being held by Sam’s own male Party colleagues.

    Sam Foster questions how someone could possibly be a good wife and mother if they should have the ‘audacity’ to be a Councillor, MLA and Minister. He also suggests that Basil Johnson is a good candidate because “he is a single person”. From when did marital status become a determining factor of one’s ability to be a Councillor?

    Let me ask Sam Foster if he believes that Michael McGimpsey can be a good father, husband, Councillor, MLA and Minister? Furthermore, does he believe his Party leader is able to fulfil his roles as a father, husband, Councillor, MLA, Minister and also his extra role as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party?

    Quite frankly, these remarks would not have been made about a male election candidate – it is blatant sexism. However, we probably should not be surprised at the views being espoused by this senior Ulster Unionist given the undercurrent of sexism which has been prevalent from Ulster Unionists on the ground right throughout this election campaign. It also perhaps goes some way to explain why there isn’t a single woman on the UUP benches at Stormont.

    I am demanding a statement immediately from the Ulster Unionist leader denouncing these comments, and distancing himself from the kind of sexist attitude which is clearly prevalent within his Party in Fermanagh. I note that no action was ever taken after comments previously made by the former UUP MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone during the 2005 General Election campaign.

    So much for the radical structural changes to the UUP which Reg Empey claimed to have made! Surely Reg Empey cannot tolerate this kind of attitude as a core Ulster Unionist value or will action be taken to stamp out these prejudices and disciplinary action taken against those members? That is a key question for the man who leads the UUP.

    I, like all politicians, am prepared to engage in political debate, but I most certainly am not prepared to endure what amounts to personal abuse being flung at a candidate simply on the grounds of gender. I am asking people to cast their votes, not on the basis of gender, but on ability to do the job, and to return a Party which can deliver for the people of Enniskillen. That is the platform on which the DUP is running a very enthusiastic and vigorous campaign. The fact that the Ulster Unionist Party is resorting to this kind of personal invective and bile obviously makes a very clear statement about the state of desperation within their camp.”

  • I know that his motivation must partly (at least) be opportunist, but for probably the first time ever I agree whole-heartedly with Nigel Dodds.

    I still don’t want Arlene to win, though, of course!

  • Grumpy Old Fart

    [text removed – play the ball! – mods]

    Needless to say, it is hardly surprising coming from a party with 0 female MLAs. Thankfully voters in Enniskillen do not share the UUP’s sexist views, and on 17th September have the opportunity to deliver the electoral pummeling they so richly deserve.

  • Half Pint

    Looks like the UUP have a death wish

  • Thankfully voters in Enniskillen do not share the UUP’s sexist views, and on 17th September have the opportunity to deliver the electoral pummeling they so richly deserve.

    Maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty on thus. Maybe this is a clever trick by the UUP to ‘stand down’ in favour of the DUP without actually being seen to do so. Even the dinosaurs of the UUP know that this kind of sexism is unacceptable, so perhaps silly Sam was put up to this by more machiavellian operators who know that the whole thing will simply end up in switching votes to Arlene.

    So rather than admit that their decision to call the election was not really in unionism’s best interests (and thus lose face enormously), and recognising that they (the UUP) have zero chance of winning, they cleverly sabotage their own campaign.

    Sam Foster at 71 would be expected to have old-fashioned values so no-one will really hold it against him, and he’s going to disappear into the mist sometime soon anyway.

  • Grumpy Old Fart

    The UUP seem to forget that females make up half of the total electorate, many of whom * shock horror * will have jobs!!

    Or perhaps the UUP don’t want want women to have a vote? I mean, who is going to look after the home and the children when they go to the polling station??

  • Sam Foster at 71 … should read ‘Sam at 77’, of course!

  • Carson’s Cat

    “Sam Foster at 71 would be expected to have old-fashioned values so no-one will really hold it against him, and he’s going to disappear into the mist sometime soon anyway.”

    Doesn’t explain why one of the UUP ‘yoof’ wing was defending his comments on Devenports blog…..

    Btw.. the UUP don’t do “clever tricks” or “machiavellian” operations. Its just plain stupidity and a nasty streak which is more the real mark of certain Ulster Unionists.

