NEWS

Women Elected To Parliament Since 1918 FINALLY Outnumber Sitting Male MPs

Landmark reached after recent by-elections.

01/03/2017 16:52 | Updated 01 March 2017

A depressing, oft-cited statistic about how male parliament is has stopped being true - for now.

Feminist campaigners have often emphasised the appalling fact that there were more men sitting in the House of Commons than women who had ever been elected to it.

After the flurry of by-elections in recent weeks, which returned three women and one man, this is no longer true.

When Labour’s Jamie Reed resigned as MP for Copeland on December 21, it left 454 sitting male MPs and 455 women elected to it since women first got the vote in 1918.

JACK TAYLOR via Getty Images
Trudy Harrison

Copeland’s new MP Trudy Harrison was sworn in on Wednesday, making her the 196th female MP in this parliament and the 456th elected to it overall. Her election meant there were 454 male sitting MPs.

Caroline Criado-Perez, feminist campaigner and journalist, said: “It’s obviously fantastic news that almost 100 years after women finally won the right to stand for election there have now been more women MPs in history than there are men sitting in a single parliament. We still have a long way to go.

“We will not have a Government that delivers for women as well as it delivers for men until women are represented in parliament in line with their representation in the population: that is, 50%.”

Matthew Horwood via Getty Images
Caroline Criado-Perez: 'It’s fantastic news that almost 100 years after women finally won the right to stand for election, there have now been more women MPs in history than there are men sitting in a single parliament. We still have a long way to go.'

Frances Scott, who founded the 50:50 Parliament campaign for a gender equal legislature, told HuffPost UK it was “great we’ve got another women elected in parliament”.

But she added: “We now have 196 women at Westminster but men still outnumber women by more than two to one. So the organisation is still predominantly male and that has a major impact on the legislation and the way debate happens.”

“The evidence suggests men are more likely to listen to women’s concerns when there are more women in the room,” she continued.

“Take equal pay, take FGM, take domestic violence... Having more women at Westminster will have an impact on the legislation that is formed. It will also have an impact on the nature of the debate that will take place...

We think men are brilliant but we also happen to think women are brilliant. We need the best of both." Frances Scott, Founder, 50:50 Parliament

“Women’s life experiences are different. There’s a whole gamut of stuff that women need to be involved in formulating. Reproductive rights. how we raise our kids, what sort of childcare we have.”

Hannah Philp, co-director of 50:50 Parliament’s drive to encourage more women to stand to be MPs, said: “We must remind ourselves that we are talking about the whole of history of the UK parliament versus a single snapshot in time.

“So, while this is a step in the right direction, a democratic deficit remains and the total number of women in parliament today is embarrassingly shy of where it should be if our national legislative body wishes to be truly representative of the UK electorate.”

The biggest single increase in female MPs was the 1997 General Election, which doubled the number of women in parliament to 120.

The 2010 and 2015 elections both saw large increases in the number of women in parliament.

When asked when she expected the House of Commons to be gender balanced, Scott said: “It’s going to be at least two election cycles and I would expect three... To my mind that’s too long.

Scott added: “We think men are brilliant but we also happen to think women are brilliant. We need the best of both...

“We need women’s expertise. We need their experience. Our parliament is lesser for the lack of women.”

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