On May 5th, London is being given a new choice: the chance to vote for a party that is committed to doing politics differently. I'm not a career politician, and although I've always thought of myself as political, the jeering-sneering performance of politics has never appealed. I just don't think the route to social justice is lined with posh men in suits shouting at each other. It's dialogue, communication, empathy - it's human connections that make my world go round. So I've thrown myself into a career (in the arts and education) which celebrates them and tries to carve creative paths to a slightly better world for a few people at a time. But I've unexpectedly, and so naturally I almost didn't know notice it happening, become a politician; I've found a possible home for that political passion in the Women's Equality Party. And on May 5th, registered voters in London have the chance to make the city a lot better for a lot of people. For everyone, actually. Because equality is.
The Women's Equality Party (#WE) is a new, non-partisan political party, formed last year and growing with astonishing speed, which is putting gender equality at the top of the political agenda for the benefit of us all. It has six core-objectives:
'WE are pushing for equal representation in politics, business, industry and throughout working life. WE are pressing for equal pay and an equal opportunity to thrive. WE are campaigning for equal parenting and caregiving and shared responsibilities at home to give everyone equal opportunities both in family life and in the workplace. WE urge an education system that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters. WE strive for equal treatment of women by and in the media. WE seek an end to violence against women.'
I'm standing as a candidate on the London-wide list for the Greater London Assembly (the orange ballot paper), alongside 9 other inspirational women and Sophie Walker, our leader and mayoral candidate. #WE are also standing in Scotland and Wales.
#WE have a vision for London that would make the city safer and fairer for everyone. #WE have specific, costed policies which would create:
- A transport system that is accessible for parents with buggies and wheel-chair users, where women and girls can travel safely, without the fear of sexual harassment
- An end to the 23% pay gap between men and women, in a city where women can realise their full economic potential (and add £70 billion to the economy!)
- A comprehensive solution to the housing crisis, by making housing more affordable and promoting inclusive design
- Protection for women and children escaping domestic abuse, with ring-fenced funding for refuges and safe housing
- A system of child-care for all children from the end of paid parental leave at 9 months, and a pan-London approach to meet the demand for care for older and disabled people
- Compulsory, quality Sex and Relationship Education and PSHE, so that the next generation are taught to respect and protect one another
- A thriving and brilliant work-force, which celebrates and awards the achievements of everyone, and gives them fair access to work - #WE will create work that works.
And LOADS more. Just read our manifesto.
In a political system stacked against new-comers our voice cannot be heard as loudly as the old parties. #WE are fighting to be seen and heard and it can be heart-breakingly, back-breakingly hard. One of the biggest barriers, I think, to us winning as many votes as we could on May 5th is the completely forgivable lack of understanding by the electorate of the super complicated systems by which each of the different votes are counted and awarded. London Elects explains it nice and clearly here.
So if you are reading this and thinking "I'm super down with the whole equality thing, but I don't want to 'waste my vote' on a new party and risk a big, old party I hate getting in" then FEAR NOT. And then tell all your friends. The orange ballot paper, the London-wide list for the Greater London Assembly, is elected using a form of proportional representation (the Modified d'Hondt Formula, for those for whom that means something), and #WE have enough support that we can and will win seats on it. If enough Londoners know a) about us, and b) that we can win. A vote for equality will not be a wasted vote.
So TELL EVERYONE. And VOTE!