  • Dunmurry Girl

    Brings back memories of when the Ulster Unionists said that “women should stay in the kitchen and make the sandwiches”. What a load of nonsense! Everyone knows the best man for the job is a woman. Vote 1 Foster on 17th September!

  • Ex Offical Unionist

    Dunmurry Girl

    Seems there is more than me saw the light I left the OU party years ago because I got tired of making tea and washing dishes and also of course because of their bad policy and their direction for Unionism. They current batch of UUP leaders as no less supportive about keeping the female gender in the kitchen as they feel that only men can cope in the political sphere, dont take my word for that their election results speak volumes. I have news for them when I look at the quality of the UUP elected male representatives there is massive room for improvement and surely women could not do any worse in fact I would say much better.

    The senile writings of Sam Foster are reminiscent of the mutterings of the UUP in general so don’t shoot the messenger he is only putting to paper what the rest of them are thinking.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    Is Sam Foster not related to Arlene in some way through marriage?

  • Michael Shilliday

    Carson’s,

    1)The whatever you called it didn’t say anything. I did.

    2)I didn’t defend anything. I asked why it was unreasonable to question someone’s ability to do a job based on what else they have going on.

  • Traditional Unionist

    Michael-

    Has anyone ever questioned your local UUP MLA’s ability to be an Assembly Member, Councillor AND look after his children?

    Which does he neglect?

  • cynic

    This all just illustrates what a shambles the UUP is and why it needs merger with the Conservatives as its last chance for rejuvenation. Not a single female MLA, a handful of female councillors and one female MP (whom they seem to cut out) is a shocking situation.

  • cynic

    “Is Sam Foster not related to Arlene in some way through marriage?”

    I believe he is but in Fermanagh isn’t everyone related to everyone else?

  • Sam is Arlene’s father-in-law.

    Arlene is taking a huge risk standing in a by-election which the Shinners must be favourties, albeit narrow ones, to win.

  • BonarLaw

    Sammy Morse

    Sam is NOT Arlenes’ father-in-law. He’s her husbands’ uncle. Either way it’ll be an interesting Christmas lunch this year chez Foster.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Shillers
    I’ll let people read your comments and make their own judgement. It would seem that no-one else other than your good self has seen fit to ask all those oh-so important questions about the fact that someone may be married and have a family.

    Should we really take a deep interest in whether someone is married or not when we choose to vote for them? How exactly is that in any way relavant??

    Like I said on the other blog – sometimes its best just to stop digging.

    BonarLaw
    “Either way it’ll be an interesting Christmas lunch this year chez Foster.”

    I’d imagine that Sam’s latest rant would just be another one for the file to be played out at charades this crimbo!

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Hmm pretty daft comments by Sam I am sad to say. There’s no reason why a wife and mother can’t hold down a job as well as anyone. There is a legitimate question about someone being an MLA, Minister and councillor and no doubt being the candidate for Westminster when Brown stops bottling it. But that applies to men or women equally.

    Mind you it is a bit rich hearing the criticism from the same senior DUP figures who gave dogs abuse to Monica McWilliams and told her to “go home and breed for Ulster.” Not exactly the cutting edge of political correctness is it.

  • Inspector Cleauso

    Aww DSD I wondered where you had gotten to. Have you been spending all your free time googling Sarah Palin news stories.

    You must be glad you left the Utterly Useless Party when they come out with such rubbish as Sam Foster had put in his mouth by those enlightened younsters up at Cunningplan House.

    But don’t you think that the Obama Democrats and their cheerleaders in the media are making the same mistake with Palin as wee Reggie’s UUP is making with Arlene only in an a HUGELY differnt context.

  • Sam is NOT Arlenes’ father-in-law. He’s her husbands’ uncle.

    My bad. Still, as you say, an interesting Christmas lunch to come. The UUP in Fermanagh really hate Arlene and those who defected with her, don’t they?

    Of course there’s no reason why a working mother can’t be a good councillor, or a good government minister, but there are real conflict of interest questions about the minister for local government being herself an elected councillor.

