Lynne Featherstone tells how coalition works!

Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
November 23rd 2010

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.”
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