Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Women candidates deficit in Broxtowe Borough Council elections

Let me say straight away had I the time, this would be a post comparing Broxtowe's lack of female candidates with what is happening across the six Greater Nottingham conurbation local authorities (Ashfield, Broxtowe, Erewash, Gedling, Nottingham and Rushcliffe).

When I compiled the table for last week's blog showing total candidates in Broxtowe Borough wards by political parties, I could see straight away that there was a paucity of female candidates and that, perhaps naively, I had expected at least half the Labour Party candidates to be women.

I had assumed that in any ward with more than two councillors, at least one of the Labour candidates would be female. The table below shows what I found when I listed females candidates by ward and political party:

The figures speak for themselves. By any measure, it is a pretty poor show. The Labour Party in Nottingham City has had a 50% selection rule for some time and I understand that Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has a similar rule, so why not the female candidates there should be? There are even all-women shortlists at times — something I only support for single member wards or parliamentary constituencies as a, albeit, less than satisfactory way of addressing a problem caused by a male dominated political system. In any ward with more than two candidates I happily support a least 50% rule.

My own experience and conversations I have had lead me to believe that the whole process is still dominated by male attitudes, which take little or no account of family life. The timing of meetings, a lack of childcare facilities or financial allowances to pay for childcare. If women know this, then they do not put their names forward for selection panels or listing as possible candidates.

I was unusual as a councillor insomuch as I was 26 (in 1971) when I became a councillor and 40 (in 1985) when I stopped. I was made 'redundant' twice whilst a councillor. The fact that I got payoffs did not detract from the fact that my political activities as a councillor were why I lost the jobs. It went with the territory and I knew the risk.

Today, it is not so easy to find a new job if you are a unemployed councillor. Accommodating employers are few and far between, despite legislation intended to protect councillors from discrimination at work. For two years whilst I chaired East Midlands Airport I was a full-time councillor with a weekly income from allowances of just under £90 a week. My experience made me a champion of full-time councillors paid a wage, but women with families need more and councils (and Parliament) should be organised around their needs — it is as simple as that. Today's allowances are better than they were, but still not enough.

I admit to being an admirer of Dave Nellist*, the former Labour and Coventry MP, who has always said that MPs should be paid the national average wage and I agree. I would also pay the same wage to councillors, who can work as hard as any MP and have the added challenge of being in the front line every day, living in the the communities they serve, and not isolated in the 'Palace' of Westminster, detached from reality.

No political party in Broxtowe comes close to having equal numbers of male and female candidates. Let's hope that by the time the next Broxtowe Borough Council elections take place in 2019, women will be better supported and more of them will seek selection and election.

* I got to know Dave Nellist at APEX and, later, GMB trade union summer schools. A kind and considerate person.

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