Women in British politics

27 Nov 2012

When people think of politics they think of the Prime Minster, they think about the political parties we have, they think about Parliament. However when it comes to naming people in British politics most of the names are men. Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and so on. The only name that people can really think of is Margret Thatcher when it comes to women. Well, and Nadine Dorries, but that’s another story in itself.

 

Women are highly under represented when it comes to politics. Just 100 years ago there were no female politicians in the Houses of Parliament. Today less than a quarter of MP’s are women and around one-fifth make up the total in the Lords. But why is this?  Women are no different to men.  Women have the same rights as men, but some people still don’t see women as equal. The first women to become an MP was Nancy Astor in 1919. Then in the general election in 1929 after the Equal Franchise act was passed in 1928 saw 16 female MP’s elected into Parliament. A big step for women.

Then, in 1979 Margret Thatcher became Prime Minster, something else to go down in history for women in politics. She had an 11 year leadership, shaping the country, changing politics for women and many other groups, and although not everyone will agree- she is a remarkable woman.  Although, even though she’s out of the public eye and has been for some time, she’s someone that is still brought up on a regular basis. She is one of the reasons why there are more women in politics today. Although it’s a number that still needs increasing- we know Maggie played a valuable part.

In Politics today we have a few female names that spring to mind. Angela Eagle – Shadow Leader to the House of Commons, Maria Eagle- Shadow Secretary for Transport and Theresa May – Home Secretary.  Just like all politicians, these women play important roles within society today. But does the fact that there are so few women in politics compared to men mean women aren’t getting as fairly represented? To me I think it’s important to get a gender balance within politics. If we leave it as a male dominated role then we risk putting women off in the future. So how do we can we change this? Is it as simple as getting more girls and women involved in the world of politics at grass-roots level or is there more to it?

Well, change is happening even as I write- take a look at the youth of today. The UK Youth Parliament is made up of 54% female and 46% male. They have already made history by being the only group of people besides MP’s allowed to debate in the chamber, they also have a better representation of females than the ‘adult parliament’ and have made further history by having the first woman to wear a hijab at the dispatch box. Sumaiya Karim, 16, who was the first woman to wear a hijab at the dispatch box said to me, "I feel truly privileged and honoured. Not only was I representing young people but Muslim women of the UK. I’m humbled by the response and want to see more women and definitely more Muslim women in the world of politics."  By the looks of it Youth Parliament is already representing women in politics greatly. However, who knows if this will carry on onto the future parliament? All I can say is that I hope so.

Will our current MYP’s reflect the gender representation of future MP’s? Will this gender balance continue to the future? I would like to think it will; I have a strong hope and indeed a belief that as the years go on there will be a lot more women in British politics.

By Michaella Philpot

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