EYE Review 2016: Equal Power Audit

With the possible exception of the immediate aftermath of the 2015 General election, it’s hard to argue that there has been a better time to be a woman in the UK political arena.  EYEoffer a glass half full perspective on a turbulent political year.

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For a short period after 2015 General election every major British Political Party was led by a woman, with one exception. The exception being the Conservative Party, who’s victory at the ballot box left pundits assuming that one out of two former members of the exclusive men only Bullingdon Club would be leading the Country into the next decade.

And yet just over a year later David Cameron had fallen on his sword, Boris faltered at the final hurdle and the last men standing in the unexpected race to Number Ten were both women.

One was seen to imply that mothers know best and that was that, after a grovelling apology the next day, the leadership contest turned into Theresa May’s coronation.

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She may only be the second in history but her victory also means that over the last four decades one in every three UK Prime Ministers has been a woman.

Indeed anyone interested in conducting an ‘Equal Power audit’ would have to be more than a little pessimistic to argue against the notion that 2016 has been quite a year for women in British Politics.

Not only have we witnessed a second female Prime Minister but at a local level her party is led by a woman in Scotland, where both the First Minister and leader of the opposition are also female.  Northern Ireland’s First Minister is called Arlene and the leader of the opposition in the Welsh Assembly is Leanne.

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The United Kingdom’s longest reigning Monarch became the entire World’s longest running Head of State in 2016 while her namesake (Elizabeth Truss) became the first female Lord Chancellor.  Elsewhere whilst Dianne James couldn’t quite stay the course as leader of UKIP, Caroline Lucas did break new ground along with her Green Party colleague Jonathan Bartley by agreeing the first leadership job share.

And of course wise woman Watson continued to fly the flag on the world stage…

EYEwill be the first to concede that (assuming we ignore the rumour that the world is really run by a backroom banking board comprised exclusively of white men) it’s possible that such a positive picture could be an example of the Apex Fallacy.

But even that argument falls flat when you consider that one in three MPs are now female, and that this ratio largely (at least) holds true for the Cabinet, the Shadow Cabinet, the House of Lords, Regional Government (including London), Local Government, Senior Civil Servants and (last but possibly soon to be least) UK membership of the European Parliament.

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This year’s Good Parliament report identified a whole series of positive action recommendations aimed at both increasing the number of women in public life but also removing movable barriers for existing members with parental responsibilities’.  And particularly when you consider current education trends, it’s hard to imagine the proportion of women in politics going anywhere but up.

In 2016 some women even exploited other people's tragedy to score a political point.
Also trending in 2016: some women were even prepared to exploit other people’s tragedy to score a political point.

There is still work to be done of course, especially if the majority of women (and men) really think a 50:50 Parliament is a vital benchmark to achieve but let’s be honest, the (so called) Women’s Equality Party seem destined to remain smugly sitting in the lobby area chomping on their freshly cherry picked feminist zealot cake while the real politicians role their sleeves up in the members chamber.

Next | Labour’s Sex discrimination isn’t Working.

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