Theresa May MP, co-founder Women2Win


February 15th 2010

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Theresa May MP, co-founder Women2Win

Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women is contemplating an increase in the number of Conservative women MPs, should her party win the next General Election.

The numbers could rise from 18 now, just 9 per cent of the Parliamentary Party, to a possible 55 to 60, should the Tory Party get an overall majority.

This week another A List candidate, Joanne Cash in Westminster North, found themselves in the hot seat as she offered to resign amid a row with a senior local party member.

The Women2Win campaign was founded in November 2005 and the A-list was announced a month later, having first been suggested by Theresa May and Andrew Lansley in 2001. The roots of the Women2Win campaign pre-date Cameron but with the party leader’s conversion to All Women-Shortlists, following the publication of the Speaker’s Conference Report, the party is moving forward its progressive agenda. Research has shown that a women candidate can add 1 per cent to a party’s vote.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of www.wpradio.co.uk spoke to Theresa May MP about the history of the Women2Win campaign, her aspirations for future women MPs, and the issues they would be likely to champion.

Theresa May MP told us:

  • “I was a co-founder of the Women2Win Campaign with a number of others and the reason I did that was that we believed passionately in getting more women into Parliament and particularly more Conservative women MPs. We now have 18 women MPs and I think Parliament will make better decisions if it has a greater diversity of people and that includes the Conservative Party as well.”
  • ”It is always difficult to be precise, but if we were to get an overall majority of one, we would probably have 55 to 60 in the House as opposed to 18 and that is  a step-change for us in the number of women in the House.”
  • “I am pleased with the outcome (of Women2Win) I think we have done a great deal in the Party but I don’t think we can rest on our laurels. I think we have to continue the process of saying that we want to encourage more women to come forward, and then give them the support to get selected and then get elected in the seats they are standing for. “
  • “Women2Win I am sure is going to carry on doing that important job. In the early days we were about bringing women in encouraging them to stand for politics, giving them training and sessions about what it was like being a politician but now we are working much more intensively to make sure women get selected.”
  • “It sounds a bit grand when you say we were re-inventing politics. We have been trying to find new ways of doing politics and encouraging people to get  nvolved in politics. I think it is important  to change the politics to get people from this greater diversity of experience and background to be part of the decision making process as MPs. “
  • “We ensured we were using the new technology in terms of emails in our campaign and to get outside London to places like Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff , Scotland . We went about saying “give it a chance” politics is a really good thing to do. Women wait for someone to ask them to get involved in politics and that is where Women2Win has been important. ”
  • “We have had some fantastic women candidates who have also been part of promoting the campaign Margot James, Harriett Baldwin, Andrea Leadsom, the list could go on.”
  • “I think one of the reasons why the Party had always tried to get the results it wanted without going down the route of All Women-Shortlists was because we wanted to make sure we changed the culture in the party. We wanted it to be natural for women to be selected and if we had AWS throughout the process it would have given the message that  this was something the centre had decided and wouldn’t have helped change the culture. It was important to do it in other ways early on and then as David Cameron said to the Speaker’s Conference recently  to have AWS at the end.”
  • “David Cameron has continued to give the signal to people within the party that this is still an important issue. The Party may have thought you could take the foot off the accelerator and didn’t need to carry on and when David said to the Speaker’s Conference that we have some good women who have not been selected we will think about AWS it made people think perhaps more should be done.”
  • “If we do win the Election some of the proposals we have come up with in opposition will be put into practice such as our overall strategy on violence against women and our flexible parental leave, which I believe would start to change the culture in the workplace. If the father has time off when the child is born then maybe employer’s will start to look at this differently, changing the culture there is very important and so is flexible working.”
  • “There are some quite worrying figures about the impact of prison on women. Women go to prison for offences men might not be in prison for, we need to look at that as well.”
  • “I am not somebody who naturally uses the phrase clear blue water, I think it is important that on a number of these issues there isn’t division (across parties), but on some other matters there is. Our flexible parental leave would give fathers more leave and give greater flexibility and choice to parents. The government has done quite a lot on domestic violence, but there is some evidence that it is not all working. We need to link violence against women together in a strategy across departments to realise its impact across government and not treat it as a silo issue which Labour has done.”
  • “I certainly think the Women2Win campaign did put the issue out front and David Cameron did put this top of his agenda when he was elected to the leadership. I think the Party, over time, thought maybe this didn’t really matter because we had had Margaret Thatcher and Lady Astor. It has been a long process where the Associations have recognised that you need to look at the skills of the individual not look at the stereotype of what an MP is like.”
  • “I haven’t had a discussion about the International Women’s Day debate yet, my work is about getting into government.  Those debates have proved very good over time, sometimes they go off on a party political tone, sometimes they are the most well argued and reasoned debates we have.”
  • “I think that there is no doubt with a greater number of women in the House women’s issues have come to the fore, just look at the issue of violence against women which has been much more debated and addressed than it was previously. On the All Party Group on Human Trafficking, that is something where men are concerned as well. As politicians we embrace all issues, but the women are more likely to remember there is a woman’s angle to issues.”
  • “I think it is important to look at what support can be given to women MPs when they come in, of course, we are likely to have a  larger number of women with small children than before. But I am very pleased we may get women like Helen Grant, in Maidstone, who came through the Women2Win route into politics and it will be very pleasing.”
  • “As to the photograph I think the Blair’s Babes photograph came back to haunt the Labour women, people are coming up with all sorts of names about what the Conservative women MPs will be called, but I am sure we will mark the significant increase in the number of women MPs in a suitable way.”
  • “Women2Win has taken determination to keep this issue at the forefront of thinking within the Party and as a priority. When David Cameron became leader the first thing he talked about was the need to change the face of the party and to have this greater diversity of people in Parliament and it was that impetus that really made everybody stand up and say this is something we have got to do. We have had to keep this impetus going for four years.”
  • “You still get the odd noise-off where people don’t like what is happening, when people say they don’t like the idea of AWS because women will be second class citizens, I say we have had all male shortlists for a very long time and the men don’t think of themselves as second class citizens.”
  • “I think the sad thing (about the 40th anniversary of feminism this year) is there is still a lot of work to be done on issues like the gender pay gap and getting more women here into the Commons.”

A feature article on the foundations of the Women2Win Campaign written after it began reaching out to the regions in autumn 2006 can be accessed on our Home Page.

  • Footnotes:
  1. Wpradio.co.uk 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.
  1. wpradio.co.uk 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.
  1. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.
  1. Our supporters include Harriet Harman MP, Theresa May MP and Jo Swinson MP and many other female politicians listed on our site.
  1. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.
  1. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.

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