Author Archives: Flo Clucas

Women stand to lose a lot from Brexit

One of the amazing innovations with modern technology is being able to watch half forgotten programmes and films from bygone ages. Gainsborough Pictures conjure up an England of sunny summers, tea on the lawn and Saturday sing-alongs at the local theatre.

It is a charming, national picture of how things used to be – for a few. The power of cinema, however, gives the impression of life being like that for everyone. It most certainly wasn’t.

Along with many , I remember what it was really like in the 1960s and early 1970s. The three day week, when electricity was rationed. Or the strikes, dole queues, poverty wages, unsafe working conditions, slums and crumbling schools which were more the norm for most. Women had little status in society and many worked in poor, part time jobs, to keep the family fed.

For some, it was worse. Rented accommodation was the norm. The infamous ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’ sign on a London property was recorded for one television programme and not considered unusual.

Change began in the 1970s. That was when we finally joined the European Economic Community. It marked a change in our realisation of who we were as a nation and the creation of new opportunities – economic, social and civic.

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Millicent Fawcett, a woman who changed the lives of many. You can, too

Very shortly, towards the end of April, a statue to Millicent Fawcett will be unveiled in Westminster. She was a tireless campaigner for women’s suffrage and equal treatment.

Women still lag behind men both in selection processes and in electoral opportunity. Too few women are selected; too few women are elected. Fawcett would understand how far we still have to go and how much is still to be done.

Local elections can be a good place to make change happen. The opportunity is there for us and in Cheltenham, for example, Liberal Democrats are taking the need for more women candidates, and for more women candidates to be elected, very seriously.

District elections are being held for some 20 wards and things are a little different this year. Almost 50% of Cheltenham’s candidates are women. Six have never been elected before, though that will change as it is anticipated many of those selected, will be elected.

It is great to see young, enthusiastic candidates – both men and women – working together and observe the growing confidence that brings. It is inspiring to see.

Liberal Democrat Women wants to see many more women from across the country elected this year and is organising Action Days to help make that happen. They are an opportunity not just to get women elected, but to learn how our campaign teams work and pick up skills from them. Action Days are a two-way process.

Sutton 14th April; Cheltenham 21st April;  Chiswick 28th April; London, date to be confirmed, are the first to be set up. If you want to help please contact:

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100 Years and Counting

My grandmother took me by the hand and said that we were going to do something special. Off we went from our house, to a local school.

The next thing I remember is being lifted onto a small shelf, being given a pencil and my grandmother telling me that we were going to vote for Mr Churchill. She showed me where I was to make my cross.

I voted. It was the 1951 election and I was four years old.

My grandmother had been a supporter of the suffragette movement and told stories of her exploits as a young girl. Ironically, she had demonstrated against Winston Churchill when he came to Liverpool, even breaking windows at the Town Hall. Though she had never been arrested, she told us what had happened to her fellow suffragists. How they were force fed and badly treated and of Emily Davidson, killed by the King’s horse.

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

More women in elected office will help tackle harassment and bad behaviour

Women have faced sexual exploitation and harassment since time immemorial. But today, something different is happening. Sex pests, gropers, untamed rapists, physical and mental abusers are being ‘outed’ and exposed by media outlets as they are named and shamed.

So, Michael Fallon has fallen on his sword. If all of the gossip is to be believed, then more will follow. It brings not only the individual into disrepute, but the system too, that allows those individuals to behave as they do, with impunity.

He says his behaviour of ten years ago is not acceptable today. I have news for him. It wasn’t acceptable then, either.

The abuse of women is a deep seated problem in our politics and our society. It is no wonder that so few women choose to stand for elected office at any level, as a recent report by the Fawcett Society pointed out.

Parliament, the centre of law making designed to protect the innocent, the young, the vulnerable from sexual  abuse, has shown itself incapable of protecting those within its own walls. The Westminster Village, where power and access to power seems able to protect perpetrators and where  party whips seemingly refuse to take action to curtail inappropriate and sometimes criminal, behaviour, has to change.

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Visibility of Women (or lack thereof)

‘Their heads are full of cotton hay and rags’, according to Prof Higgins.

Walk in any British city or town and see if, as you walk, there are any commemorative works of art. War memorials you will almost certainly see. Royalty you will almost certainly see. Famous men you will almost certainly see.

Then, look to see how many women are commemorated. Queen Victoria and the Virgin Mary apart, few places have statuary of real women.

The statue of Millicent Fawcett, which will shortly be sited in Parliament Square, is, therefore, highly unusual and hugely significant. Of some 925 commemorative pieces in Britain, …

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What Brexit means for women

Recently, an event was held in London, to discuss Brexit, and its effect on the rights of women and what might change following its implementation. As a participant, I had arrived with the view that it would be difficult to change the law as it stood, but new laws might be affected.

