Visible Women

Why every front-bench politician wore a 50:50 pin at this week’s PMQs

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Moya Crockett
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MPs came together to show their support for equal gender representation in politics.

Generally speaking, Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) elicits no emotion so much as an embarrassed, eye-rolling weariness. The weekly session in the House of Commons – designed to allow MPs to ask questions of the PM – often devolves into the kind of playground politics that many of us find deeply grating, with politicians banging the benches, jeering and yelling at their parliamentary opponents.

But at this week’s PMQs, the British public was treated to a rare display of cross-party unity. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn attacked Theresa May for policing cuts, while May slammed deputy Labour leader John McDonnell over comments he once made about Tory minister Esther McVey. But along the front benches, each politician had one thing in common: every one of them wore a 50:50 pin.

The pins are produced by campaign group 50:50 Parliament, which is pushing for equal gender representation in UK politics. In the week that the UK celebrated 100 years of partial women’s suffrage, front-bench Conservative and Labour politicians wore the badges to show their support for the campaign. (Prime Minister Theresa May wore a ribbon in 50:50 Parliament’s campaign colours of white, purple and green - the same colours used by the suffragettes.) 

Currently, just 32% of MPs in the UK are women, and there are still more men in the Commons than there have ever been women MPs. A key pillar of 50:50 Parliament’s campaign is the #AskHerToStand initiative, which asks people to nominate a woman they think would make a good MP and encourage her to run for election. 

Politicians wearing 50:50 pins at PMQs 

One of the MPs wearing a 50:50 pin was Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury. She said that she was encouraged to stand as an MP for the first time in 2017 after receiving support from 50:50 Parliament.

“This time last year I was an ordinary 50:50 supporter,” said Duffield. “We need more women to be given the confidence and support to succeed in politics, that’s why I’m proud to back 50:50’s #AskHerToStand campaign.”

In a recent interview with Stylist, Duffield said that she had used her platform as an MP to campaign on maternity services and oppose cuts to tax credits. She highlighted the importance of ‘ordinary’ women making their way into parliament. 

“Someone like me who was on tax credits is now talking across the chamber to someone who has a £17m property portfolio, who has never met someone on tax credits,” she said.

“Luckily, I was elected alongside some other single mums, and we talk about how close we came to going to food banks – and all of us had jobs. We know what we’re talking about and we need to be here.”

Know a woman you think would make a brilliant MP? You can #AskHerToStand at the 50:50 website here.    

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign aims to raise the profiles of women in politics – and inspire future generations to follow their lead. Find out more about the campaign here, and see more Visible Women stories here

Images: BBC Parliament