By Declan Carey
THE UK is 40 years away from achieving equal numbers of male and female MPs in the House of Commons according to activist Frances Scott – unless action is taken to encourage more women to enter politics.
Scott, Founder of the 50:50 Parliament campaign group, urged women interested to ‘sign up, stand up’ whilst speaking at a Young Fabians online event.
She said: “In the last 100 years since women won the right to vote, over 5,000 MPs have been elected but only 552 of those were women.
“We’re still having to battle for equal representation and the reason this matters is that representation shapes policy.
“Parliament should draw upon the widest possible pool of talent and experience – including the 32 million women.”
In the 2019 General Election, 220 women MPs were elected to Parliament, the highest number ever. There are a total of 650 seats in the House of Commons.
But Scott believes progress can be made sooner and parties must do more to encourage women to stand for election.
“People say well the change is happening, and let’s face it the Labour Party have done brilliantly, 51 per cent of Labour MPs are women, that’s 104.
“Only 87 Conservative MPs are women, 24 per cent of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, so they’ve got a long way to go, they’ve got to double it.
“But at the last election only 12 extra women were elected to the House of Commons, and at that rate it’s going to take until 2060, another 40 years.
“This is just too long, we’ve got to do better.”
50:50 Parliament supports women entering politics in a number of ways, including creating networks for women from minority groups and offering peer support.
However, Feryal Clark, Labour MP for Enfield North, argues that changes in local government are needed to stop women being excluded from politics.
“It’s not just Parliament, it’s every layer of government.
“Given that most people cut their teeth in local government, I spent 14 years in local government, these barriers also need to be looked at.
“It wasn’t until last year that local government introduced a maternity leave policy for cabinet members.
“So until last year, if you were a cabinet member you would either have to continue working when you gave birth or leave your job.
“It’s crazy that that’s the case and that needs to be looked at.”
“We need to demolish the structural issues in local government and in Parliament.”
“To bring about change we have to continue to push all of these really good programmes that work so we can not slowly make that change, but to speed up that change that is desperately needed.
36 per cent of local authority councillors in England are women according to a House of Commons report.
Sarah Owen, Labour MP for Luton North, wants to see more women working in all areas of politics.
She said: “In the trade union and Labour movement, we need to see greater gender equality and within the political system itself.
“I don’t just want to ask her to stand, I want to ask her to be an advisor, a communications officer, the lobbyist journalist.
“The whole of Parliament, the whole of our political field, needs to be much more diverse.
“Countries where they do have women in the [cabinet] team, or are led by women, have done significantly better than us.
“Yes we are playing our part, but it’s not that we are necessarily in the positions of power than we need to be.
“And we need to be in those rooms first to get our voices heard.”
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