Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

South London Press Column - Women need to have greater say in politics

Everyone knows that many people are fed up with politics and politicians – and think there’s no point in voting.  That’s even more the case for women than for men.  At the last election – in 2010 – more than one million London women didn’t vote at all.

That is a judgement on our politics.  We must ensure women feel that they have a democracy which they can have confidence in, with politicians who understand their lives and speak up for them.

Women in today’s Britain see themselves as equal to men – not second class citizens.  But even now, in the 21st century, women still lead lives which are very different to men.  More likely to be low paid, less likely to be in the boardroom.  More likely to be taking responsibility for children and older relatives – less likely to be getting promotion at work.

Our politics needs to recognise that, and our policies need to help women to make progress in their lives.  And that’s what Labour women believe in.  We’re in politics to ensure that women’s voices are heard and that decisions are made by women and men working together – not just men on their own.

A balanced team at the top of government will ensure that women have a say and that there’s an understanding of women’s lives.

In the run up to the General Election on May 7th we are going out and about all over the country in our Labour Women’s Campaign Bus.  And there’ll be lots of discussion online too.  We’ve got record numbers of great women Labour candidates and if we win the constituencies we are targeting we’ll have 150 Labour women MPs in Parliament speaking up for women in the country.

There’s been lots of controversy and news coverage about the colour of the bus.  But this is what you might not have seen in the news – 60% of those hit by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ are women; every week two women are killed by a husband or partner; women are still paid less than men; childcare is too expensive.  This is what Labour’s Woman to Woman campaign is about.

We’re saying to the millions of women who didn’t vote – politics is too important to be left to men alone!  Use your vote, have your say!  Politics matters to women as well as men.  And this election will be a watershed for women.

We’re highlighting Labour’s promise of 25 hours free childcare, our determination to tackle domestic violence, the need for more women MPs and councillors, the recognition that there’s a new generation of older women who are working as well as looking after grandchildren and older relatives, our plans for tougher action against unequal pay.

And we’ll be discussing with women what they want the next Government to do – and not to do.  So we’ll be meeting up with women in their workplaces, in shopping centres, in colleges and at school gates.  We’ve already brought the Campaign Bus to meet up with shoppers in Walworth Road and East Street Market.

It’s going to be a vibrant and important discussion and politics will be regenerated when women’s voices all around the country are heard loud and clear.

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