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There are now more women in parliament than at any point in history

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Women of Britain celebrate a landmark in the history of politics today, after a tumultuous night that has seen under-fire candidates secure massive majorities and the first female Sikh MP take her place at Westminster. 

As the UK continues to reel from the shock of a hung parliament, amid the drama of a general election result that has veered wildly off-script, we now have more female MPs in parliament than at any point before.

With the count continuing, the number of women voted into Westminster has already sailed through the 200 mark. 

This comfortably eclipses the previous record of 191 female MPs in the 2015 general election.

When you consider that women only got to vote without caveat by 1928, with just 24 female MPs (3.8%) in parliament by 1945 stagnating to 23 (3.5%) in 1983, it’s an incredible feat indeed.

Diane Abbott

Having endured a vicious campaign, Diane Abbott won her biggest ever vote

Diane Abbott was one of those women celebrating in the early hours of this morning.

Despite a difficult election campaign that saw her temporarily stand aside as shadow home secretary due to illness – and labelled the “weak link” by Tory activists – the  MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington delivered her biggest ever majority, scooping 75 percent of the vote in her constituency.

Increasing her majority by over 11,000 votes, a jubilant Abbott said the contest had been “defined by the politics of personal destruction” but that “we formed a positive campaign here in Hackney and we have been vindicated”.


Read more: Why everyone’s calling Emily Thornberry the “queen of sass”


Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas is another MP who did spectacularly well after Britons headed to the polls yesterday.

Lucas – whose party members stood aside in several seats in order to boast the opposition’s vote – doubled her majority in her Brighton Pavilion seat.

Speaking after she landed a 10.4 percent majority, the politician said: “I’m proud that we stood up against the extreme Brexit for which Theresa May had no mandate before and for which she certainly has no mandate now.

“Now it is clearer than ever that the final [Brexit] deal that comes back from Brussels has to go back in front of the people for a ratification referendum.”

The Green's Caroline Lucas doubled her majority

The Green's Caroline Lucas doubled her majority

Preet Gill, meanwhile, made her own foray into the history books by becoming the first female Sikh MP at Westminster.

Gill held Birmingham Edgbaston’s seat for Labour, replacing Gisela Stuart, by a majority of 6,917.


Read more: what is a minority government and can Theresa May really win one?


“It's a real honour to be representing the people and the place where I was born and raised,” she told cheering supporters. “We've had a really strong campaign, a really good team of people here in Edgbaston and it's just been phenomenal.”

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation, said, “She will be a fantastic MP, a credit to the Sikh community and an excellent role model.”

Under fierce pressure and in a landscape where Conservatives swung an enormous number of votes away from the SNP in Scotland, the party’s youngest candidate Mhairi Black retained her seat in Westminster for Paisley and Renfrewshire South.

Black took 16,964 votes and said she was “honoured and privileged” to serve.

Preet Gill

The UK's first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill

Constance Markievicz became the first woman to be elected to the Commons in 1918 but she did not take her seat because she was a member of Sinn Fein.

Socialite and conservative Nancy Astor took up the mantle of the UK’s first sitting female MP, after winning the parliamentary seat of Plymouth Sutton in 1919.


Read more: sexism in the corridors of power


She came under fire for her appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s and was said to have once told Winston Churchill, “If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea” (to which he was rumoured to have answered, “Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it”). 

 

Nancy Astor

Politician Nancy Astor - the first woman to sit in the House of Commons - with friends at the Derby in 1927

More women at Westminster is a much-needed kickback to the old boys’ club that many know parliament to be.

With better representation, we can hope for voices that support the issues that impact us – such as the gender pay gap and poor rape conviction rates – while also reaping the trickle-down effect of greater gender diversity in all areas of public life.


Read more: Green party DL – “Abusive ex inspired me to fight for women’s rights”


As Lucas herself wrote in a thought piece last year, “Hopefully a more gender equal politics would mean high profile women no longer being subjected to endless commentary, and judgement, on the way we look and the clothes we are wearing. The whole thing needs a massive overhaul.

“That, in turn, will have an effect on women having a voice in the boardroom, in the media, in science laboratories, in our courts, in the digital sector. In all those places women are currently sidelined.”

Twitter-ites reacted with joy to today’s record-breaking news:

Photos: iStock/Rex

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