The 2015 General Election demonstrated that, given the opportunity, women win seats.
Of the 111 seats that changed hands, women won 41% of them:
- 19 (38%) of the 50 new seats won by SNP were won by women
- 14 (63%) of the 22 new seats won by Labour were won by women
- 13 (37%) of the 35 new seats won by the Conservatives were won by women.
These winning results are particularly interesting given that women were only 25% of the Conservative candidates and 33% of Labour candidates. This and the success of the SNP women has brought some change to the face of the Commons. It was great to see the photos and tweets from the new women arriving at Westminster.
Women now have 43 more seats. They hold 191 (29%) of the 650 seats, up from 148 (23%) before the Election. Of the main parties Labour leads the way with 99 women MPs (43%), SNP next, with 20 women accounting for 36% of their MPs and then the Conservatives with 68 women accounting for 21% of their seats.
The 2015 Election has been ground breaking for women's political participation in other ways too:
- A record number of women stood for election, totalling over 1030 and there was a woman on the ballot paper in 84% of constituencies.
- Before the election the female Party leaders: Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood, featured widely. They played a major part in the TV Leaders' debates and again during the Challenger's debate, this time outnumbering the men.
- After the election there was a point when all the opposition parties were actually being 'led' by deputies, who were women.
- David Cameron has appointed 7 women as Ministers in his 22 strong post-election cabinet.
- Women now have 39% of the seats on the opposition benches and 20% in Government. Prior to the election women had 55 of the Coalition seats, just 15%, so 68 seats in Government is an improvement.
However, in spite of all this success women are still significantly under-represented in the UK Parliament and British politics:
- Only 26% of the candidates in the last election were women.
- 102 constituencies had no women standing
- There were 2 or fewer women standing in 80% of constituencies.
- Men continue to outnumber women 2 to 1 in the House of Commons.
Things are changing but at the current rate it will take around 50 years to achieve equality at Westminster.
The UK should be a world leader with respect to women but in fact 42 countries have proportionally more women in their parliaments. Women and society deserve better. There have only ever been 451 women MPs, so there are still more men in the Commons than there have ever been women. Prior the General Election Jon Snow, Channel 4 News said it was "shameful" that there had been so few women in the Commons.
The 32 million UK women are 51% of the population, they are the diverse majority. They have many merits, representing 51% of the Nation's experience and expertise.
For proper representation women need around another 134 seats, so there is a way to go! The Women's Equality Party has recently been set up to campaign for equality. But which of the other parties is going to stand up for women and ensure that they have their fair share of the winnable seats? Or, as the Head of Hansard has suggested, is this matter too important to leave to the parties, is there a case for constitutionalizing equal representation?
50:50 Parliament is a cross-party campaign petitioning for a debate and action around this crucial democratic issue. We envision men and women legislating the laws of our land together in roughly equal numbers. One way or another, sooner rather than later, we would like the best of both, women and men, to be working together at Westminster for our future. The effects would ripple out across society. Please add your support and ask for this important issue to be addressed by signing here change.org/5050Parliament.
Together we can make a difference!