We ask Katy Clark MP is the commons family friendly?

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
December 18th 2010
In 2011 we ask is the Commons family friendly? Katy Clark MP who is juggling a new baby and a demanding job says there’s room for improvement!

Katy Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran since 2005 has an 18 month-old-daughter, took maternity leave, and quite often uses colleagues to hold her daughter while she pops into the Chamber to vote. Katy tells Women’s Parliamentary Radio about her “two-lives” with a constituency that is 400 miles and a five hour journey from Westminster and a job that is a “vocation”.

Katy doesn’t think the further reforms of the Commons hours suggested by Green MP Caroline Lucas would help her but she says it may help those living nearer to London. She says the “costs” of child-care are “considerable” and difficult to manage! Katy told our Executive Producer Boni Sones OBE how she juggles work and home life:

“I’ve tried to minimise the travelling for my daughter, so she spends half her time in London and half in Scotland, I sometimes go up and down every week but she doesn’t! I had a child relatively late in life and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible so therefore you do run yourself ragged to minimise the time you are away from her. You do spend your time rushing from one thing to another.

“I was a person who always worked seven days a week in a large geographical constituency. Maybe I am using my time more wisely, and I am more efficient now, but I just can’t put the hours in I used to. “
Katy said the Labour Whips helped her take time off before her first vote back in the Commons when her daughter was just three weeks old:

“Having her here I get less work done, so as much as possible she is not here. The Labour whips were wonderful and I was very impressed with the fact I was allowed time off the whip and didn’t have to be here for a considerable period of time. But you still have emails and your constituency work and nobody else can construct a letter with your views, so you have to continue at some level, all the way through the process. I also started to do constituency work again after about a month, attending events and seeing constituents.

“The first time I voted she was three weeks old, and I came down overnight to vote and I left her for less than 24 hours.”

Katy said MPs do have to provide and sometimes pay for two sets of child-care to fulfil their role as an MP and that’s tough:

“Representing a Scottish constituency which is so geographically distant from Westminster, you really do have two lives, it is the only way you can do it, and that means you have two sites for childcare arrangements and it gets complicated and expensive.”

She said she didn’t think further reform of the Commons hours, as some are suggesting, would be helpful to her, but it may help others living near to London, and that the cost of childcare was the real issue:

“The Caroline Lucas reforms – the hours have always been a problem, many women MPs have been taking up this issue for many years. There have been changes to the hours, and I think we have gone backwards again since May under the Coalition government, because we are having more late nights than ever before and more irregular hours. Sometimes we only find out what we are doing on the day that is difficult when you have childcare arrangements that have to be made. A more sensible arrangement is needed not just for childcare reasons but because it is more sane to the outside world as well.”

Katy said the new 1 Parliament Street Commons crèche was helpful but that the costs were still prohibitive. However, colleagues were used to holding her daughter while she voted:

“The crèche in Parliament Street is symbolically incredibly important, by saying children are welcome here, but it is only part of the solution because you can’t keep young children here until eleven at night, it is not OK on a daily basis. The reality is we still can’t take young children through the voting lobbies, that may come. We can still bring our children here on a Friday to maximise our contact with the children and we often leave them with a friendly MP for a moment while we go to vote.

“However we do the job, we are going to have to put in long hours and represent far flung communities. I was in after nine today, my first Select Committee was just after ten and the Chamber will go on until after ten tonight. You can change the way that the place works but perhaps it is not really doable unless you work until late at night.”

She said her beliefs and convictions made the job and juggling work and home-life really worth-while but again stressed that the cost of childcare may prohibit some women from becoming an MP in the first place:

“I wanted to keep a set of values alive, what keeps me going is what I believe in politically. We live in an incredibly unfair society where the wealth and power is very unequally divided and I think it is exceptionally important that women get involved and articulate a very different way of running the World, it’s not the hours but the cost of childcare that is the issue for me.

