On this site today, Trudi Harrison describes how, when Copeland’s Labour MP quit in 2016, she waited for someone local to come forward as Conservative candidate for the ensuing by-election. Only after a couple of weeks did it apparently occur to her that this person could be…her. She adds that it took a while for her to pluck up the courage to say out loud “I want to be Copeland’s next MP”. Perhaps the moment should have been set to music, as when Eliza Doolittle first pronounced “the rain in Spain.”
We’ve no hard evidence that women are more backward in coming forward as possible Parliamentary or council candidates than men, but Harrison’s story none the less rings a bell. Tomorrow and Wednesday, Anne Milton and Gillian Keegan will also be telling their stories. We hope, as they do, that this will encourage some Tory women somewhere to think of standing for Parliament who might not have done otherwise.
Women2Win as ever is looking to find and encourage such potential candidates, and 50:50 Parliament has a campaign running called
#askhertostand. It’s doubtful whether there will be a 50:50 Commons (let alone half-and-half Lords) any time soon or perhaps ever, but the campaign is a reminder, were it needed, that women are not, repeat not, a minority: they are half the population. Henry Hill’s May’s Men and Women found that the proportion of new Conservative women MPs fell from one in three in 2015 to one in five last summer.
When we last looked at the Ministerial ranks before the reshuffle, we found that the Cabinet had four full women members, with two more entitled to attend, and that out of 23 Ministers of State only three were female. There are still four full women Cabinet members, but the number of women who can attend is up to four – the two new ones being Caroline Nokes and Claire Perry. There are now seven women Ministers of State (including those two).
The relatively low number of women in the higher ranks of the Government is sometimes called “the pipeline problem” in Downing Street. Day Two of the reshuffle – we will pass over Day One – helped to hasten the flow. The number of women in Cabinet is set to rise, if Theresa May eventually risks another shake-up. But cast out the beam out of thine own eye, ConHome. There’s a bit of a pipeline issue in blogging, too. Ask Her To Write, anyone?