Harriet Harman on…. 50 Shades of Grey

Harriet Harman on…. 50 Shades of Grey

Harriet Harman has refused to be drawn on her opinions of 50 Shades of Grey despite admitting to reading it.

In a wide-ranging interview for The House magazine, the deputy Labour leader and staunch parliamentary feminist also explained her opposition to Page 3 girls and her difficulties watching The Thick Of It.

“I have read it, at least I've read three-quarters of it," she said of the now-classic erotica novel.

"I read it for 'research purposes'," she joked.

"It's become one of those things where you have to read it to find out whether anybody else has read it. She's no JK Rowling though.

"I take the view that really women are probably more interested in a man who knows how to unstack the dishwasher rather than tie them to the bed. But the blockbuster that reveals that has yet to be written."

The shadow media secretary was particularly critical of Louise Mensch's decision to quit parliament to spend more time with her husband and children in New York.

"It's important for women in the country to know that there are women in parliament who understand that it's difficult to juggle work and family and who will, because they've got that understanding, be determined to help make the change," Harman said.

"And you can do that in parliament in a way that you can't if you're in America. In New York, for example.

"Generally speaking, my view is, and I hold this in a general way, that you make a promise to your constituency when you stand for election."

Harman also backed an ongoing campaign to end Page 3 girls. While few expect any serious legislation to that effect as a result of the Leveson inquiry, campaigners are using the spotlight currently on the media to press for change.

"It is anachronistic, it's completely backward-looking and it's time it was got rid of. I'm going to sign the petition and back up those women who've put this forward on Twitter," she said.

"There's a new generation of younger women saying 'this is not on, we don't agree with this and you should stop doing it'."

On her own life, Harman claimed to be a normal member of the public, despite her long parliamentary career.

"I do what everybody else of my age likes to do, I can see from the marketing ads I get sent," she said.

"They know I like to be cooking and watching the Great British Bake Off and they know that I like to go out walking, I'm an absolute stereotype for my demographic.

"I watch telly all the time. I go to concerts, I'm not a workaholic obsessive at all."

Finally, the deputy Labour leader described her reaction to the new series of The Thick Of it, which she found a little too close to reality.

"Some of it is a little bit accurate. I feel sure everybody else is laughing like a drain and I'm kind of cringing," Harman said.

"She's [Nicola Murray] brilliant, the actress who plays her. It's very clever. But it's a bit like a busman's holiday watching that."

Harman will be playing her usual prominent role at the Labour party conference next week.