Siobhan Baillie’s office manager has criticised the constituents who have complained about the Stroud MP taking time off during maternity leave.
Harriet Butcher, Senior Parliamentary Assistant to Mrs Baillie, was responding to emails sent to the MP which criticised her for not responding to constituents during her maternity leave.
One constituent, from Dursley, contacted the SNJ and Gazette after emailing Mrs Baillie about Dominic Cummings’ controversial trip to Durham from London during lockdown.
In an email to this newspaper, he wrote: “Whilst sympathetic to her taking time off after childbirth, I am astonished and concerned that she is not active or engaging on Stroud constituents’ behalf in this matter at a time of unprecedented national emergency.
“As my member of parliament I expect Siobhan to act in the national interest and act in the interest of her constituents by engaging now in person and taking a pro-active stance in these matters. I am wondering where is my MP and what is she doing in this national emergency.”
In response, Ms Butcher said: “Sadly, Siobhan has received several such emails along these lines – the vast majority from men – who seem to think the 2010 Equality Act does not apply to a woman because she is an MP. It does apply and Siobhan has an absolute right enshrined in law to take maternity leave.
“Presently, it is her intention to do so for a minimum of four weeks, which is considerably less than she is legally entitled to. Comprehensive arrangements have been made with her staff and with other Gloucestershire MPs, if necessary, to help any Stroud constituent during the short time she is away. These have been widely publicised, including in the Stroud News and Journal, and are also available on her website.
“Why anyone would be ‘astonished’ a mother would not want to take time off to care for and bond with her daughter we find incredible, especially when thorough arrangements have been made to ensure it is very much business as usual while Siobhan is away.
“As an office we are concentrating on doing our job and on all the many thousands of good wishes Siobhan has received since the birth of her daughter. We know the views of [the letter writer] and a few others are thankfully very much in the minority.”
Ms Butcher said every email that Mrs Baillie receives is being responded to with the Stroud MP’s full maternity details, and her staff are dealing with all the issues raised by constituents.
Mrs Baillie also has an MP acting as a proxy for her in Parliament for votes.
Ms Butcher also revealed some of the emails which the MP received overnight on Wednesday, May 27 by some constituents.
One person wrote to Mrs Baillie: “I am amazed she has the nerve to take maternity leave when she has only been in the post for five months.”
Another wrote: “I don’t accept that you are working for the ordinary people of Stroud because even on maternity leave you can at least make a decision whether to support ordinary people or Dominic Cummings.”
While another wrote: “Why will my MP not respond to me, given the gravity of the Cummings affair and the impact this is having of public trust. I don’t care that she has just given birth.”
Ms Butcher said that these are the minority of emails which the MP receives and the majority of emails from Stroud residents have been positive, although she said that the amount of abusive emails Mrs Baillie is receiving is increasing daily.