The Hustings! Women’s Parliamentary Radio talks to women MPs

NPG launch

January 18th 2010 new series “The Hustings”!

Women’s Parliamentary Radio talks to Claire Ward MP and Maria Miller MP on how women can get through their party “Hustings” in 2010

Women’s Parliamentary Radio continues its New Year series on “The Hustings!” with Claire Ward the Labour MP for Watford and Maria Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke.

We are interviewing all parties on how they are encouraging women to become Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in the forthcoming election.

We have already spoken to Jo Swinson the LD MP for East Dunbartonshire in the same series.

All three interviews are now on and an exclusive we secured at the recent Liberal Democrats Husting in Cambridge where three men and three women competed to be the next MP for Cambridge. The popular sitting MP David Howarth is standing down. We were live at the Hustings but you will have to listen in to find out who won.
The Hustings:

Claire Ward MP  Minister in Ministry of Justice team

Claire Ward, has been the Labour MP for Watford since 1997, one of the new 101 “revolution” of women who came in with that new Labour government, many on all women-shortlists although Claire was not one of these.  Just 24, she was the youngest ever Labour female MP and is now a Minister in the Ministry of Justice team.  She’s managed to juggle the job of an MP, with a new family, and ministerial responsibilities.

Claire welcomes the Speakers’ Conference report which wants all parties to do more to get women and ethnic minorities into Parliament. She tells Prospective Parliamentary Candidates it is a hard slog to get selected for a seat and that the job is “a way of life” but when you achieve success it is a “rewarding job”.  She applauds the planned new creche announced by Speaker Bercow but now says there needs to be further reform of the hours of the Commons.

She is proud of her government’s many achievements for women, which she says, still go largely unreported in a media which treats women MPs differently form male colleagues. Claire tells Executive Producer, Boni Sones:

  • “It’s a tremendous privilege to do the job as a Member of parliament, but there is no doubting that being a Member of Parliament isn’t just a job, it is a way of life. It isn’t a nine to five job, it does take up a huge amount of time and personal time and that of your family. It is also incredibly rewarding being able to see what difference you can make, being part of legislative changes like the minimum wage but also on personal cases for your constituents. When you get the success – that is what makes it a really rewarding job.”
  • “It was a revolution in 1997. I was elected not on an AWS,  there was a whole range of us coming in, but coming in with a large bulk of us meant we had the ability to do something collectively. I think the ethos of Parliament and the way in which it is operated has changed significantly in that time as well as the influence on government policy. You start at the very basic level when you come in and in 1997 there weren’t many facilities, the doors were marked “Members” and what they meant were men’s toilets, they just didn’t mean  “Ladies” and that applied in a whole range of facilities the showers, the simple things.”
  • “The Labour government concentrated more in policy terms on women, childcare and women in the workplace, because they had so many women  who were able to argue the case for it as well as the many other things they were bringing into the politics of the new Labour government.”
  • “We did it first, but I wouldn’t say job done. AWS are not in themselves a great thing to do they were a necessity in order to create a means to an end to show women can be good MPs. We need to ask how do we encourage a new politics, how do we make sure our Parliament is representative is it just about quotas or short-lists? The  Conservative’s are coming to this quite late because they have so few women and perhaps they are where we were in 1997. We need to change some of the politics to encourage much more diversity in our Parliament and the way in which we operate.”
  • “I’ve had my children in the last Parliament, and I didn’t take six months maternity. I was in and out and back in three months, and continuing to breast feed my children as well, you have to find the way to make this balance.”
  • “In the past I never supported the change in hours, I didn’t think you could have family friendly hours, and I have now changed my mind because there is a new politics. If you are going to have many more commuting MPs, and make changes the way expenses has shown the public want change, then we need to look at the hours too and have wholehearted reform.”
  • “As for the crèche, I have campaigned for that too, it’s madness we have the bars and shooting range and not a crèche, and not for MPs but for the staff too. Any employer should be providing that. I am delighted Speaker Bercow took up the reigns to introduce a nursery for all staff and that will be a commercial project.”
  • “If you want ordinary people you have to give that balance between the politics the parliament and people’s family. We have to change that attitude and get people in from all walks of life.”
  • “It’s tough to get selected in a winnable seat as a candidate and then once you are the candidate you might have two or three years as a hard slog in order to win it. It is hard work, nobody expects it to be easy. I think there are things we can do to help people, we need to make politics more accessible and the balance with families and perhaps make politics more constituency based.”
  • “I have never described myself as a Blair Babe, I don’t think it is an appropriate term. One of the things I did notice when I came in in 1997, is that the other young member of Parliament was a male colleague the same age as me and the media used to treat us completely differently in terms of reporting what I was wearing what I was looking like. That bias is hugely detrimental to what we are perceived to have achieved and I think we have achieved a huge amount in a society that dismisses what women have achieved and why we are there. “