“The cost of being an MP is a huge worry because you have two lives and two sets of childcare, I have considerable family support, and I don’t need to pay for childcare in Scotland, it would be incredibly difficult if I was, the figures wouldn’t add up. Women who have children should be able to represent the communities that they live in. The crèche is £1,300 a month full time – with a 52 weeks a year contract and you have childcare elsewhere too. It is a huge step forward but it doesn’t address the issues. “

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. 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. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

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 Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

End.

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www.wpradio.co.uk Reviews the political year

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
December 14th 2010
http://www.wpradio.co.uk reviews the political year with Conservative MP Helen Grant, Times Sketch writer Ann Treneman, and Cambridge students at a protest sit-in.

Our http://www.wpradio.co.uk reporter Linda Fairbrother spoke to Helen Grant the new Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald, the former seat of “Strictly” star Ann Widdecombe. But from her first “biggest, best” day as an MP, through to her Maiden Speech, Helen says it’s “issues” she’s concerned with and there will be no dancing for her:

• “I wish I had a penny for everybody who has asked me about Ann but Ann is Ann . There is only one Ann I will have to be their Helen and through hard work, integrity and service I will win their respect. On the couple of occasions during the campaign when I did need her she was there. “

• “The Chamber takes some getting used to, even though I am a Solicitor and had been to Court, there’s nothing quite like the Chamber, there’s tradition, there’s procedure, you have to notify the Speaker before you make your Maiden Speech, it’s not a moment to mess up, there’s pressure. I waited for five hours that day, but it was a lovely opportunity to listen to others, I spoke about social mobility, aspiration, family and enterprise, which have been key to getting me here.”

• “I don’t talk about being the first female black MP, but if it breaks down those ceilings it’s a good thing. I’m just Helen and all I wanted to do was become the next MP for Maidstone and the Weald and thankfully I am here. I now want to work hard and you have to prove yourself to be useful, reliable and loyal.”

• “I became a Member of the Justice Select Committee, and we are currently looking at the work of the Family Courts and the Probation Service. I feel I can draw on the experience of 23 years and hopefully it will be listened to and be of good use.”

• “I’m enjoying it enormously – no one day is the same, one day I’m walking and talking with giants like Margaret Thatcher or David Cameron, and the next day I am walking with our dog Charlie, who recently won the Westminster Dog of the year, there’s never a dull moment.”

• “I’m a very busy hard working MP and have no time for “Strictly Come Dancing”.

Linda Fairbrother asks the Times columnist Ann Treneman to review the political year. Her book “Annus Horribilis” – The Worst Year in British Politics – is available on Amazon.co.uk – Here she tells us how she rates the women politicians in the Chamber in 2010 and she’s got a soft spot for Theresa May MP, the Home Secretary.

• “At one time I banned myself from writing about her shoes, because it was just too easy, but I am back now because I actually think – unlike some other Home Secretaries – she has a grip at what she is good and bad at. Jacqui Smith had no clue how she was seen by the outside World. Theresa is acutely aware of how she and the Tory Party is seen – she is the one who made the “nasty party” speech. She has been refreshingly good, quite tart with the opposition, quite focused, doesn’t get in out of her depth, knows when to stop. She is a woman who knows her limits, she has been quite a surprise so far, but that job has a way of gobbling you up so we will see what happens, but I think she has had a good year.”

• “Harriet is my woman of the year without question, I am giving her huge points, she’s has a great year! Not only has she managed to lead Labour out of the wilderness – although some would say they are still in it – she led them during this quite difficult time and Harriet has learnt to make jokes! When she made that ginger rodent jibe – not many years ago a joke was a foreign country for Harriet. I don’t think anyone was offended. I think even Danny A thought it was quite funny really. I think there’s logic there, but I am a sketch writer. I think Harriet has done a brilliant job, she’s become a pro at PMQs, she really handled it and you have got to give her points for that. ”

• “The Lib Dem women are between a rock and a hard place, like the Lib Dems are. Sarah Teather and Lynne Featherstone are the only women to break through, sometimes I think am I missing people with the Lib Dems! Lynne Featherstone has all the right instincts but she is completely stifled by a role in a Tory government, she is having to defend policies she does not believe in. I think Sarah Teather has a better role because she really does believe in the pupil premium, but you feel she has become invisible and that they have lost their way.”

