South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne invited local campaigner Sarah Smith to visit the mother of all Parliaments as part of a massive event aimed at encouraging more women to stand for election.
The initiative saw more than 250 inspiring women from all parts of the country descend on Westminster to highlight the need for more women in politics. Today only one in three politicians are women.
One hundred years ago today, on 21st November 1918, just days after the Armistice, the Qualification of Women Act was passed to allow women to stand for Parliament for the first time. Today’s event is a celebration of this Act and a call for more women to come forward.
Since then there have been just 491 women MPs compared to 4,503 men. At this rate it would take another half century before women catch up. Today’s ‘Ask Her To Stand’ event was aimed at closing the gap. The day was organised by campaigners Frances Scott, 50:50 Parliament, Helen Pankhurst and the Centenary Action Group, the Fawcett Society and the Jo Cox Foundation.
Sarah Smith spent time with Mr Dunne to see first-hand what it means to be a Member of Parliament, as well as having a tour of Parliament and taking in Prime Minister’s Questions, to get a good understanding of what it means to stand for political office.
Mr Dunne said: “We need more women to stand for public office. At all levels in politics from the grass roots to Westminster we have two men for every one woman. I hope today inspires great women such as Sarah to stand for election to give us all broader and more representative decision making.
In South Shropshire we have some brilliant women councillors, and I was the only male candidate standing for Parliament to represent Ludlow at the last General Election. So progress is being made and by encouraging more women to stand, we will offer voters greater choice and make our democracy more diverse.”
Sarah Smith added: “Today was an eye-opening day, and I am very grateful to Philip Dunne for inviting me to join other women from across the country in visiting Parliament. It was inspirational to see the difference already made by so many dedicated women in Parliament over the years. I know there is a real commitment to encouraging more women to stand, to help ensure women’s voices are heard in making our laws.”
Frances Scott, Director of 50:50 Parliament who organised the day was delighted with the turnout.
She said: “On the centenary of when women were first ever able to stand it is wonderful that so many MPs participated in our #AskHerToStand day by inviting a woman to Parliament. It is a clear demonstration that Westminster does welcome women”.
Photo: Philip Dunne MP with local campaigner Sarah Smith from South Shropshire