Why we need more women MPs, by Boni Sones

A guest post by Boni Sones

Boni is one of life’s characters, we used to work together at the Cambridge Evening News and she has always been a great enthusiast. We met up again recently and I offered her a guest post to write about the Women’s Parliamentary Radio station she is heavily involved with, I must admit I did not know it existed. She describes the need for more women MPs to “civilise” Westminster.

Thanks for asking me why I set up a web based radio for women politicians across party and across nations. As you know I co-authored a book: “Women in Parliament:the New Suffragettes” which looked at the contribution women politicians across party have made to Westminster and public policy since the 1997 election.

The march into Westminster of the “101 Blair’s Babes,” was highly significant and women politicians across party are changing how  politics is conducted. All change is incremental, male politicians of the past, and present will tell you that too, but to suggest that the women have had no impact at all is wrong.

The women politicians I know work incredibly hard and are subject to  the most vicious personal attacks of any politicians, and those personal attacks often embrace their family members too.

It is incredible to think that a gender balanced parliament may be  hundreds of years away. A sobering thought is that however much women themselves may not want to support positive methods of discrimination,  such as twinning, positive discrimination is needed as it is the only measure which is shown to work.
Regime change elsewhere in the World often results in gender balanced Parliaments. When you start from scratch you can devise methods to ensure people are represented equally by men and women. Meanwhile the slow old world of “suited and booted” politics in Westminster grinds on, and it could be a long, long time before we have a truly representative number of women MPs in Parliament. No wonder
Nadine Dorries needs to blog about her weird life there.

If – supported by the BBC, Hansard, Fawcett, EOC and the Electoral Reform Society – can help others listen to and hear for themselves the contribution women politicians across party are having day in and day out, than all well and good.

Policy making is changing and it is changing as a result of women bringing the concerns of their constituents to the Chamber more often.  Robin Cook, as Leader of the House, commented on how much the Chamber had changed since women have been there in significant numbers. He said they had a “civilising” impact.

Let’s hope that Harriet Harman or Hazel Blears can help civilise the Labour leadership too. All those “suited and booted” men are likely to turn off a future generation of women whom we need to engage with the political process if they are to be encouraged to stand for parliament. It’s also been shown that a woman candidate can attract a few more voters.

Perhaps hearing the voices of women parliamentarians through might help young women to engage with the political process in the future. They may decide that they’ll shoulder the ridicule – “oh their shrill voices!” – “oh their messy hair” – “and did you see what colour dress they were wearing?” so that Westminster is half men and half women before my great-great-great grandchildren are born.
Yours ever hopeful…and still marching on…..