• “I think we have some very good new women MPs, they are a breath of fresh air, Luciana Berger on the Labour side, Rachel Reeves from Labour. On the Tories side I have been interested in Charlotte Leslie, Penny Mourdant, Elizabeth Truss, Priti Patel. There is a whole host of new women on the benches and hope springs eternal I think they will make a difference.”

http://www.wpradio.co.uk also caught up with two student protestors in the sit-in at Cambridge Old School’s Combination Room, and asked 25-year-old Phd student “Polly” ( a pseudonym) and 22-year-old history student Rachel to review the past year in politics and to look forward to 2011. They both said they felt “betrayed” by politics and the “Big Society” and their new Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, however the Conservative students in Cambridge are supporting him and the doubling in fees to to £6,000 a year or more. Boni Sones spoke to them both.

Polly said: “Fees is a bigger betrayal than expenses. The fact is I felt the expensive scandal was systematic and evidence of corruption in Westminster but this vote shows that our government is putting in jeopardy the futures of those they are supposed to be representing and it is unacceptable.”

Rachel said: “Expenses was a distraction from some of the real problems we are facing. It was symptomatic of wider lack of accountability by politicians and the fact the papers focused on this issue for so long was a major betrayal. They are not looking at the education cuts, tuition fee rises, and wider cuts, and it shows the way the media is framing the cuts at the moment. I don’t trust the media to portray the cuts either. “

Our supporters in the Lords:
Congratulations to Anne Jenkin wife of Tory North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin who was made a peer because of her charitable and political work for the Conservative Party. Labour politician Oona King and the Liberal Democrat politician Sal Brinton are both in the Lords too. All three peers are interviewed under our 2008 content page: Do listen:www.wpradio.co.uk/index3.html

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. 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. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

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 Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

“if Chole Can” with Esther McVey MP for Wirral West

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release

December 2nd 2010
“IF Chole Can” – Iain Duncan Smith MP and Esther McVey MP tell http://www.wpradio.co.uk how your girls need positive role models for successful careers

At the launch of “If Chole Can” an inspirational careers “bookazine” aimed at 11-13 year olds on Merseyside, and written by Esther McVey Conservative MP for the Wirral West, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP founder of the Centre for Social Justice, told Boni Sones OBE, Executive Producer of Women’s Parliamentary Radio that young women needed new role models to help them form successful careers.

Mr Duncan Smith MP said: “I think it is an excellent idea. I have two daughters I hope they will be able to go on and achieve in their own right, this helps people like them realise others have gone before them and also it is a chance for people who don’t have a supportive family like mine do to read this and realise they are just as good as anybody else. They can go on to achieve and that is one of the big problems to get young girls born into a broken home and difficulties to get a sense of self worth and self esteem that values them as human beings rather than as the goods and chattels of somebody else.

“What I am trying to do is help change society so that young woman at the bottom of society in the most difficult circumstances can go out and get work and achieve and do what they can do rather than think they are nothing other than just a sex object for some violent man and changing that is critical. That is what we are trying to do with our reforms that we are bringing through and the career path and the magazine and Esther’s magazine is in the middle of that showing them that they can do that.”

”If Chloe Can” will be distributed free across Merseyside and then will be launched nationally too, and will address what is perceived to be a lack of “visible and professional” role models for girls. On Merseyside, girls are double the national average to claim benefits and half the national average to set up in business.
The book is comprised of a wide variety of female ‘firsts’ who have all been high achievers in their respective fields. All have overcome difficulties and hardships to become the best in the world; their talents and expertise range from; science to finance, law to politics, fashion and arts.

