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Why don't more women go into British politics?

(43 Posts)
oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 15:56:04

I'm just curious. Why is it that we still don't have equal representation. Since the terrible spectacle of the Blair Babes the whole subject seems to have been swept under the carpet - and women MP's get loads of air time so it doesn't look as though parliament is still stuffed full of men but it is. 143 women and 507 men. And does it matter? Would the decision about housing benefit, child benefit and tuition fees have been any different if as many women as men had been voting on it? Dunno.

Ewe Thu 04-Nov-10 15:59:15

Yes, I think it matters. The women who are there often don't want to advocate for women's rights as they get put into a 'pesky feminist' box.

Working in parliament is not very family friendly, terrible hours, often living between two places to have constituency presence. Treated appallingly by the press on the whole with constant commentary on looks, clothes, hair colour etc.

I wouldn't wanna do it (and I love politics).

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Nov-10 16:05:54

Well given that half the cabinet went to Eton, I think that goes some way towards answering. Privileged boys are reared in very traditional settings that prioritise the "classics" including classical traditions like debate etc, so they are naturally suited to adversarial politics.

There are quite a lot of reasons I think.

Hawkmoth Thu 04-Nov-10 16:08:48

Because we grow up and it gets boring?

Being an MP is the most puerile, tedious and tribal aspect of politics.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Nov-10 16:13:47

I would quite like to be an MP, and the things that put me off are:

- constant prying into private life

- constant commentary on appearance

- tediousness of old boys network

- fear of not being able to do the job properly, it's not like you can practise.

oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 16:16:54

i think the constant prying into your private life must be hell.....and I think as women we worry more about the impact that would have on our family.

I guess I can't believe that we still haven't managed to tackle this one

oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 16:18:34

Not sure I by the Eton is bad 'thing' hmm. I don't really have a problem with well educated men.....just wish the state system was so good no-one felt the need to send their kids to Eton

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Nov-10 16:29:09

Didn't say it was a bad thing. I was pointing out that a huge number of those currently running the country went to a boys-only school. So I would say that a) more boys than girls are getting the education/networking that is still a boost up in politics and b) to many boys school education men women are a foreign species. These places can be IMO very sexist.

Also don't forget that until 1980ish there were only a couple of colleges at Oxford/Cambridge that admitted women. So of the generation born 1962 or earlier there was a far higher chance of getting an Oxbridge education if you had a penis.

Not saying that education is all - just that the traditional routes in/background expected of MPs has not been open to women very long.

oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 16:36:48

aah....absolutely agree about the networking although one of the bigget surprises for me over the last 10 years (which was when I became more involved in politics and started to see it up close and personal) was how quickly the 'old boys network' was duplicated by so called New Labour. Different cliques, same same approach. My wife knew his husband who worked with him in the third sector etc etc.

What do you think about structural change - following the Spanish lead and introducing quotas?

Ewe Thu 04-Nov-10 16:39:21

I like the idea of quotas, it's how almost all of the countries with equal representation have achieved it and at the current rate of women entering parliament in the UK it'll take 200 years to have equality in the house.

oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 16:42:14

I agree....i just don't think we're going to get there otherwise. having said that, I'm not sure I would wish a political career on a woman until they tackled things like childcare and working hours. What about job shares for MP's. I think that would be awesome.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Nov-10 16:47:02

Did you hear about the uproar this year over plans to turn one out of four? six? bars in the HoP into a creche? Huge fuss.

So the creche is either open now or to open soon.

sethstarkaddersmum Thu 04-Nov-10 16:48:54

oh, the creche has been open for a little while now and there are regular articles in the Daily Mail or similar about what a waste of taxpayers' money it is because at the moment it doesn't have many children in it and is running at a loss.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Nov-10 16:48:57

Also don't get me wrong I love tradition but I suspect a lot of women are put off by the sheer volume of acting-like-a-silly-twat that parliament involves. If they opened the HoP as a museum and built a new parliament building somewhere with a clean design, no robes, proper childcare facilities on site, more circular design etc it might be different.

oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 16:51:13

Don't know what happened about the creche...guess it might be open now. That will be their nod towards being family friendly for the next 100 years.

oakydokey Thu 04-Nov-10 16:53:34

not sure I would want to put my child in a HOC creche. It makes me furious when a creche is offered up as the solution to all Mothers. What about anyone with a child over 4? Once they are in school it must be even more difficult for female MPs unless you represent a london consituency.

complimentary Thu 04-Nov-10 16:54:06

I stood at the last election as a PPC and I knew before I stood it is very male orientated. If you stand as PPC you need to be thick skinned and have 'balls of steel' hustings can be very daunting and the audience can ask you any question. One of the other PPCs who was a young woman, shy, and nervous was mauled to pieces by the audience, she was shaking, her leg was shaking! As said is not for the faint hearted.

