Conservative party annual conference

By 50:50 #AskHerToStand Director Kirsty Finlayson

Kirsty Finlayson reports from Manchester and the 2019 Conservative Party conference where 50:50 Parliament had great support.

What was so exciting for me as a 50:50 supporter at the Conservative Party conference last week is that many of the MPs I spoke to already knew about our campaign.

Women winners

The conference kicked off with the annual Women2Win event, run by Baroness Anne Jenkin, who set up Women2Win in 2005 with Theresa May. <Their goal then, as now, is to get more female Conservative women elected to parliament.

This was arguably the best reception of the conference and is where you will find all the female candidates who are on the approved parliamentary candidate list. Many of these women are already signed up to our 50:50 Peer Support scheme. We now have over 30 active women supporting the 200 women who have signed up to stand as a Conservative candidate. 

It is there that I got the backing of the Prime Minister for our campaign, and managed to secure a snap with Boris holding up our placard. I also spoke with the Party Chairman, James Cleverly, who is hugely supportive of getting equal numbers of men and women on candidate shortlists.

Anna Firth, the Conservative candidate for Canterbury, called on the conference to make the Conservatives the first party to reach 50:50 representation in Westminster. Adding to the previous ‘firsts’ for the party: first female MP ever elected and first female Prime Minister.

Equality for all

And yet there were some Conservative members I encountered who reacted to the mention of a gender balanced parliament with the following: “I believe in equality of opportunity, not equality!” – I agree.

For many Conservative members a 50:50 Parliament is not about having all-female shortlists like in the Labour party but about creating a level-playing field in the first place.

This is crucial because only 20 per cent of our sitting Conservative MPs are women; that’s four out of five who are men. Women are getting selected, but it is slower and fewer than we would like.

I convinced some members that association officers and others selecting candidates must understand that the (usually) one female candidate attending their constituency’s selection meeting, like other “minority” groups, has often overcome many more obstacles to get there.

Youth votes

I was lucky to attend a roundtable discussion run by Conservative Young Women on “5 Ways to Listen to Girls”, which was hosted by the Children’s Society and Plan International UK. I also attended a roundtable discussion on Women and the Environment in my capacity as 50:50 Parliament volunteer.

I also had the opportunity to sign up more women to our Peer Support programme – what we are calling 50:50’s New Girl Network. We are able to grow our support from the Conservative female candidates who are getting selected for parliamentary seats and getting ready to fight the next election.

If you can help our Conservative 50:50 candidates in this way, sign up yourself, or donate to the 50:50 campaign, please get in touch with me at kirsty@5050parliament.co.uktical

Thank you

Kirsty Finlayson

50:50 #AskHerToStand Director

JOIN 50:50 at www.5050Parliament.co.uk.  It costs nothing to join our campaign for change.

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About 50:50 Parliament 50:50 Parliament is a cross party campaign taking action to get more women elected to Westminster. With their #AskHerToStand and #SignUpToStand initiatives 50:50 aims to inspire, encourage and support political engagement. Join 50:50 at www.5050parliament.co.uk; 50:50 Parliament on Facebook; 50:50 Parliament on Twitter; 50:50 Parliament YouTube; sign http://www.change.org/5050parliament.

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