Mr Duncan Smith went on to tell http://www.wpradio.co.uk that girls were too often told they should try to attain “instantaneous” celebrity rather than taught how to build “sustainable” careers:
“The magazine features role models who have achieved tangible things often never heard of, often quiet but actually they are the key. There is a tendency for most girls magazines to feature nothing but instantaneous celebrity and that is not very healthy because you want sustainable futures for these girls. You want them to go on and do anything but on the basis of what they have achieved and that changes lives.

“It’s about figuring out what works and making sure that girls who would never have had that chance can recognise how to achieve it and that others have achieved in more difficult circumstances than themselves. People go on to achieve great things and they will realise they have just as much going for them as everybody else and that is key. “

Esther McVey MP told http://www.wpradio.co.uk: “I was concerned about the alarming job stats to come out of Merseyside because girls didn’t have role models so I set about collecting the stories of friends and others I thought were inspirational. Every lady I approached said I will do that because we have messages and stories to tell. You maybe issued a bad set of cards to play with but it is what you do and how you overcome it, and nothing good comes easy you have to keep going. People are told things are going to be so easy and they aren’t.

“I wanted to be an MP to address unfairness and that is really my motivational force and that is across the board. From Merseyside we want to extend it right across the UK and “If Chloe can” anyone can. There are tips on how people achieved and what they did and you can see how much time and hard work went into it, it is realistic expectations.”

The http://www.wpradio.co.uk round table debate also spoke to: Debbie Moore – First Female to set up a PLC Pineapple; Lucinda Ellery – Inspirational Businesswoman; Rona Cant – Adventurer; Gillian McDonald – First UK Female Whisky Distiller; Lisa Pover – Cabbie turned Yachtsman and founder of the Lisa Pover Charitable Trust; Louise Greenhalgh – First UK Female Bomb Disposal Officer in Afghanistan.

The RT Hon John Hayes MP – Minister for State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning also told http://www.wpradio.co.uk that girls careers will be top of his agenda:
“Esther is a great role model a great example of what women can do, she has fought a very hard battle to elevate the role of women and the potential of women and to help us realise that. I want to borrow from that understanding and enthuse our policy agenda with that potential and I want to challenge our preconceived ideas about careers and learning for women.

“There will be more apprenticeships for women, better advice and guidance for women and a clearer pathway in schools that helps them to fulfil their potential. This book is a great step and all credit to Esther McVey.“

Mr Duncan Smith MP went on to say that many other careers were available for women to pursue if only they were told about them:
“X Factor is entertainment, but too often now the only way women are portrayed is in instantaneous celebrity and there are now women in substantial careers stock-broking, engineers, women fighter pilots, women diffusing bombs, these are substantial careers you have probably never heard of. Celebrity is fine but it is only a tiny bit of what women should aspire to and all these other things are worth a huge amount to families and the state.”

He said too often the media commented on what women wore not what they did:
“I wish the media would get it sorted out they comment constantly on what women MPs wear, but there are plenty of men that wander round in the same suit or tie they wore three days running, men get away quite lightly, women get here because they have real belief like Esther, they should have real respect. I tell my daughters you are better than any man you can achieve what you want to achieve, if you put your heart to it and I will back you and I tell my sons too, we know how to argue robustly. “

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. 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. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

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 Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone talks to www.wpradio.co.uk

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
November 19th 2010
Two women at the top

Lynne Featherstone MP for Hornsey and Wood Green is the new Equalities Minister. Alongside Theresa May MP the Home Secretary and Minister for Women & Equalities she will be spearheading the coalition government’s equalities plans.

Lynne “loves” coalition government, thinks “thrashing out” compromises is a good way to work and says she’s looking forward to implementing the Labour government’s Equalities Act, which she says is a “three party” success story.

She’s pledged to narrow the gender pay gap and wants all teenagers to see the film “Made in Dagenham”. Lynne and Theresa are busy progressing their own equalities agenda including flexible working, a Transgender Action Plan, kite marking air-brushing in magazines, more women in the Boardrooms, and moving the civil partnership agenda forward.

