The Conservatives have a proud tradition of firsts when it comes to women in politics. In 1919 it was Conservative Nancy Astor who was the female MP to take her seat in Parliament. 1970 saw Betty Harvie Anderson become the first female Deputy Speaker of the Commons. 1975 saw Margaret Thatcher become the first female Leader of the Opposition, going on to become our first female Prime Minister in 1979. Last year saw Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani become the first female Muslim minister to speak at the despatch box.
This week sees the 100 year anniversary since the first women in our country were given the vote. Clearly there has been much progress in the last 100 years and a record number of women were elected to Parliament at the 2017 General Election, but it is still true that women are under-represented in positions of public office.
I want to see more women in public life and more women representing the Conservative Party at every level, but I have never agreed with Labour’s previous approach of having all-women shortlists which discriminate against men. I prefer a welcoming and encouraging environment while trying to remove any barriers to participation.
At the local level I am keen to see more female Councillors in Crawley. At Crawley Borough Council, the Conservative Group currently has 7/17 female Councillors and the Labour Group currently has 5/19, so overall there are 12/36. In 2019 the whole Council will be up for election following a boundary review and I hope that one outcome will be that this total increases, so that our Council is a bit more representative of our town.
I believe one of the barriers to participation is the toxic atmosphere created in politics since Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum organisation was formed. Last week the female Labour Leader of Haringey Council resigned, citing sexism and bullying from within the Labour party. Social media in particular can be an unpleasant place and female MPs of all parties receive more abuse than their male counterparts. Such abuse is never acceptable and should be treated with a zero-tolerance approach.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
7th February 2018