Author Archives: Jo Swinson MP

Jo Swinson MP writes….A campaign we can all be proud of

We are nearly at the end of this Leadership election, with voting closing tomorrow. Regardless of who you’re supporting, I want to thank every member who has engaged with this campaign. Everyone who came to a hustingsmeeting, emailed a question to Ed or to me, posted onto social media or caught up with us on visits – thank you.

There is a golden opportunity ahead of our party now. I have been so excited to see all the new members coming to hustings meetings, hearing their questions, thoughts and ideas. We have a unique offer and vision for the country and people are open to our message. We can continue this growth and build our movement further together. We can stop Brexit and compete to win a General Election.

This campaign has reminded me of how strong our party can be. We have such a range of skilled, talented people working around the country. We still need to do more to harness the incredible knowledge and expertise that we have in our members and supporters. I’ve been really buoyed up by seeing so many local success stories everywhere we have been. I know the new members I have met are going to be adding to those success stories soon too.

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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: We’ll never stop fighting for equality

Six years ago, when I was Equalities Minister, I was due to attend a celebration of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). My colleague, Lynne Featherstone, who was instrumental to the Same Sex Marriage Bill, had worked up a document that called for action on LGBT+ rights and which was to be signed by a dozen European Ministers at this event.

In the months leading up to it, the Conservatives were copied in on the different versions and didn’t say a word. So we all thought they were fine with it all.

But then, suddenly, just three days before I was supposed to travel and sign the document on behalf of the UK, I was told I could no longer go and we wouldn’t be signing the pledge that we had written…

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Jo Swinson MP writes….The next steps for shared parental leave

Today marks the 4th anniversary of shared parental leave – one of my proudest achievements as Employment Relations Minister. Shared Parental Leave is good for children, good for families and good for equality in the workplace.

I was so happy that last year when Gabriel was born, Duncan and I were able to share our parental leave and take it in turns to get to know our newest family member. I got to help Gabriel figure out how to roll over and sit up, and by the time Duncan took over he was busy weaning Gabriel onto solid food. It also meant I could come back to work for six weeks last summer to do my summer tour in East Dunbartonshire and to go to Lib Dem Conference in Brighton.

And I couldn’t think of a better way to mark the anniversary than to spend it with some wonderful dads!

We had eight fathers – and two little ones — join us yesterday morning to talk about shared parental leave and their experience of fatherhood. It was so great to hear about the joys and challenges they have faced.

One of the dads who had only gone back to work this week after six months of taking care of his little boy described it as the ‘best six months of his life’. He and his wife had four months off work together and that really helped them learn together about parenting and reduced the time where one parent is left home, trying to figure it all out and sort through the endless advice and information online.

Others agreed how important it was for them to experience bringing up a baby on their own, getting to know the various tricks to keep baby happy, understanding the mundanity of play, eat, sleep and repeat and just how little time that leaves you for yourself.

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Jo Swinson MP writes: Another week of Brexit chaos, another week of government ignoring the big issues

On Monday morning the ONS revealed that 1.5 million workers in England alone could lose their jobs to automation, with young people, women and the low-skilled most at risk. Just as we start yet another week of absolute chaos in Parliament over Brexit, I am seriously concerned that no one in Government is thinking about how technology will shape our society.

As liberals, we instinctively embrace change, and we want to harness technological progress to solve challenges from disease to climate change. However, we must take steps now to ensure that everyone in society benefits from that progress. This is why we have called on companies with more than 250 employees to develop plans to support staff vulnerable to automation, and for Government to grant every adult £9,000 over their lifetime to fund lifelong learning.

Also on Monday morning, I hosted the second meeting of the Lib Dem Tech Commission together with Professor Sue Black. We started with a discussion about what kind of economy we want to build and broadly agreed that as a country we need to be better at encouraging entrepreneurship and at encouraging individuals to make mistakes and learn from failure.

However, to try something and be comfortable with failing is a luxury that only few can afford at the moment. As a society, we need to offer much stronger safety nets to ensure that many others can transform their ideas into successful businesses.

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Jo Swinson MP writes…Lib Dem Tech Commission is ready and raring to go

Today I’m hosting the first meeting of the Liberal Democrats’ Tech Commission: an impressive mix of tech experts, academics and thinkers exploring the key challenges and opportunities of technology for our country 

We are at the height of a technological revolution that is transforming the world around us at a head-spinning pace. Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are opening up possibilities that until recently were the realm of science fiction.