The Hustings:

Maria Miller MP Shadow Minister for Family

Maria Miller, has been the Conservative MP for Basingstoke since 2005. As Shadow Minister for Women she has been championing a better work life balance for men and women and their families and says she would support a further reform of hours in the Commons. She thinks the planned new creche facilities announced by Speaker Bercow will benefit staff as much as MPs themselves.

Maria, who has a family and fought one seat in 2001 before being successful in Basingstoke, says the support of her husband and family was vital in helping her as a PPC to gain her seat, as well as helping her to bear the cost of it all.   She says the Conservative Party could increase its number of women MPs from 17 to over 50 in the next Parliament if the Conservatives get a clear majority and that its Leader, David Cameron MP has always wanted to see more women MPs in Westminster and in the government.

Maria thinks that some of the new women MPs could find themselves with ministerial responsibilities fairly quickly, she gained her Shadow Cabinet role after just six months in Westminster. She names Penny Mourdant, Margot James and Harriet Baldwin as candidates to watch. She told Executive Producer Boni Sones:

  • With an overall majority of one we’d have just over 50 MPs who would be female and that would be the first time we would have that many in Parliament and that would be a very exciting challenge for us.”
  • “It has been an enormous priority of David Cameron, there is always more to be done, I think it would be unfortunate if we see the overall number of women drop in the next election but we have some very capable women candidates who are going to be joining the parliamentary party I hope and adding to parliamentary life.”
  • “Penny Mourdant, Margot James, and Harriet Baldwin, all have tremendous experience outside. We have a powerful group of women coming in and I think they will really shout loudly in parliament.”
  • “David Cameron made it clear we needed a more diverse group of people in parliament, not just women but people representing different aspects of our community in parliament, we have to find a way of making it work within the Conservative Party structure which is very decentralised.”
  • “There is tremendous support for Women2Win within the parliamentary party, not just women but men as well. There is a real understanding we need to get more good women candidates in, not just getting more women selected but getting women to view politics as a career path.”
  • “It’s hugely expensive for all candidates, men too, it’s difficult for everybody, it is a job that so many people want. We need to consider why women are not putting themselves forward for the job in the first case.”
  • “I think you have to have a family that is willing to be in it with you, my family are all excited by politics and the job that I have including my seven-year-old son. I am fortunate my husband works full time and he picked up the bill while I was a candidate for two years. The Party does need to look at that.”
  • “Certainly we all have to hit the ground running, I was put onto the front bench six months after being selected, I hadn’t been a councillor before and it was a very steep learning curve, and it would be steeper if we are in government. The women coming into parliament have very strong credentials and this is vital if we are in a fortunate position of forming a government.”
  • “There are transferable skills from your life outside that you can bring into parliament, and I think it is important that people bring that experience into parliament and to be using it actively as quickly as possible.”
  • “I totally support the reform of hours and I will do everything in my power to give voice to that. I’m not sure a crèche will help Members, it might help their staff, but many of our children are too old. We need to ensure we can balance family and work life better. It is a struggle it is difficult, as we move forward, if recesses become shorter there will be less time to get back in touch with your family during the recess and we need to ensure MPs have time to connect with their families during the working week too.”


