Emily Thornberry just used a ‘sexism’ argument to save face

And by doing it she merely trivialised a global problem

In an interview on Sky News, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry was asked by the presenter to name the French Foreign Minister. She didn’t know the answer but instead of admitting her ignorance she accused the presenter of “sexism”, claiming that he wouldn’t “pub-quiz” male politicians like David Davis or Liam Fox.

The question wasn’t the greatest, any politician who rote learnt the names of all 192 Foreign Secretaries (or even all 192 Heads of State for that matter) off by heart may definitely have spent that time more effectively. But be that as it may, a senior politician shouldn’t disguise their ignorance, which although embarrassing was hardly a game-changer.

By trying to claim that Murnaghan’s question was an example of “sexism”, Thornberry has helped to trivialise a major global problem that still puts half the world’s population at a disadvantage.

Some countries have laws that make women second-class citizens. Women in Saudi Arabia for example, are forbidden from leaving the house without a male chaperone. Even in the West, women are still more likely to be paid lower than their male counterparts and are often at a disadvantage in job interviews if they are of child-bearing age.

Individuals can be offended in different ways and there is never an exact criteria to deduce what counts as sexist and what isn’t. However, when politicians cynically claim to have been a victim of sexism in order to cover-up a mistake, they only serve to discredit real claims of sexual discrimination, meaning victims are treated seriously.

Thornberry, for her part, defended her accusations of sexism on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, saying: “I had been given every indication it was going to be a serious interview.

“I am sure I should know the names of the foreign secretaries of all 196 countries – but I don’t. I don’t think those are the sort of question that have been asked of Boris Johnson, or David Davis, or Liam Fox.

“It’s as if I have to fight hard to be taken seriously, answering questions which would never be asked of my male opponents because it’s assumed that they would know.”

As it goes, Thornberry was inaccurate when she claimed that the presenter, Dermot Murnaghan wouldn’t have asked a similar question to a male politician. In 2011, he asked then-Shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson to give the current rate of employers’ national insurance contributions, a question that Johnson was unable to answer.

By the way, the French Foreign Minister is called Jean-Marc Ayrault.