Author Archives: Flo Clucas

The invisible women

Women have always played a significant role in the life of our villages, towns and cities. The shame is, that their role is largely forgotten and consigned to history.

As a Liverpool councillor, I had the opportunity to redress the balance a little and give ordinary women, who had made a real difference, both a face and a place in our lives.

In Liverpool, the Blitz Memorial Statue depicted a woman and a child. It was based on the true story of a survivor of the Durning Road shelter bombing in the Blitz. Women worked in munitions factories, as nurses, taking the place of men who were called up for service. They kept going when bombs dropped around them and often, as in the case of this survivor, when war robbed them of their children.

Kitty Wilkinson was a woman who landed as a child on the Liverpool shoreline. Her story was passed down from mother to daughter, from generation to generation. She was a working class women whose ideas changed her world, and ours.

Kitty believed that cleanliness was essential to being healthy. During the great cholera epidemic that killed thousands in the city, not one person in her street died. Kitty allowed them to use her copper to keep bedding and clothing clean.

Doctors thought she was mad, but then some realised what was happening. That she was right. Eventually they supported her and Liverpool Corporation, as it then was, built public launderies and provided clean water. Even Queen Victoria knew of her and sent her a silver tea service.

She saved thousands of lives and affected public health and medicine across the globe. But, as a lowly working class woman, didn’t deserve a piece of commemorative art.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Women and Equalities Committee report on sexual harassment of women and girls

Three cheers for the Women and Equalities Committee report on sexual harassment of women and girls. Action must follow at least along the lines suggested by them.

In the 21st century, it cannot be right that as a society we fail to act to control behaviours that are unacceptable because of the fear, anxiety and restriction they place on others. Yobbish, bullying and intimidator behaviour, whether in the House of Commons or in the street should not be tolerated.

The report proposes a range of measures that the Committee believes will begin to address the problem, with seven key recommendations:

  • Force train and bus operators to take tougher action against sexual harassment and block the viewing of pornography on public transport;
  • Ban all non-consensual sharing of intimate images;
  • Publish a new “Violence Against Women and Girls” strategy;
  • Create a public campaign to change attitudes;
  • Take an evidence-based approach to address the harms of pornography, along the lines of road safety or anti-smoking campaigns;
  • Tougher laws to ensure pub landlords act on sexual harassment – and make local authorities consult women’s groups before licensing strip clubs;
  • Make it a legal obligation for universities to have policies outlawing sexual harassment;

It says something about our society that this type of action is seen to be necessary. The question is, does it go far enough?

Posted in News and Op-eds | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

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, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Tagged | 7 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 42 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMark Smulian 10th Dec - 3:58pm
    This TfL press release, issued since Caroline made her posting, throws some light into previous dark corners: https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2018/december/new-financing-agreement-confirmed-for-crossrail-proje
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 10th Dec - 3:48pm
    The temptation must be to use a people's vote for political reasons again instead of a genuine desire for it. It shows again that we...
  • User AvatarRobin Bennett 10th Dec - 3:21pm
    Fiona The points you make are old hat. They are spurious, irrelevant or insignificant to those who believe that after independence there would be a...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 10th Dec - 3:07pm
    I see Vince is calling for a Vote of No Confidence in May. I do not understand the strategy of this man. If he gets...
  • User AvatarPeter Hirst 10th Dec - 3:07pm
    If parliament now dictates what happens, we have to trust it and that leaves everything in the air though better than the government in control....
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 10th Dec - 2:53pm
    We should do everything we can to allow the vote tomorrow.We should have nothing to do with May resigning. She got us into this mess,...