January 11th 2010 new series “The Hustings”!

Women’s Parliamentary Radio talks to Jo Swinson MP on how women can get through the Liberal Democrats’ hustings in 2010
The Hustings: Jo Swinson MP East Dunbartonshire.

Women’s Parliamentary Radio is beginning the New Year with a new series on “The Hustings!”

We are interviewing all parties on how they are encouraging women to become Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in the forthcoming election. We begin with Jo Swinson MP, for the Liberal Democrats’ who was the youngest MP in Westminster and who personally has done much to encourage women candidates. She gained her East Dunbartonshire seat in May 2005 when she was 25 and it was third time lucky for her.

Jo says the problem for the Liberal Democrat’s is not in the selection procedures, but in getting enough women to come forward. In Cambridge there are three men and three women, all local, going forward to the hustings on January 15th to replace the sitting MP David Howarth, who is standing down.

Jo is well known for her support of new media and was one of the first MPs to                                         use Twitter.

Jo tells Boni Sones OBE, Executive Producer of

  • David Cameron’s policy of promoting more women as PPCs is “all fur coat and no knickers as we say in Edinburgh”. “ I think you will find this is the case for Cameron’s support of All-women shortlists, he did it for a great headline…..but actually when you look behind it I am not sure there will be that many AWS in the Tories, they have not been selecting that many women in seats where MPs are standing down. Although they should end up with some more women MPs after the next election, they are not actually changing as much as David  Cameron would have you believe.”
  • “1 in 7 of our MPS are women, but there are things to be optimistic about …at the next General Election about 40 per cent of our target seats have women candidates. Where LD MPs are standing down 4 of the 7 have selected women so although we are starting from a low base we have some good signs of success that look as if we will increase our percentage of women at the next election.”
  • “Bridget Fox, in Islington South, Katy Gordon in Glasgow North, Sal Brinton in Watford, we have lots of women ideally placed to become MPs at the next General Election.”
  • “With the LDs the way we win elections is not a simple calculation of swing to win, it depends on local circumstances and where we are strong.”
  • “Where we have women going for seats in about 2/3rd of the time the women get selected so the problem we have is getting enough women to come forward to be candidates.”
  • “One of the biggest things is three or four times as many men are coming forward as candidates, there is still the three “C”s deficit, cash, child-care and confidence. I still get surprised when I go to schools when the boys ask the questions not the girls, girls need to be encouraged to speak out and make their voices heard.”
  • “All-women shortlists have their place….but if you look at the facts and evidence it is not what is happening in the LDs, we are not getting enough women coming forward in the first place, but when they go for seats they are more likely to be selected. “
  • “We need to get all political parties really proactive about going out and talent spotting and supporting great women candidates who perhaps haven’t even considered politics as something they might like to do. “
  • “Whether you are a man or woman as an MP you are likely to want to be involved in your children’s upbringing…. I would be interested in looking at measures such as whether or not job-sharing could be something that works, or genuine parental leave. There are some radical things we could look at but I am not sure the House of Commons is ready for it yet. ”
  • “My two top tips for political speaking, are if you are giving a speech in the Chamber make sure you are careful where you sit, so sit next to the microphones. And if you are giving a political speech take a deep breath and smile it helps you to relax as well.”

  • Footnotes:
  1. is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. It has over 100 interviews with women and male politicians of all parties which can be listened to online or downloaded as podcasts.
  2. has generated 58,000 hits a month 500,000 in a year. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year.
  3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.
  4. Our supporters include Harriet Harman MP, Theresa May MP and Jo Swinson MP and many other female politicians listed on our site.
  5. The British Library archives all the interviews on in its new web collection.
  6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.