But, just as I am hopeful about the opportunities this latest revolution brings, I am also cautious about the problems and risks it will throw up, as I explained in my speech at our Brighton Conference earlier this year.  

This is why I decided to set up the Tech Commission. Over the last couple of months, I have been assembling a stellar line-up of experts to develop innovative policies for how the UK can be a global leader in new technologies and how we can ensure the benefits of these technologies are fairly shared across the country. 

Chairing the group will be Professor Sue Black OBE, a computer scientist who led the campaign to save Bletchley Park, the site of WW2 codebreakers. I am really looking forward to working with Sue, and I am so pleased she has agreed to lend us her knowledge and experience.   

The Commission will focus on three key questions:

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Celebrating yet another win in my campaign for greater transparency on parental leave and pay

I am absolutely delighted that earlier this week the Government announced it would be consulting on the Bill I introduced in Parliament back in June, which would require organisations with more than 250 staff to publish their parental leave and pay policies.

Campaigning does work! The numbers in Parliament and the Government’s inability to focus on anything but Brexit mean that more and more MPs want to work across party lines to make things happen. In fact, my Bill received support from Conservative, Labour, SNP and Green MPs, as well as of course from my Lib Dem colleagues. It’s great to …

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Jo Swinson: Why I’m voting for our bold new immigration policy

Over the past few weeks, the debate on our immigration policy has unfolded on these pages and elsewhere. I’ve read with interest the arguments on both sides, and now I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why I’ll be supporting that motion in Brighton on Sunday.

Before delving into the detail of the policy, it’s worth considering the big picture, and the recent troubling developments that form the backdrop to this debate.

Look across Europe, where anti-immigration populists have risen to government in Italy, Poland and Austria. Hungarian nationalist Viktor Orbán won another landslide victory in April; his ally …

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Jo Swinson MP writes…Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders isn’t enough to fight discrimination

Editor’s Note: Out this month is Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson’s book Equal Power. Here she writes about the battle for equality and you can get her new book yourself from Amazon, Hive or The Guardian bookshop.

With rampant sexual harassment at a corporate charity dinner, the BBC accused of breaking equal pay law, and Easyjet’s new male CEO admitting he was offered £34,000 more to do the same job as his female predecessor, you don’t need to look far to find gender inequality in the news. And that’s just stories from one week.

When I was the Liberal Democrat Minister for Women, I learned that many seemingly different issues – the gender pay gap, violence against women, workplace discrimination, body image, division of caring responsibilities, gender stereotypes, women’s under-representation in politics – are all different parts of the same fiendishly difficult jigsaw. Tackling the problem of gender inequality means chipping away at all of these issues simultaneously because together they reinforce the entrenched power imbalance between men and women.

The backlash in the letters page of the Financial Times last week showed what we’re up against, as writers bemoaned the FT even covering the issue of sexual harassment, and referred to the women groped in their workplace as “silly young girls”. When I spoke out on television – albeit colourfully – against the everyday sexism and misogyny that sees schoolgirls sexually harassed, I was called a “little missy”.

It should be a core mission for us as liberals to challenge concentrations of power, including the power hoarded in the hands of rich, white men.

Gendered assumptions are everywhere. While women bear the brunt of these injustices, rigid cultural expectations about gender also harm men, not least in terms of their mental health. Men are also undervalued in their role as fathers, something I started trying to change with the introduction of shared parental leave.

Our party is not immune to the sexism that permeates through every part of society, but we can all act – individually and collectively – to be part of the solution. We need to recognise the nature of the problem: it is structural and ingrained in each and every one of us, absorbed from the surrounding culture. Changing it takes constant attention and proactive effort. Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders when few women ‘come forward’ won’t cut it for our party in 2018.

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Jo Swinson MP writes…We must end period poverty

Talking about periods apparently is still taboo. In fact we have had to wait until this month, in 2017 for the first ad ever in the UK to show a hand pouring a test-tube of blood-coloured liquid onto a sanitary towel, in lieu of the standard sterile-blue.

The advert, which forms part of a new campaign called ‘Blood Normal’, attempts to get rid of the embarrassment around the ‘Aunt Flo’ after a recent survey found that nine out of ten women attempt to hide the fact they are on their period, and 56% of girls said they would rather be bullied at school than talk to their parents about periods.

For something half the population experience on a monthly basis that is ludicrous.

