“One tough woman” Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 21st 2011

Www.wpradio talks to “One tough woman” Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP and a “new face” Luciana Berger MP

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP – “One tough woman”!

The Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green is a formidable campaigner with a reputation for being “One tough woman”! So far she’s managed to get to the top of those red boxes initiatives to stop homophobic bullying in sport, to regulate without legislation “air brushed images” of women in the media and she’s progressed gay marriage rights. On the controversial issues such as “trafficking of women” she tells her critics “look at what we are doing don’t just chant “are you in or are you out”!

Lynne says the Government will not back track on funding the new Agency for UN Women, it has, she says “100 per cent commitment” from her Government. She has had no sleepless nights even on issues such as voting for the tuition fees increase. “If you don’t ask you don’t get”, she says. Lynne has received “nothing but backing” from both Theresa May MP, the Home Secretary and Women’s Minister and the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Theresa and Lynne may look like “the odd couple”, but they do “sit down and talk out”, their differences! “We just find a way through,” she says. In this special interview Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones OBE, spoke to Lynne.

Lynne told Boni:

• “Homophobic bullying is a huge issue. 93 per cent of fans think there should be no homophobia or transphobia in sport but 78 per cent of fans say you will hear anti-gay language on the terraces. The sports field of this country is one of the last places you hear vicious homophobia and you have to tear those barriers down.”
• “Equalities is about social mobility and tackling child poverty and I would say this Government, and I lay claim to all of what this government is doing, is about changing this Country. There is some really tough stuff in it but at the end we will have a fairer and more equal country.”
• “The singular image that is rammed down young girls and boys throats is that you have to be impossibly thin and impossibly beautiful and it is clearly doing damage to young people. I have met with the advertising associations and Media Smart, but we have never considered banning images we have considered labelling. Media Smart has agreed to develop a tool kit to be offered to all schools, which will actually teach children how to view things so they have a realistic and informed approach to what they see. It is just one part of it, and I am really excited about it and my colleague Jo Swinson MP is starting an All Party Parliamentary group on it too.”
• “Yes I have always been out there on these issues such as gay marriages but the victory will be when we have equal marriage and equal partnerships and civil partners being able to register in religious premises. Freedom for LGP people and freedom for those who wish to be religious. It is very nice to have something I campaigned on so forcefully come through in Government in its early stages.”
• “On the European Directive on Trafficking, we haven’t made a final decision on whether to opt in. It doesn’t worry me, I get asked it by Labour every time I go to oral questions, but we are developing an anti-trafficking policy that will go further and faster than anything else.”
• “On the new UN Agency for women, Andrew Mitchell has probably done more for women internationally than those before him. He has placed women full square in the centre of most of the work DFID is doing and put all his budgets behind that as well. We have 100 per cent commitment to UN women, we have committed 1 million for the transition period and in May or June we will announce how much we will put into the main fund but we have to see the strategy first. But we do have 100 per cent commitment we will be funding it. Andrew wants to see what we are doing first.”
• “On gender auditing of the Budget, my understanding is the Treasury has done more than any Treasury in history on this issue. In terms of impact I have never seen so much work going on, and the Government has made strenuous efforts to mitigate the impact on women. We are linking earnings back to pensions, that is something we have been calling for for some time. We have put money into child tax credits, and social care and ring-fencing the health service. We’re fighting on equal pay, we are fighting for flexible working and shared parental leave and women on boards. We are pushing further and faster than anyone in this economic climate.”
• “Tuition fees was probably the hardest decision. Liberal Democrats always believed in abolishing tuition fees. We’ve reached a jolly good compromise what is being delivered is a better system than what was delivered before.”
• “On the HNS everybody is very anxious, you saw the Lib Dem conference, and we heard from Shirley Williams that there are clearly deep concerns but the Prime Minister has made it clear the Government is moving on these. What I am looking for is to see where this Bill ends up and to make sure we don’t have cherry picking, and privatisation by the back door with no accountability.”
• “If you don’t ask you don’t get. I have been very clear about moving certain things up the agenda that are within my portfolio. In terms of my coalition partners I have had nothing but backing from Theresa May and the Prime Minister. There were no problems on equal marriages, there was a desire to move forward to look at equal marriage and equal partnership, it has been a wonderful portfolio to have.”
• “You go fight your corner in Government. Theresa and myself probably look like the odd couple, but coalition is about sitting down and talking it out. We both have to move from our positions and where we get to is probably better than were we would get to on our own. We just find a way through these issues, it is grown up government.”
• “I am not at all worried about my seat of Hornsey and Wood Green, whether we win or lose that isn’t the point. The chance of delivering policies which you think are going to change the world for the better is what it is about and if I lost my seat because of it, so what!”
• “I haven’t changed one iota! I have done what I believed in and was passionate about it. You don’t get all of what you want in life but getting some of what you want is really a big prize.”

Luciana Berger MP meets wpradio.co.uk reporter Linda Fairbrother in our “New Faces” series

Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, is the Shadow Minister for Climate Change. As a “new face” in Westminster she has achieved a fast rise to the higher echelons of party politics, being the youngest member of Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet and she has already asked three questions at Prime Minister’s Question Time. She attributes her success to “luck” and says being “in the Chamber” is very different from how it looks and sounds on TV.

The challenge with PMQs, she says, is that everybody is in the Chamber! You need to take a pause before you start, it’s a fast pace, you need to speak loudly and quickly to be heard, your question needs to be “pithy” too. Luciana says it’s “a fine art”! She likes the “traditions” of Parliament and the pomp and ceremony of the Speaker’s entry into the Chamber, so parliamentary reform is not top of her agenda, but like others she does want to change the hours on a Tuesday so sittings start and finish earlier. Linda Fairbrother spoke to her.

• “I am trying very hard to do lots of things and take part in all of Parliament and I am making it a priority to spend time in the Chamber, it’s not easy and it is only by practice I know I am going to get better, so I am throwing myself into it.”
• “I was surprised about being given the opportunity to serve on the Front Bench, I am the youngest. I think it is fair to say I had just settled into the role of being an MP, but challenging the Government consistently on an issue is a great way of focusing your activities here in Parliament.”
• “My priority is to be the best constituency MP I can, they are the people that put me here and my number one responsibility is to serve them to the best of my ability. I am loving the role I am doing as Shadow Energy and Climate Change.”

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.

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