The use of Sexist Language in the Council Chamber is totally unacceptable


My colleague Cllr Mirna Juarez was described as a ‘Fishwife’ by the ever suave Elected Mayor of Liverpool at the last meeting. An official complaint about the use of sexist language has been made by Cllr Makinson, also pictured

At the last Council meeting the Mayor of Liverpool called Cllr Mirna Juarez a ‘Fishwife’. She had rightly been complaining that for the umpteenth time the Mayor was misquoting what she said about the public’s view of the coalition. We were appalled at this and asked him to apologise. He refused to. He spoke to the Liverpool Echo at the close of the meeting and told them firstly that fishwife was not a sexist term and secondly that he would not apologise. He followed that up with a further comment in an Echo podcast when again he refused to apologise. Indeed, he said that he would use the term again.

Coincidentally, Erica had convened a meeting only on the Saturday before for women, mostly from our Party, but not exclusively. Indeed, we were pleased that Tabitha Morton of the Women’s Equality Party came and spoke at it. It is clear to me that the problem of there not being enough women in politics is common to all Parties.

The first part of the meeting looked at the reasons for this. There were things that we cannot quickly change. They involve complex questions about child care; the care of elderly family members and the role of women at work. These issues must be addressed and perhaps they would be best dealt with by women (and men who cause most of the problems) working together across Parties.

But some things can be done quickly. One of the main talking points apparently, (I wasn’t allowed in so this is all hearsay!), was the behaviour of men and particularly the chauvinistic and often sexist language that they use at meetings. That type of behaviour can clearly be seen in the Council Chamber in Liverpool although interestingly not in the Select or other Committees of the Council. Council is testosterone charged. People are rude to each other usually without any wit or charm.

So, I looked up the dictionary definition of Fishwife which isa vulgar abusive woman’. So, this must by definition be sexist because it can only be applied to a woman! The Mayor tried at one point to claim that the insult as not aimed at Cllr Juarez but as she is currently the only female Lib Dem Councillors it would be hard to see who else this might apply to! Incidentally, there will be a lot more women on our benches after May 3rd as we have a policy of adopting women for 50% of our best seats.

Cllr Juarez was angry at that Council meeting – she had every right to be – but to suggest that she is ever vulgar or abusive is simply not true. What both surprised and saddened me was the attitude of the women Labour Councillors. A few looked a little abashed or let their heads slump as the Mayor spoke but most couldn’t care less. Their skin-deep feminism means that it doesn’t matter if sexist terms are applied to an opponent from their own Leader.

If I had used this term for whatever reason I would have apologised. If I hadn’t the membership of my Party, and especially the women members of my Party would have been in uproar about the use of this term.

Our Deputy Leader Cllr Makinson has complained to the disciplinary committee about this. However, as this committee still has not considered the complaints I made about the Mayor and 3 officers last March we are not holding our breath!

So, we have tabled a motion for the mid-January Council meeting which we are asking to be approved on an all-Party basis. This would mean that it was not discussed because we all agree it but that it would be acted upon. I hope that this is what will happen but fear that good sense will be happen by partisan politics from Labour.


This is the resolution that I am putting forward on behalf of our Party. I hope you will agree with it and if you are in the Labour Party pressurise your Councillors to support it.

Motions to Council

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

The use of sexist language

Council believes that the way we use language is important and that those of us in public office should set a high example to the rest of the Community. It believes that many women are put off politics because of the use of sexist language and chauvinistic behaviour.

Council believes that politics can be an unwelcoming environment for women because of the use of such sexist language and chauvinistic behaviour. Council regrets therefore, that Mayor Anderson used the term ‘Fishwife’ in response to questioning from Cllr Mirna Juarez at the last council meeting.

It therefore resolves to ask the Women’s Equality Party and the Women’s Leadership Group to work with the Council to promote a seminar for all councillors and staff on the appropriate use of language and behaviour, including preferred pronoun training to create a fairer and more inclusive environment for women in public life.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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