For the majority of us they are an inconvenience, for example feeling we have to take our entire handbag with us to the bathroom at work, the surest tell-tale sign. But for others, particularly girls who have just started menstruating, the embarrassment can be enormous resulting in lost days of schooling and a huge knock to their self-esteem. This is particularly the case for girls from low-income families who might see their parents struggling to make ends meet and feel reluctant to ask them to add sanitary products to the weekly shop.

A survey by Plan International UK found that 1 in 10 girls had been unable to afford sanitary products. The fact that no one talks about this means that it remains hidden. In a country as well-off as Britain this simply shouldn’t be happening. And it can be stopped. We can end period poverty. The truth is it, it wouldn’t even cost a lot, relatively speaking.

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Jo Swinson MP writes..The role I want to play in our party’s leadership

It feels like an age since I was knocking on doors in the pouring rain in the final hour before polls closed, then hearing the shock of the exit poll on the car radio heading home to a hairdryer and somewhat less bedraggled attire for the count.

Yet here we are just a few days later, embarking on an election for leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I went to see Tim on Wednesday afternoon to tell him I thought he should definitely stay on, and I was excited at the prospect of putting myself forward to be Deputy Leader.  I was stunned when he told me he would be resigning that evening.

Listening to Tim’s dignified statement, outlining the personal turmoil he felt during the election, I can’t fault him for deciding to step down, but I feel very sad that it came to this.  Tim has done so much for our party.  In the devastating aftermath of the 2015 election, to build a record membership and increase MPs by 50% in just 2 years is a massive achievement.  Just as important, is that we now have our most diverse Parliamentary Party ever.  We owe Tim a massive debt of gratitude.

Since his shock announcement, I have been overwhelmed by so many lovely messages from people I know, and from many members I have not yet met, encouraging me to stand for leader.  I am touched and flattered that you look to me – and I am determined to play a key role in our party’s leadership.

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Jo Swinson writes…Been there, got the t-shirt

As part of the Committee for the fabulous WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre, I find myself in London this weekend, which means I’ll miss the diversity motion in York.

Passions run high on this issue, and I hope the debate will unfold with respect and kindness on both sides.  Whichever side of the debate we are on, we should acknowledge that our aim is the same – a party where every individual can feel supported and welcome, with many more elected representatives at all levels, reflecting the diversity of our society in all ways, and making a positive impact on our communities.

In 2001, I took to the conference platform in Bournemouth, summating an amendment to a similar motion, in much the same vein as this weekend’s amendment submitted by the East Midlands.  Liberal Youth have also voiced their opposition to all-women shortlists. The group of us campaigning on this issue had t-shirts specially printed for the occasion, declaring “I am not a token woman.  Say No to all-women shortlists.” Our amendment was successful, and the Gender Balance Task Force was formed, now the Campaign for Gender Balance.

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Jo Swinson writes…Dissolution honours make the contribution of women look invisible

Congratulations to all of the new Liberal Democrat Peers announced today.  They will strengthen our existing excellent team in the Lords, fighting for a democratically elected second chamber while in the meantime using their power to provide a check on the government and its worrying assaults on the poor, on our civil liberties, and on the environment.

It’s also good to see recognition for those in our party who have served our communities and our country so well – Sir Vince Cable, Dame Annette Brooke, Ben Williams OBE and others.

What is depressing and wearily familiar, however, is the missing women.

But surely our Lords list is balanced?  5 out of the 11 nominations (45%) for the peerage go to women, which is progress I suppose – of the 40 people nominated to the Lords under Nick Clegg’s leadership, just 17 (43%) were women.

And 45% women wouldn’t be so bad if the existing Lords group was well-balanced, but of our 101 Peers, just 35% are women – so we’re still far from equality.

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Jo Swinson writes….Why I’m backing Tim for leader

The Liberal Democrats have always felt like a family, and none more so than with the rallying round after the crushing election results this month.  As the results unfolded, the texts and tweets began to arrive.  I had to read them in small batches over the next few days: it’s often the words of kindness that bring the raw emotions to the surface the most.

On one level, the pain I felt was deeply personal – Duncan and I both lost our seats after 12 years of campaigning and service to our communities.  Compounding this was the shared anguish of watching liberal giants like Vince and Simon defeated; transfixed by the TV in a sort of stunned post-count vigil with my campaign manager Katy Gordon as the new political reality dawned.

