50:50 #AskHerToStand House of Commons Dec 2017
Blog by Mojo Abidi, 50:50 Editor
This December, hundreds of 50:50 campaigners got together to celebrate the annual #AskHerToStand event in Parliament; a cross-party event to encourage more women into Parliament. 50:50 have been called the 21st Century Suffragettes, in their continuing call for political equality.
As well as celebrating the powerful ladies in Parliament the event also encouraged other women to consider standing for election.
Rosie Duffield, the new MP for Canterbury, was the evening’s host.
Rosie says: “This time last year I was an ordinary 50:50 supporter. Frances and the 50:50 team inspired me and made me believe that I too could be an MP.
“We need more women to be given the confidence and support to succeed in politics.
“I’m proud to tell my fellow women that it’s time to get out of the kitchen and onto the benches!”
Joining Rosie was Maria Miller MP (Conservative & Chair of the Women & Equalities Select Committee), Amelia Womack Deputy Leader (Green), Jo Swinson MP (Lib Dem), and Phillipa Whiteford MP (SNP).
The team discussed their different journeys to politics and the Commons and stressed how important it is we achieve a gender balanced Parliament.
“There are clear ways women can make a real difference here; we see the world through a different lens” said Maria Miller.
“Being an MP was never part of my vision… but if not me, who? We will never have the country we need if we don’t have more women at Westminster,” Phillipa Whiteford added.
Jess Phillips MP, Dawn Butler MP, Mims Davies MP and many other women at Westminster attended and contributed to the night’s important discussion.
The event marked the anniversary of Nancy Astor taking her seat in the Commons in 1919 – the first woman to ever sit on those green benches.
We have come some way since then, there is now a record 208 women MPs but as Frances Scott Founder of 50:50 said “This is a sad record. One hundred years after women won the right to vote men still dominate the corridors of power outnumbering women by more than 2:1 at Westminster where the decisions that affect all our lives and futures are made.”
Only 12 extra women were elected in 2017, at this rate it will take over 50 years for women to have equal seats and an equal say in Parliament. That is too long to wait.
50:50 are calling for solutions and taking action. They have a clear aspiration because “what gets measured gets managed”. Another 117 women MPs are needed for gender parity in the commons and that is why 50:50 have launched the #AskHerToStand campaign to inspire and support women in winning seats at Westminster.
So if you know an inspirational woman who would make a good MP then ask her to stand, 50:50 are here to help. We know that there are a ton of amazing women out there, who with a little nudge and lot of encouragement, could come forward and put a female’s touch into the policy making process.
Studies have shown that women are 50 percent less likely than men to consider themselves as potential candidates for elected office.
“Why did I decide to stand for Parliament? Because somebody suggested it to me,” Jo Swinson said, “Support other women as well; it is a lot easier if we do it together!”
And as Jess Phillips put it: “For the sake of womankind, it is vital that we have women in here fighting for the lives of women out there.”
The panel also discussed the discrimination women can face when trying to win a seat in Westminster and some women face multiple hurdles.
Dawn Butler reflected on the time when David Heathcote-Amory, then an MP, met her in a bar in the Commons and discovered she, a black women, had been elected. His response was a derogatory: “This place is going to wreck and ruin.”
Each of the panel members could remember a time when they were only female in a debate.
But as Mims Davies said: “Be unafraid of being the only women in the room. People will listen to you and there is room for you.”
Everyone agreed that Parliament would be better if it was gender balanced and more diverse, and 100 years on from women getting the vote, it is time to make this dream a reality.
“It is the best job in the world. It is so rewarding to represent people and to make a change and be a part of the change to the face of Parliament via 50:50.” said Gillian Keegan another recently elected female MP who was inspired by the 50:50 campaign.
So who are you going to ask to stand?
Or why not consider standing yourself email AskHerToStand@5050Parliament.co.uk – sounds like a great New Year’s resolution for 2018.
50:50 Parliament is a cross party campaign taking action and calling for solutions to get better gender balance in Parliament. With their #AskHerToStand campaign 50:50 aims to inspire, encourage and support political engagement. Their petition to Party Leaders is gathering momentum, it calls upon Party Leaders and Parliament for solutions. Join us and let’s build a better democracy together!
Join 50:50 at: www.5050parliament.co.uk;
Sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/5050parliament.
Follow: 50:50 Parliament on Twitter;
See: 50:50 Parliament YouTube;