Thursday, April 30, 2009

Women in Parliament

As it stands there are 125 female MPs out of 646 in total, which is 19.3% by my calculator. Sadly one unintended consequence of a Labour defeat at the coming General election will almost certainly mean a dip in the number of female MPs, just as it did in 1979, the last time Labour was booted out of office (that time it went from 27 to 19).

As you can see from the graph below, the '97 Labour landslide was a massive leap forwards for equal representation, a leap forward that the other parties did little to contribute to. Alas, depending on the level of catastrophe Labour faces we could see the number of women in Parliament plummet. I think that would be a very bad thing.

Which led me to wonder about the European Parliament. Unfortunately I had to go and add this up myself (by counting from a list of MEPs) as I couldn't find it on the net, this should be right, I've counted to twenty one before.

Year Women MEPs
1979 11
1984 13
1989 12
1994 16
1999 21
2004 20

That's 25.6% of the current crop - so maybe Proportional Representation helps even if having twelve male UKIP MEPs does skew the sample a touch.

Jim Jay's top five "women in Parliament" facts;
  • In the early eighteen eighties the first mass movement for extending suffrage included some fantastic women, including, for example, Mary Walker and Susanna Inge.
  • The first woman elected to Parliament was in 1918 and was a Countess no less. Countess Constance Markievicz was a radical Sinn Fein MP who was in jail when elected.
  • However, Markievicz was not allowed to take her seat. The first women to take her seat in the House of Commons was a merely a Viscountess, the Tory Nancy Astor in 1919.
  • Labour's Margaret Bondfield was the first female Minister in 1924.
  • We know who the first (and only) female Prime Minister was, so lets skip over that.
You can do your bit to stem the reduction of women MPs by supporting Caroline Lucas at the next general election, of course. That might help.


weggis said...

How many PPCs do the GP have and what proportion are women?

Jim Jepps said...

I don't know and I'd also be interested in see ing those figures. I know that now we have a equal opps exec position there seems to be more monitoring of this kind of thing.

I'll email someone who might know and let you know.

My general impression is that we do very well on this kind of thing. We have half our exec are women, both MEPs and many of our grass roots activists. There have been problems though - for instance my region has just one woman on the euro list I believe which is a bit of a problem - but I know that wasn't for the want of trying!

phelimmacc said...

very interesting piece and glad to see another Markievicz fan. As a Markievicz-enthusiast I have to ask for clarity:
you write that Markievicz was not allowed to take her seat (by who?) Whereas I believe that in actual fact Markievicz refused to take her seat as it was (and still is) Sin Fein policy not to take seats in Westminster.

Jim Jepps said...

You might be right - I should look that up as it was from memory - I thought she was in jail and so couldn't take up her seat (or did that rule come in later?)