By Friday morning, I was reunited with Duncan and Andrew, whose excited “Mummy, mummy!” was the best possible antidote to the haze of sleep-deprived sadness.  I turned on the radio to hear Nick’s resignation speech – taking responsibility with dignity, and reinforcing the need for our liberal values more than ever – and that was when the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. 

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Jo Swinson MP writes… I’m proud to say we’ve finally got the Tories on board with gender pay gap measures.

In the final days of this Government Lib Dems are still delivering our agenda against the odds, and against Conservative obstruction.

Under the coalition government the gender pay gap had fallen to its lowest level, at just under 20% – but this is still 19.1% too high. Despite our high levels of women’s employment the UK has the 8th highest gender pay gap in the EU.

Not only is the gender pay gap socially wrong in modern society, but economically it’s nonsensical not to reward our most talented female employees properly. We should value the contribution of women and men in the workplace equally, so our goal has to be eliminating the pay gap completely.

As a Business Minister and Minister for Women, I have worked very hard to persuade my Coalition colleagues of the virtues of tough action to tackle this long-term inequality. Their traditional resistance makes it all the more remarkable that Nick Clegg has, in the last few weeks of our term, secured a government amendment that guarantees all large businesses will have to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female staff. So today (Tuesday) I will proudly vote for our party’s manifesto commitment – for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees – to become law.

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Jo Swinson MP writes….new powers for Groceries Code Adjudicator will ensure fair deal for local suppliers

Thanks to the persistent efforts of Liberal Democrats, especially Business Secretary Vince Cable, the Prime Minister has agreed to our demands for the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) to be able to impose significant fines on any large supermarkets who treat their suppliers unfairly.

The Adjudicator will now be able to impose penalties on the supermarkets of up to 1% of their UK annual turnover, dependant on the seriousness of the breach.

I was proud to build on the work of my predecessors Ed Davey and Norman Lamb, take the Bill through Parliament to create the Groceries Code Adjudicator in 2013. It was an important step to help govern the commercial relationships between the UK’s ten largest supermarkets and their direct suppliers – many of whom are farmers and small independent dealers.

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Jo Swinson MP on new measures to rank companies’ human rights performances

2014Business_Forum_headerIn early December I attended the 3rd annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.

The Forum gave an opportunity for key stakeholders to discuss how we can ensure universal human rights standards are upheld in business practices. As a Liberal Democrat and an internationalist I know, on an issue as important as this, co-operation with our global partners is the best way of ensuring transnational businesses maintain their responsibilities to their employees and their consumers.

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Jo Swinson MP writes…I want to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools

Regardless of sexuality, all pupils should feel safe and accepted at school, but for far too many young people, bullying is a sad reality of their daily lives.  In particular, a survey conducted by Stonewall in 2012 found that more than half of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people said they experienced homophobic bullying at school, while over two-thirds reported that they heard homophobic language often or frequently.  Only three in ten said their school responds quickly to homophobic bullying when it occurs.

These statistics reveal the scale of the problem and that, while some are doing a fantastic job, not …

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Jo Swinson MP writes… Liberal Democrat aim of transparent company ownership becomes a reality

Today the Prime Minister announced the very welcome news that the UK will have an open public register of beneficial ownership – something Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for. By making business more transparent, so that anyone can find out who really owns and controls a company, we strengthen the image of the UK as a clean and trusted place to do business.

As it stands UK companies currently have a register which lists who directly holds their shares but you can’t always tell who the ultimate beneficial owner is. With no duty for companies to hold this information individuals can …

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Conference: Jo Swinson on payday lenders

Jo Swinson GlasgowSpeaking to Scottish Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Glasgow today, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP and Minister of State for Business and Consumer Affairs Jo Swinson set out how she was taking steps to build a stronger economy and a fairer society by tackling unscrupulous payday lenders.

In her speech to conference, Jo Swinson said:

Since becoming the Minister responsible last year, I’ve tackled this issue head on.

Last December we published research on the problems and options for action.

In March we saw the Office of Fair Trading announce a crackdown amidst evidence of the widespread failure of the industry to treat customers fairly.

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Jo Swinson MP writes…Consumers need to be protected from the predatory behaviour of payday lenders

Every MP has seen tragic cases of constituents struggling with debt problems.

Like Mrs S, whose daughter was granted hundreds of pounds of loans, despite not being in employment and suffering from mental health problems. That young woman is now in arrears with 2 different payday lenders. She is being charged high default fees and her situation is getting worse each day.