For the last 43 years, most if not all of our Equalities legislation has come through the European Union. For women in particular, that has changed both their entitlements and rights as matters from equal pay to maternity leave have been secured by that route. It is astonishing to think that women, up until that legislation was passed, had more rights in Anglo Saxon England than in the 800 or so years that followed the Norman invasion.

What transpired at the meeting caused much anxiety among those present. For it is the case that, as most if not all of our Equalities law emanates from Brussels. It has been adopted into UK law, so can be cut back by use of new powers currently going through Parliament.

There are several risk areas, according to the Fawcett Society, which cover rights at work, women’s economic life, safety from attacks and racism. Those explicitly protective of women such as the Pregnant Workers Directive, or indirect protection such as that provided by The Part Time Worker Directive and the Agency Directive, which protects pension rights, written contracts giving details of working hours and pay and parental leave. It matters for those working part time, where the majority are women.

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Lib Dem Women at Conference: First steps on a long road towards equality in Parliament

There is a television advertisement for a well-known bank that has the strap line ‘for the journey’. You may know it.

First steps in a political career can be very daunting and extremely difficult. Much of the research shows that for women, particularly with family responsibilities, the passage from Newbie to Old Hand can be more of an impossible dream than a real prospect. Even with a supportive family, it isn’t easy. So, is there a way that we, as the Liberal Democrat Party, with our constitution proudly proclaiming that we do not want anyone ‘enslaved by gender’ can begin to ease the way?

LDW has asked each of our new women Members of Parliament to describe their journey. To tell us not only how they made the transition from Candidate to MP, but also what their experience of Parliamentary life has been. We need to learn from their experience and use it to make change possible during our Decade for Women.

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Working towards a Decade for Women – Come and be part of it!

‘Ce n’est pas la conscience des hommes qui détermine leur être; c’est inversement leur être social qui détermine leur conscience’. Marx

Roughly translated: ‘you are who you are because of your life experience, not the other way round’.

It may seem strange to begin an article on LDW’s elections with a quotation from Marx, but it is apt and points to why LDW exists within the party. LDW next year anticipates launching its ‘Decade for Women’. A decade that will seek to change how women in decision making are perceived, vastly increase the number of the party’s women MPs, Council leaders and …

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International Office supports the next generation of women leaders from Nasa Stranka, Bosnia’s ‘Women’s Party’

International officeSarajevo is not a city I ever expected to see, and Bosnia is not a country that I ever expected to be at the sharp end of encouraging women into political life. Yet here I was, travelling to Sarajevo with the International Office to encourage and train young women in the basics of being a councillor and a candidate!

Nick Thorne, Research Officer in the International Office, travelled with me and we were later joined by Sara Bashford, a Conservative Councillor, and Anna Birley, a Labour Councillor, who were to work with us on cross-party sessions later in the weekend.

Posted in Europe / International | 1 Comment

Opinion: Gender quotas are the sensible way forward

laura-willoughby-encurages-women-to-become-council-candidates‘In every aspect of life in which women are undervalued, under-represented or exploited we are dedicated to achieving equality.’ (from the Preamble of the Constitution of Liberal Democrat Women)

John Stuart Mill would have been outraged that, in the second decade of the 21st century, women are still under-valued, exploited and under-represented, for it was he, speaking in the House of Commons in May 1867, who advocated votes for women.

Yet, here we are 150 years later, still trying to have equality in our society. Yes, we have women’s suffrage, but at the present rate of change, we will not have a gender balanced Parliament until 2050.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMick Taylor 19th Oct - 8:54am
    From my earliest time in politics I was taught to refer to independents as Condependants. Often individuals stand as independents because they haven't a cat...
  • User AvatarDavid Davis 19th Oct - 7:30am
    Fundamental point: should the next referendum be advisory/non-binding (like the last one), or mandatory/binding? I would strongly prefer the advisory sort, provided that parliament (both...
  • User AvatarJoeB 19th Oct - 1:19am
    Michael 1, If Masonic influences were a significant factor in the Castle Baynard elections surely the chap (or chapess) with the moniker Charming toff would...
  • User AvatarTonyH 19th Oct - 12:00am
    For those of us who can't make it to the march, there are other things we can do for the cause. e.g. tonight's Question Time...
  • User Avatarfrankie 18th Oct - 11:16pm
    Well Peter I think enough posters have presented enough facts and arguments to suggest your dream of free trade won't happen, I look forward to...
  • User AvatarGordon 18th Oct - 11:13pm
    Even TM seems to have accepted that financial services are a lost cause after Brexit by not including them in her Chequers plan. So just...