    This is very risky for Arlene. The Shinners must still be narrow favourites and if she loses, she looks very silly indeed. Given that this is a council by-election to an authority in the process of being amalgamated where this will not affect the hefty nationalist majority on the council, it would be better to have an 90% chance of losing with a no hoper than a 60% chance of losing with a cabinet minister.

    Of course, given the circumstances, this would have been a slam dunk for the Shinners if they had a stronger candidate. But they don’t.

  • Inspector Cleauso

    “but there are real conflict of interest questions about the minister for local government being herself an elected councillor.”

    Isn’t Sammy Wilson the minister responsible for local goverment?

  • IJP

    It is indeed a bit rich of Ulster Unionists, both of whose Ministers are Councillors, to challenge Arlene on the point. And is the “Wife, Mother” point not just a little sexist? No surprise there from the party of the 100% male Assembly team…

    Thankfully, there is another much more interesting option for everyone in the Enniskillen by-election – the people of Fermanagh could send the Executive a clear message while electing a highly competent local operator at the same time simply by placing their first preference vote next to Kumar Kamble. And I’d say right now much of NI would thank them for doing so.

  • Just asking?

    Maybe the reason why Michael is defending Sam Foster is because he’s another one of the politico singletons?!

  • Carson’s Cat

    Sammy
    “This is very risky for Arlene. The Shinners must still be narrow favourites and if she loses, she looks very silly indeed.”

    Hardly risky – the shinners winning a majority nationalist DEA is hardly earth shattering. The Ulster Unionists handing a unionist seat to Sinn Fein is hardly bad news for the DUP either.

    If she wins she’s the saviour of unionism west of the Bann and if she loses she’s the victim of the Ulster Unionist Party’s incompetence and fact that they’d sooner see a shinner in the seat than a fellow unionist.

    She doesn’t start as favourite all the same to win the seat.

    Oh yes – and before I forget – lets all remember one of the reasons Arlene is actually running in the contest. The DUP did attempt to co-opt someone, and what was the reason given by the UUP for blocking the co-option; oh yes, he was too YOUNG! Therefore you can’t be either young or female in the Ulster Unionists.

    Thanks to that nice bit of ageism, the DUP clearly thought that they needed a high profile candidate if they were going to take a win in a majority nationalist area. I’m sure of all the attacks they thought they’d face sexism didn’t feature too high on the list having already run the gauntlet of UUP ageism early on in the campaign!

    IJP
    the people of Fermanagh could send the Executive a clear message while electing a highly competent local operator at the same time simply by placing their first preference vote next to Kumar Kamble. And I’d say right now much of NI would thank them for doing so.”

    So a big Alliance vote would show massive discontent with the Executive. Therefore a rubbish Alliance vote will show that the vast majority of people are content with the Executive? Or will it just show that the Alliance Party is utterly irrelevant it would seem to everyone living outside the greater Belfast area. A question the Alliance party need to answer – i.e giving people a reason to actually support them rather than just complain that all those hicks out in the sticks are far too sectarian and obviously don’t deserve the Alliance party to represent them.

  • The original Sam Maguire

    CC
    “Hardly risky – the shinners winning a majority nationalist DEA is hardly earth shattering. The Ulster Unionists handing a unionist seat to Sinn Fein is hardly bad news for the DUP either.

    If she wins she’s the saviour of unionism west of the Bann and if she loses she’s the victim of the Ulster Unionist Party’s incompetence and fact that they’d sooner see a shinner in the seat than a fellow unionist.

    She doesn’t start as favourite all the same to win the seat. ”

    It’s as close to a 50/50 DEA demographically as you’ll get and with the profile and name recognition of Foster there’s absolutely no doubt she’s a heavy favourite for the seat.

    As for ‘Saviour of Unionism West of the Bann’, quite the optimistic outlook – I’d query how you can save something in terminal decline – Perhaps Foster – ‘delayer of the inevitable ‘ might be more apt.

  • Carsons favourite cat

    “The DUP did attempt to co-opt someone, and what was the reason given by the UUP for blocking the co-option; oh yes, he was too YOUNG!”

    No, I believe the reason they objected was because the DUP proposal did not even live in the county during the week.

    Oh and another reason was, the DUP candidate was Thomas Hogg. No explaination needed.