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We must celebrate Westminster's female role models if we're to attract more women to a career in politics

3 min read

A repeated refrain in recent years has been about how we can  encourage more women to get involved in Westminster politics, to get us to a 50:50 Parliament and make sure female voices are heard at the heart of Government.

Much of the discussion revolves around what puts women off, the stress of trolling on social media, the challenge of juggling Westminster hours, constituency commitments and children, the misogyny and the frankly laddish culture that sometimes still prevails in Parliament. But that is to miss the bigger picture, because in fact it is still the best job, the greatest Parliament and the biggest privilege in the world to serve here.

As the Mother of the House, Harriet Harman announces her retirement, following the best part of 40 years in this place, it gives an opportunity to reflect on the longest serving female MP and her observation that she leaves with her enthusiasm for politics undimmed.  What a fantastic thing to be able to say, that after 40 years of service she leaves with her enthusiasm undimmed, I wonder how many other careers, in any sphere, come to an end with that thought? 

The overwhelming sensation I get from so many fellow female MPs, irrespective of their party, is that they embrace their role in our Parliament with enthusiasm, with energy and a real commitment to bringing about change for their own constituents.  

It matters not if your campaigning zeal is around the dualling of the A whatever, or seeing a new school built in your patch.  Or if your passion is establishing an entire new Government Ministry. Or criminalising cyber flashing. Or standing up for persecuted minorities the world over.  Parliament allows you to set your own priorities, and campaign as you see fit to achieve your goal.  

I take my hat off to each and every MP, male or female, who has got their name on a piece of legislation achieving the goal they set out to reach when first elected.  For some it comes quickly, and I can even point to some of the 2019 intake who have already introduced a Private Members Bill and seen it become law.

For others, and I think of our late and desperately missed friend Sir David Amess, whose goal of seeing Southend gain City status was not brought to fruition until after his tragic death, it takes a great deal longer. But many get there, and like Harriet, retire from politics knowing they have worked hard, done great things for their constituents and tried to do good things for the country as a whole.  

The House’s campaign, Women in Westminster: The 100 is a great opportunity to celebrate the women who have really stood out over the course of these last difficult 12 months.  It is far too rare that we champion their achievements, the contribution they have made to our Parliament and our democracy, and shine a light on how much of a difference they have made.  

As a Patron of the campaign I want to make sure the women working in Westminster and its surroundings are not just recognised, but celebrated and encouraged, because without these great role models we will find it harder to attract future generations, and I know just how much we need to do that.

Women in Westminster: The 100 nominations close on 14 January. You can nominate here. Follow @TheHouseMag and #WiW100 and keep an eye on our website for The 100 reveal on 7 March 2022.


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