So, Louise Mensch drops out of politics and heads to New York to be with her husband. Cue a barrage of ‘you see women can’t have it all’ shakes of the head and knowing smiles from her male counterparts. Hers is naturally an extreme case of ‘family issues’ – you can’t possibly juggle pack ups, white papers AND jet lag. But at the core of her resignation are several questions, how hard are our political parties trying to keep their female contingent? And more importantly, why should they?
I recently met a lady; we’ll call her Laura, who still has questions over the death of her teenage son. She’s campaigned tirelessly to instigate reviews into the police handling of his death. She recently secured a meeting with the Policing Minister; it was also attended by Louise Mensch and several other MP’s. The details of the meeting and the case are irrelevant, but the strength of feeling involved is incomparable. After the meeting, I caught up with Laura and whilst Mr Herbert didn’t get a glowing review, Louise Mensch most certainly did.
‘She was on my side’
Stepping into a room of men, whatever the circumstance is daunting. I know, I’ve had to do it (and usually talk about farming or local government - EXACTLY) so, imagine, a mother – still grieving, still hurting, so strung out she can barely sit still, walking into a room of suits in Westminster. Got it? Now imagine her doing the same thing, but the row of suits broken up by a young woman, and one who writes for Cosmopolitan at that. She might have the same agenda as the blokes around her, but at least she has a share in motherhood – the reason behind Laura’s presence in the first place. Talking to Laura, she said she felt bolstered by the presence of a woman. Mensch, by all accounts did toe the party line, but she also tempered the debate with empathy for the constituents cause.
Proportionally, women remain the minority in politics, but they are starting to pack a punch. There remains the scepticism of even the most modern MP, who can forget Nadine Dorries being verbally slapped down and humiliated by DC? But brilliantly, the female presence in a male dominated world is starting to draw attention and respect. I recently attended a question and answer session with Ed Miliband, in an old boys club in Lincoln, also on the roll call was the city’s Labour candidate, Lucy Rigby. Young, intelligent and a fabulous speaker, the might and meaning behind her speech stood up firmly and convincingly alongside her party’s leader who’s been practising in front of his mirror for years.
Both of these examples show that being a woman, much like being young, widens the political playing field and makes it more accessible to a more diverse population. So bravo to Mensch for having the balls to do what’s right for her family, but bigger congrats to her, and the growing wave of women showing you don’t need balls to have a place in Politics.