Earlier this week, Konservative MP Mette Abildgaard became the centre of a row when her five-month-old daughter was ejected from Parliament’s debating chamber.
Regarding the child’s presence, the MP pleaded extraordinary circumstances as she had been unable to arrange a baby-sitter at short notice and wanted to take part in a vote.
Through her secretary Parliament’s speaker, Pia Kjærsgaard, requested Abildgaard remove her daughter from the chamber and pictures of the baby in the arms of a member of staff at the Parliament building went viral on social media, leading to a storm of criticism being directed at Kjærsgaard.
The speaker, who was recently accused of being partisan for censuring the language of an MP who called a statement made by a member of her own party racist, is nothing if not combative.
She has now replied at length in a blog on Facebook, accusing Abildgaard of staging a media stunt to drum up attention before the upcoming Danish general election.
“Parliament ought to be an exalted place. A serious place. Here, the highest group of elected politicians in the land make decisions that affect the entire Danish population. This is not a chamber for sentimentality, joking and sensation-seeking,” wrote Kjærsgaard.
“As an MP, Mette Abildgaard enjoys extraordinary privileges when it comes to paid maternity leave and high supplementary payments that ought to cover all eventualities when it comes to having a child looked after – even in ‘extraordinary’ circumstance,” she added.
However, Abildgaard – in a Facebook reply to Kjærsgaard – denies any such intentions stating that:
“You imply in several places that this was a ‘media stunt’ from my side. My parliamentary group can confirm I only found out I was not cleared [to bring in the baby] at our group meeting six or seven minutes before the vote. I was obliged to go into the chamber to vote.”
Abildgaard went on to say that perhaps Kjærsgaard should not presume to judge her regarding how she and her husband share their leave.
“As far as I know, you decided to remain at home longer with your children. That was your choice and what was right for your family and that’s as it should be,” she said.
The MP did concede that “I certainly don’t think that in the usual run of things children belong in the debating chamber. No parents want to have their children with them unless it is the only way out. An emergency. I believe that we ought to look indulgently on this kind of situation.”