NB: This interview was conducted before the government announced it will drop Labour’s proposed new socio-economic Equality law duty requiring councils to tackle social deprivation.

Lynne told Boni Sones OBE our Executive Producer:
• “Firstly I am living proof miracles do happen, I had never thought of being a government minister in the way that this had happened. The Liberal Democrats were not necessarily starred to go straight to government. But opportunity has knocked.”

• “I love coalition – two heads are always better than one and interestingly, the Equality Act which I am commencing, it was a Labour Bill, but both the opposition parties supported it. I did put down so many amendments on women’s issues, particularly on pay, which Labour didn’t accept. The Bill is going ahead, nine-tenths is already commenced and the outstanding issues are coming on stream, they were not all timetabled to start at the same moment. The clauses on positive action, goods and services, old people, dual discrimination are being worked out with business too. You could say it was a three party success. “

• “I thought “Made in Dagenham” was a brilliant film! I think children of 12 young girls and boys should see it, it shouldn’t have an adult rating because it is such a significant part of our social history and made that huge differential step hat led to the Equal Pay Act. Now forty years later I am trying to deliver what those women started, and it’s a fight still. We are moving the agenda forward, such as the removal of gagging clauses, and how the gender pay reporting parts of the Bill are going to work the voluntary side. We are progressing women on Boards, it’s still a pitiful seven per cent, and we’re looking a how we can break down those barriers for women at all levels including the psychological ones.”

• “There is no rowing back, it may not be the way envisaged by the previous government, but there is no doubt that Theresa May and myself are committed to the agenda of narrowing the pay gap, and flexible working for all. These are measures that will change things quite substantially. Requesting flexible working often labels you as a woman but flexible working will help men too who have children and caring responsibilities. It should be the norm and best business practice because the best businesses do it already because it increases their bottom line. “

• “Theresa and I are very different women, I’m Liberal Democrat and she’s Conservative, you just look at us and you know that, but we are both absolutely committed to the cause. We do have very vibrant differences of how we want to get there, but it is just like in the real world you have to thrash it out between you and you work out the best way possible and with the sum of two you get the better methodology. We have to work it out, but right across government, there are loads of disagreements all the time, it is proper government because they have to be discussed out in the open with officials. They are hard fought for thought through policies in a way we haven’t seen in a long time, I think it is a better form of government.”

• “I am very proud to push the LBG and T agenda forward. We are the first government ever to be publishing a Transgender Action Plan for equalities rights. That will come next year and they are probably the most marginalised groups. It was fantastic to go on the gay pride march, I will always push the equalities agenda as I am a Liberal but equally matched by my Conservative coalition, for a long time they had a relatively poor reputation here, but that has changed beyond recognition, and they now have a desire to move forward. The doors I am pushing at in terms of this equality agenda are far more open than people would realise.”

• “The Real Woman campaign and the body confidence campaign I regard as really important and while the media may say this is not government business, it is felt out there in the country. The size of this problem for young people, the depression the anxiety the eating disorders, because we are fed this continuous diet of the body shape that we all have to aspire is felt – parents know it and to a child these things are monumental. It such an important campaign but it wasn’t in the Coalition Agreement but it is now. I have pushed it onto the government agenda as I am sure they accidentally forgot it. “

• “As a Minister for Equalities people do listen to you differently and that allows me to help all the groups I am supporting on the Body Confidence campaign, you couldn’t have done that to the same degree as a spokesperson. It is not a reason for coalition government, the electorate didn’t like any of us and we couldn’t allow unstable government, but outside of my belief in coalition politics the real politics demanded a coalition. Within that coalition Liberal Democrats have fought to deliver the things that we believe in and we are finding the Conservatives have some nifty ideas themselves.”

• “I would love to see air-brushing in magazines kite marked, the gender pay gap narrow, women on Boards, to move the civil partnerships agenda forward, these are the things that matter and I am going to do my best to deliver these things.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. 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. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

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 Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.