The Coalition Government is determined to make sure that consumers are properly protected and that payday lenders stop taking advantage of vulnerable people. The evidence of the scale of unscrupulous behaviour by payday lenders and the impact on …

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Allegations regarding the conduct of Lord Rennard: a statement from Jo Swinson MP

My focus throughout has been to protect the women who confided in me and, our shared objective, to prevent other women experiencing this kind of behaviour. All the time I was careful to respect their wish for privacy and, for that matter, their right not to be harassed by the press .

I took action and ensured that others took action. I told the women who had confided in me what I had done to try to put a stop to any inappropriate behaviour, and encouraged them to let me know if they became aware of any further incidents.

I …

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Jo Swinson MP writes…Equality is about more than ticking boxes

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) would never have become a valued and respected national institution if it was allowed to continue on the path it was on. Labour’s tired old way of working was turning equalities into a burden. When people heard the word equality they also heard bureaucracy and red-tape. Instead of being about fairness it was more about frustration.

If Labour’s method of ticking boxes and filling out forms led to equality, then why did they leave behind a society with so much inequality across the board? Twenty percent wage gaps between women and men, nonexistent social …

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Jo Swinson MP writes: Quality of Life – A New Purpose for Politics

Decade on decade, the UK has been getting richer. For the most part, people today are materially considerably better off than they were back in the 1970s; however, statistics stretching back all those years show that our satisfaction with our lives has barely improved. We have more money and we’re pumping out more carbon emissions – but we don’t appear to be getting much pay-off for our own wellbeing.
Fortunately, the Liberal Democrats have recognised this problem.
For over two years, a working group has been studying the evidence to see whether Government can actually do anything to set us on a …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes: Determination, courage and kindness in response to riots shows true British society

Everyone across our country has been horrified at the scenes unfolding on our TV screens, and, for some, outside their homes and workplaces.

Watching from Glasgow, I was certainly relieved that the riots did not spread to Scotland, but I think it is unhelpful for anyone, especially the First Minister, to express any feeling of superiority about that. My constituents are feeling solidarity with the victims of the violence, and with everyone who is afraid in their own community as a result of the riots, not gloating that this hasn’t been happening in Scotland.

The question that everyone is …

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Jo Swinson MP writes: Making inroads into our looks-obsessed culture

Last year, Lynne Featherstone MP and I launched the Campaign for Body Confidence. Since then, we have been raising the profile of the urgent need to address increasing body dissatisfaction in the UK. Everyone should be able, whatever their size, shape, age or skin colour, to feel good about their body.

The bombardment of super-skinny flawless models advertising everything from face cream to cars is puts an overwhelming pressure on women, men and children to conform to impossible and unrealistic beauty ‘ideals’. This is damaging our sense of wellbeing and leading to increasing unhappiness, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and eating …

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Jo Swinson MP writes on tuition fees

Today the Government has outlined its response to the Browne review, and the future of higher education funding. This is arguably the most challenging issue for Liberal Democrats in the coalition so far.

Our party has long prided itself on its commitment to education as the great leveller; the best way to create social mobility and equality of opportunity in society. The flagship “penny on income tax for education” was one of the reasons I joined the party in 1997. My first conference speech was in a debate about student funding, as we passed our policy …

Posted in Op-eds | 140 Comments

Opinion: No to All-Men Shortlists‏

At our 2001 party conference I donned a shocking pink t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I am not a token woman” and spoke in opposition to all-women shortlists.

Eight years on, I am still opposed to the use of single gender shortlists, but I wonder if I was then taking aim at the wrong target.

Research done by the party in advance of Nick Clegg’s recent appearance before the Speaker’s Conference showed, as I argued back in 2001, no evidence that our party discriminates against women in candidate selections.

Far from it: analysis of 237 selections shows that two thirds of the time where a woman is on the shortlist, a woman is selected.

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Perez Hilton has blogged about a Lib Dem policy paper

Last Wednesday I tweeted the unlikely words: “Never thought I’d say this, but Perez Hilton has blogged about a Lib Dem policy paper”.

It’s fair to say that the Real Women policy paper proposals on body image have stirred up quite a bit of debate: in the press, on TV & radio, in the blogosphere and, I also hope, in the pub, around the dinner table and over a cup of coffee.

Lots of women (and a few men) have got in touch to say they’re glad someone is finally trying to tackle the huge pressure on women to look slim, smooth and perfect.

Some have blogged their concerns about the policy, and I hope to answer some of the questions that have been raised.

Is there really a body image problem?