Anyone who wants to enter politics has to know current politics quite well, and in my opinion be quite Machivellian. I found the other PPCs were either councillors or had been councillors. They all towed party lines and were ready when asked questions on certain subjects, in fact they said the same things at different hustings!

Also as said you need the time to do it, I did it, and I have children.

Elephantsandmiasma. You are quite right about the prying into ones private life. As a PPC I was put on display on a website and the public were asked "Do you know so and so, did you go to school with her, have you a story to tell about her?" and this is only for a prospective parlimentary candidate and not an MP. So yes, there are plenty of reasons women and some men will not enter politics.

It is a shame, because we need a wider spectrum of people entering politics. sad

sethstarkaddersmum Thu 04-Nov-10 16:55:14

HoC creche
can you imagine the way the toddlers will talk to each other when they're fighting over a toy? And the nursery staff will have to keep shouting 'Order! Order!'

ElephantsAndMiasmas Thu 04-Nov-10 16:55:36

AND another thing

I think many women find the party political system - or perhaps just the parties that currently exist - quite alienating. It is hard to imagine signing up to one set of beliefs/one leader, some of which you are bound to disagree with some of the time. Blind faith and a kind of food chain of sycophancy seems necessary to align yourself like this.

QueenGigantaurofMnet Thu 04-Nov-10 16:55:40

men are better at the bullshit

Chil1234 Thu 04-Nov-10 16:57:46

No amount of creches are going to help female or male MPs with school-age children dual-centre between a constituency in, say, Yorkshire and Westminster. As someone whose job involves a reasonable amount of travel, that's the toughest aspect to juggle, I find. You've either got to have a very long-suffering partner or employ staff to take over. And, even after you've gone to all that effort you're pilloried by people who think you're only in it for the free junkets, are waiting for you to fall flat on your face and/or expose some error from your past for public humiliation. Everywhere these days there are those signs that say 'our staff are here to help and will not tolerate abuse'.... except when it comes to MPs, it seems. Top it off with being expected to shuffle through the lobbies at some ridiculous hour of the night to vote and I think the salary they get is - frankly - piss poor.

Whippet Fri 05-Nov-10 11:50:34

I have a degree in politics, and when I was at Uni wanted to become an MP.

Why haven't I?
Well - for all the reasons already listed here, and more.

I worked in industry/management jobs for 20 years, and by comparison Parliament is just such an archaic and ineffective way of doing things - the lengthy 'debates' - verbal out-pourings - would be laughed down in a modern business world.
All the old boys networks and the schoolboy antics and heckling - pathetic.

I agree 100% with Chil - why is it deemed OK to abuse ALL MPs these days, irrespective of whether they are working hard or not? Of course there are good and bad MPs, but it's just so lazy to tar them all with the same brush.

FWIW I think the current set-up means that MPs are disproportionately drawn from minority groups and also over-represent certain 'quirky types' which means that they are definitely NOT representative of the electorate they serve.

I know quite a few MPs. One is a self-made millionaire lesbian. She works very hard, an is an excellent MP, but I can't help feeling that she can only do this because:
a) she has money from her previous own business, and can therefore 'afford' to live on an MPs salary, and
b) she does not have children/ parenting commitments.

Relative to the population there must be a disproportionate number of MPs who are gay/unmarried/ not parents?

Every so often I think of becoming a PPC to 'keep my options open' (I'm not getting any younger) and then I imagine:
- the media prying into the lives of my children
- old boyfriends coming out the woodwork claiming "she liked to dress up in a nurses outfit" (hmm)

or discovering that I underpaid £1.20 of income tax in 1982 or some such rubbish.

Sad really.

The country must be losing out on a lot of potential talent...

LeninGuido Fri 05-Nov-10 11:56:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrsbaldwin Fri 05-Nov-10 13:12:23

It's the rummaging in your bin by tabloid journos thing that most puts me off.

As Whippet says, I dread to think what my old boyfriends would say about me gringrin

llareggub Fri 05-Nov-10 13:50:10

Absolutely agree on the ghost of ex-boyfriends coming back to haunt PPCs. This has put me off a few times.

Local politics is probably just as bad as national politics. Meetings are held in the evening, go on for ages and even the most committed people are turned off by planning applications.

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