Women in Politics
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 11th November, 2015
There were many tragic aspects to the Liberal Democrat rout in May’s UK general election, but perhaps the most tragic of all was that not a single female MP was returned. Although there are many fine, strong women on the LibDem benches in the House of Lords, our House of Commons contingent is uniformly male (and pale). Something obviously has to be done about this, which means that not only do we need to have good women candidates in place soon in winnable seats but also that they are aided, as necessary, to fulfill the role. The challenges facing women in politics (including child care) formed the core of a presentation this evening to Islington Liberal Democrats (and some friends, including myself) from Lynne Featherstone, who was successively a local councillor in Haringey, then a GLA member, then a backbench MP and finally a Minister in the last Coalition government, before being swept away in the electoral tsunami. Unlike most of her former female LibDem MP colleagues, however, she will be returning to Parliament soon when she is inducted into the House of Lords.
I am one of those who believe that an unelected House of Lords is a grotesque anachronism, but so long as it exists, it is good that there are people of Lynne’s calibre to sit in it. In her speech tonight, Lynne chided Nick Clegg fairly for not appointing a single woman LibDem MP to the Cabinet during the whole five years of government, though Lynne herself was fortunate in being given a ministerial post (at DFID) which she really loved. But the main thrust of her remarks was really a checklist of things that women in politics need to do in order to succeed. That includes not being shy about putting themselves forward and similarly not being afraid to stand up first to speak. Team-building is crucial she argued (as it is indeed for male candidates as well), as is serious fundraising. But in the House of Commmons, as in industry and so many other spheres of British public life, women are grossly under-represented. It was good to see some in the audience tonight who have been councillors or stood for Parliament. But the Party has to do far more to support women like them, and to make damned sure we actually get some elected in 2020. In the meantime, I am delighted that we have a first class woman candidate, Jane Brophy, in the Oldham West and Royton by-election. And if a more promising opportunity arises over the next four-and-a-half years we should try to ensure that it is a woman who fights that seat as well.