Yes, and it starts young.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 32 Comments

Jo Swinson writes… Experiences of a Female MP: Overcoming the Ultimate Old Boys Club

On 8th April, 2009, Jo Swinson MP delievered the Elizabeth Wallace Memorial Lecture at Glasgow University, hosted by the Glasgow Association of University Women. It was entitled ‘Experiences of a Female MP: Overcoming the Ultimate Old Boys Club’, and Jo has kindly agreed for it to be published on Liberal Democrat Voice.

Let me take you on a tour of Parliament

A couple of months after I was elected, I went on the official tour of the Houses of Parliament, as I figured I really ought to know a bit more about the institution I had been elected to serve in. Being shown around the building by an expert tour guide with a vast knowledge of Parliament’s history and heritage was absolutely fascinating; in fact I would recommend the tour to anyone (and it can be booked for free through your local MP).

Wonderful as it was to see the finery of the House of Lords, the grandeur of the chilly and cavernous Westminster Hall, and the macabre interest of looking at the death warrant of Charles I, none of these were my favourite part of the tour.

The best bit, in my opinion, is hearing the tale of one fairly unremarkable marble statue in St Stephen’s Hall, that of the second Viscount Falkland. The tour guide draws attention to a hairline fracture in the sword that Falkland is plunging into the marble plinth at his feet.

This is where on 27th April 1909 one brave suffragette, Miss Margery Humes, chained herself to the statue to protest to MPs about votes for women. In order to remove her, the sword had to be broken, and the repair is still visible today. It took another decade for women to win the right to vote, and it wasn’t until twenty years later, in 1929, that women could vote on the same terms as men.

Since then we’ve had twenty General Elections, and women now make up `20% of our MPs. In some ways, I think this is fantastic progress. When my 95-year old grandmother was born, women could not vote. Within her lifetime she has seen women win the vote, win elections, and hold key offices of state including Prime Minister.

At the same time, the pace of change can feel frustratingly slow. Parliament often seems stuck in a time warp – in more ways than one – and especially when you look at the gender representation. It affects the culture and the atmosphere: aggressive, confrontational, petty point-scoring. I’m not saying that no women MPs engage in this kind of behaviour in the House of Commons, but the puerile nature of some debates and question sessions is worryingly reminiscent of unruly boys in a boarding school. The etymology is revealing: puer is the Latin word for boy.

A wonderfully rewarding job

That said, the job of an MP is a fabulous one. Being able to devote your life to the causes you feel passionately about, and stand up for people in the area you live is a great motivation for getting out of bed in the morning!

Contrary to popular belief, being an MP is not all about making speeches. There’s an element of public speaking, but mostly to small groups in the constituency, and it gets much easier (and less stressful!) with practice. Most of my time is actually spent listening to the views of local people and trying to work out solutions to problems in the constituency, and then taking up those issues in Parliament.

Even Parliament is much more consensual and constructive than is portayed by the media. Sitting on a Select Committee means working across party lines, hearing evidence from experts and making recommendations to Government. PMQs aside, many sessions in the House of Commons chamber allow genuine, interesting debate instead of political theatre.

The skills of negotiating, empathising with people, and bringing people together are ones that come naturally to many women. While the timings of key events like votes or Committee debates are determined by others, as an MP you are essentially your own boss, which means much of your diary can be organised around your life and commitments. You can plan your Parliamentary and constituency appointments such that you guarantee time for the non-work stuff, whether it’s visiting your 95-year old grandmother or attending your child’s school parents’ evening.

Those involved in politics need to do better at “selling” the job of an MP, if we are to attract under-represented groups who currently think it isn’t for them. I very much hope that one of the outcomes of the Speaker’s Conference will be for Parliament to undertake specific outreach work to encourage people to consider standing for election.

Most women MPs I speak to would not have stood were it not for someone else suggesting the idea.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged | 8 Comments

Campaign for Gender Balance Awards: best Lib Dem blog?

The nominations deadline for the Campaign for Gender Blog Awards is 1 February, so you still have time to tell us your favourites.

Last week I highlighted the nominations we’ve received so far for best non-Lib Dem blog  and best Lib Dem blog post.  While with those we’ve received a wide range of different nominations, the best Lib Dem blog category is much more competitive amongst relatively few nominees.  As such, rather than list every single one, I thought I would restrict this article to blogs that have received multiple nominations.

The nominations we receive for this category …

Posted in Online politics | 4 Comments

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