Friday, 7 February 2014

Female MP Debate: Is there room for Poor and Working Poor Candidates?

Ed Miliband ridiculed the Coalition by pointing to the frontbench at PMQs, where not a single female MP sat, just a long line of Bullingdon boys and middle class suits. Labour can boast 81 female MPs which equates to 31% of the Labour intake: something Miliband says he will not rest over, until women account for 50% of the party. Admirable stuff from Labour, but perhaps to delve further would be beneficial.

There are no official stats for how many female MPs from all parties either come from or are, upper class, middle class, working poor or poor. Shame. For then the real truth would be uncovered. Back in the 1970s many Labour MPs, male of course, came from working class skilled backgrounds such as Dennis Skinner (miner). In 1979 40 % of Labour MPs had come from manual or clerical work previously. In 2010 this figure had drastically reduced to 9%. Currently a staggering 60% of coalition government ministers attended fee paying schools compared to the 7% of  the population they claim to represent.

Miliband seems very keen to change the faces of the Labour Party to at least half being female. But my question is how many of those faces will come from poor or working poor backgrounds? The Labour Party needs to house a broad church of MPs from all backgrounds to be truly representative of the people they make policies for. However, if you glance over the current crop of Labour female MPs most will have a few designer labels in their wardrobes, pick up their weekly shop online at Waitrose, and don a Barbour coat to walk the dog in at weekends. Dinner parties will be the order of the day over a few bottles of red. There are great role model exceptions like  Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, but she is in a minority.

I receive many emails and communications from people lamenting the fact that Labour does not speak for them any longer. The reason being quite simply: " Labour does not walk in my shoes or live my life. It does not understand my struggle. Its MPs cannot begin to know what it's like to need a Foodbank." Does the Labour Party want more poor and working poor MPs?  Would it want, for example, a 40+ mum of four, like myself, who has experienced life as a full time carer for a disabled child, had a home reposessed in the early 1990s and lived in a 1 room B+B for 3 years, can talk about seeing your son forced into working in a factory as agency staff on a zero hours contract in a coastal seaside town where even seasonal work is considered " a good job", window shops at M+S but shops in Matalan and Poundland?  I am completely ordinary in my circle of life, but would stand out like a sore thumb in Westminster, with not even a high street power suit to my name.

Aside from the young female MPs with their glossy hair and  designer labels, is there an actual need for  MPs who may perhaps live in a council house, be a full time carer, work shifts in an old peoples home, or struggle as a single parent to make ends meet? From my experience, yes, yes and yes again! The electorate are fed up of not being represented by people who "know what it's like". Talking to their MP at the local constituency office, simply reinforces their belief that many MPs have no idea of circumstances people are suffering, when they are confronted by middle class socialists with sloany vowels. Perhaps I am being too general here, but for every committed, local, down-to-earth MP like the Grahame Morris' Ian Mearns and Sharon Hodgsons, there are far more MPs coming from a background of PR/ Marketing/Banking than is representative of the electorate who vote for them.

I and many others would love to see Labour Female MPs who know the cost of a value loaf, can cook for a large family on a budget and wouldn't know a bottle of house red from a claret! An MP who knows the problems facing people forced to visit Foodbanks, and speaks out to stop the outrage. An MP who doesn't just visit their local school, but KNOW the problems facing both children, teachers and parents under Gove's tyrannical reign, as her children are experiencing it too. An MP who can actively seek radical change for disabled people suffering under ATOS and campaign for more specialised childcare for disabled children, because she is either disabled herself or is bringing up a disabled child. There needs to be as many of this type of MP, as there are those with more priveledged backgrounds.

Then and only then, will the Labour Party become representative of the population. Radical idea perhaps for Ed Miliband. But a vote winner as women are second class citizens in the Tory party. Make it happen Ed and election victories are yours.