Thursday

Days Out in London - Inside the Houses of Parliament and the 50:50 Parliament petition

Did you know that tampons are classed as luxury items?

This means we pay tax on them, these luxury items that are regarded as essential protection by a large part of the population. This has not recently happened but what did happen recently is that the House of Commons voted to keep them as a taxable item.

Reason one for supporting the petition to make Parliament equally represented by men and women.

Big Ben and Oliver Cromwell, 5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac


Reason two - women make-up 51% of the population in the UK but are not represented as such in Parliament.

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac

Yesterday was the anniversary of the first woman taking a seat in the House of Commons. On 1st of December 1919 Nancy Astor who had been elected MP for Plymouth Sutton entered Parliament.

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac

Almost 100 years later and it's a fact that there are more men in Parliament now than there have ever been women. Why?

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac

Are women less intelligent, less capable, less willing? Will Parliament remain like this for the next fifty years?

I joined the 50:50 Parliament team to listen to some MPs and other pro-change speakers to find out what they thought might improve female representation.

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac

Maria Miller MP for Basingstoke and only the 38th woman to enter cabinet has had many years experience in Parliament and felt the most crucial step is to work with more men in order to increase the number of women in Parliament.

The other factor Maria felt important was to make it a more woman friendly arena.

She also mentioned that there would be 50 fewer MPs in Parliament next election. Is this true? Could this be an additional obstacle for women becoming elected?

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac


Ben Howard MP for Bath, a very likeable chap and a huge supporter of the LGBT community expressed his opinion that it's more difficult to enter politics if you are from a less privileged background. I didn't know this, but I am also completely ignorant of what the process is to become elected. Should politics be taught at school?

He also agreed that men have to be advocates for this change to take place.

Wes Streeting MP for Ilford North talked about how women are disadvantaged by domestic and global economics. He shared how few female voices are part of the decision-making process and felt this absence is affecting the quality of decisions made.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Smith talked about how the very nature of the electoral system might need to change.

Jess Phillips MP for Birmingham Yardley agreed that there is a structural problem at the very heart of the electoral system and explained that the only reason more women have now been elected in the Labour party is because there was an only women selection process in some areas. Jess felt, the way forward is for more short lists to be used, even though this has led to criticisms of her by saying her win is less impressive because she only won against other women.

This led Jess to explain that the prevailing argument for why there are not more women in Government is because MPs are voted in on merit. She added by going along with this argument, we should all agree then that white middle-class men are disproportionately better. To this Jess continued, "but I'm willing to be unpopular". There was a cheer as the room backed her sentiment.

The equally fabulous Angela Crawley MP for Lanark and Hamilton East spoke next. She stressed the need to challenge their own parties and said, "for me meritocracy has failed".

However, although these speeches were inspiring stuff, my favourite of all was Brighton's own Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion. She said, "I genuinely believe architecture makes a difference, this place is like Hogwarts on steroids". She shared her horror that feminism is to be removed from the curriculum and explained how prejudices against women is part of the air we breathe and cited the No More Page 3 as an example of how attitudes need to change. She continued, "I want everyone to look at this place and think it represents them".

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac

Finally, I leave you with the words of Callum McCaig MP for Aberdeen South who reiterated the point that there are more men now than women ever and said, "sadly this is true, there are some very very average men, women have to be pretty superb to be here".

He also said, "I don't think the Houses of Parliament are human-friendly, we have an overwhelmingly party system."

Then Callum turned to us and said, "It requires those who care to stand. Local government also needs to be equally represented. He said, "get involved". And he's right. The lovely man from Scotland whose Grandmother was named after the first female MP, Nancy Astor, is right.

I hope the above has been informative and inspired you to add your name to the petition. Please follow this link to 50:50 Parliament and thanks very much for reading.

5050Parliament, photo by Modern Bric a Brac

For more jolly and supportive female-type stuff click here to read my review of Feminism 3.0

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