THE BLOG

Mind the Gender Gap at Westminster

07/05/2015 10:24 BST | Updated 07/05/2016 10:59 BST

Today is Election Day and your vote counts!

We at the 50:50 Parliament Campaign want everyone to be out there using their little stubby pencil to put a cross against their chosen candidate. This is a "right" that the historic Suffragettes and Suffragists struggled hard for, making many personal sacrifices along the way.

So who should you to vote for?

Vote for women or men who support equality. Why? Because there is a "gender gap" at Westminster and we mind that gap! Before the election, of the 650 seats in the Commons, only 148 (23%) were occupied by women with 502 (77%) being held by men. Men outnumbered women three to one. For equality in the Commons 325 female MPs are needed from a population of 32 million UK women. That is 177 more than in the last Parliament. It does not seem like such a large number but on the basis of the last three elections, when on average only eight extra women gained seats, it will take 100 years to achieve parity.

There seems to be a structural, historic problem. Inspite of women having the vote since 1918 there have only ever been 370 women in the Commons, which as Jon Snow, TV presenter for Channel 4 News pointed out in a tweet last week is "shameful". Women are 51% of the population, 51% of the experience, talent and expertise. We need them in Parliament.

Today a record number of women, over 1030, are putting themselves up for election but they are only 26% of the total candidates. The question is are they being supported by the main parties in winnable seats?

Let's look at the statistics:

  • 102 constituencies do not even have one woman standing, whereas all have at least one man on the ballot paper.
  • 80% of constituencies have none or only one or two female candidates.
  • In the other 132 constituencies there is a total of 426 women on the ballot paper.
  • Three constituencies have five female candidates, the most standing for any seat, whereas 314 constituencies have 5-11 men, on the ballot paper.
  • The bottom line is that there are more than 325 women out there putting themselves forward but they are thinly spread, facing disproportionate odds.

Inspite of the fact that more women than ever before will have their names on the ballot papers it is unlikely that the Westminster "gender gap" will be fixed at this General Election.

There seems to be a 'structural' problem.

We would like Parliament to examine the situation and come up with a solution to this democratic deficit, it is a democratic disgrace!

Our vision is a Parliament where men and women legislate the laws of our land together in roughly equal numbers, building a better, more balanced society for everyone.

The 50:50 Parliament campaign would like change. We are a grassroots, cross-party campaign with a petition at change.org/5050Parliament, asking Party Leaders to debate and take action for better gender balance in the UK Parliament. We would like a more equal Parliament, one way or another, sooner rather than later. We have a diverse support base which includes women and men.

This is not an impossible dream. Seventy other countries have proportionally more women in their Parliaments than the UK and it is possible to solve this problem in a single day, for example Senegal went from 22% women in Parliament to 44%, overnight, in one election.

50:50 Parliament have been called the 21st Century Suffragettes, we continue the fight for equality. Last Sunday we had a small protest picnic outside Parliament and Helen Pankhurst, the great great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst tweeted us "Good Luck" and encouraged us to "keep up the pressure" . This is exactly what we intend to do.

We have had support of many MPs who have been photographed wearing our t-shirt with the first being Ben Bradshaw MP, that was a great day!

The Fawcett Society, National Alliance of Women's Organisations, Feminism in London Conference, One Billion Rising UK, WOW Festival London, Stand-Up for Women, Tax on Tampons, Name Equality and many others are offering support.

Representation shapes the policies. David Cameron, Prime Minster said in Parliament at Prime Minister's Question Time Feb 2014 that this is "Fantastically important...but we need to do much more" and Ed Milliband in the All Party Parliamentary Report Improving Parliament July 2014 that "The increasing number of women in Parliament has played a role in ensuring that important issues such as domestic violence, discrimination and childcare have risen to the top of the political agenda, greatly improving the lives of millions of women across the country. However, achieving a more representative Parliament is a job that is still far from complete." At the Speakers Conference in November 2012 the Head of Hansard wrote that this matter is "Too Important to Leave to Parties: The Case for Constitutionalising Equal Representation"

So, we want to know "What is the plan?" as the old Suffragette saying goes "We need deeds not words" .

For everyone's sake we need to finish off the job that those amazingly brave women started.

Please help us campaign for better gender equality of representation in our lifetime!

Join our movement! Don't just vote at this General Election but also sign our petition at change.org/5050Parliament and share it with your friends.

Then, maybe, by the next election in 2020, there will be an equal number of men and women to choose from on the ballot paper and more equality at Westminster.

Help make history happen!

#WhyVote #VotingMatters #Suffragette2015 #5050ParliamentPetition #5050Parliament