This week saw our event “The race for mayor: a male monopoly”. A very special thank you to all the speakers who joined our debate. You can find out more about them on their respective websites Mary Macleod MP, Siobhan Benita, Caroline Pidgeon AM, Gisela Stuart MP and Natalie Bennett.
Here are some thoughts from some of us who were there and who will be voting in a few weeks’ time:-
“For the most part I have been bored witless by the current London mayoral elections. I am sure that I am far from alone when I say that one political old-timer versus another leaves me cold. The clash of male egos is everything that is distasteful about British politics. Here we are in one of the most diverse cities in the world and not one of the three main parties has fielded a woman or a candidate from any minority group. And as one of the most successful cities in the world, I don’t think we have the best candidates for the job either. As one of our guest speakers, Labour MP Gisela Stuart, pointed out, UK politics is hardly meritocratic. Despite huge progress, the corridors of Westminster are still dominated by men. Gisela is also one of the Labour candidates for mayor in Birmingham — let’s not forget that there is a dearth of women running for positions outside London in the form of police commissioners or as candidates for city mayors. All of the speakers agreed that the traditional structures serve to lock women out. Huge steps have been made, but these structures need overturning and we should not sit around and wait for men to do it for us. And more determined women need to come forward and when they do they deserve our support. Siobhan Benita, the independent candidate, is at the very least a shining example of the grit and determination that more women need to overcome the male powerhouses in Westminster and beyond. I have no affinity with the other candidates. I am voting for Siobhan in the mayoral elections. Join me.” — Lucy James
“What a great evening, and a fantastic debate about the forthcoming Mayoral elections and the role of women. It was such a reward to be approached by so many attendees afterwards to be told that they had decided how to vote based on the debate we held and what the speakers said that evening. Mary Macleod MP (Conservative) and Gisela Stuart MP (Labour) spoke on behalf of their parties. Mary said that crime under Boris has reduced and that another term would give him the chance to continue cutting waste and making our streets safer. Gisela focused her attention on rallying women in the room to stand for office ourselves. Caroline Pidgeon AM– would be Deputy Mayor to Brian Paddock, who is also standing to keep her place on the London Assembly – explained that although women are under represented in the Lib Dems at the national level, they are well represented on the London Assembly and it’s the Assembly that holds the Mayor to account. Natalie Bennett who is standing in the London Assembly elections for the Green Party represented Green candidate Jenny Jones. Natalie emphasised the significance of the economic crisis on women, and that unemployment is growing twice as fast for women as it is for men. The “cut, cut, cut” philosophy of the main parties is not working. We were delighted to have the independent candidate Siobhan Benita who had just published her manifesto that day. Unfortunately, she explained how, rather than getting support, she had been excluded from other feminist hustings, like the Fawcett Society’s, which is counter-intuitive given their role as promoters of women in politics. As Gisela Stuart said we should ‘make the weather ourselves’ and Siobhan is doing just that. As Gisela also said, look at women politicians, pick one out and say ‘if she can do it, so can I’.” – Caroline Watson
“At the beginning of the ‘male monopoly’ event, as the female Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs regurgitated their male mayoral candidates’ manifestos, I have to admit my heart sank. I didn’t hear anything that recognised the need to appeal to women’s unique position in the capital. Natalie Bennett of the Green Party was the only speaker who even mentioned that female unemployment is increasing twice as fast as men’s. However, despite a shaking beginning, I left this event inspired. I was struck by the female solidarity between the speakers, and the clear message from all of them that in order for the things to change we had to find the courage to speak up, engage in the debate and consider public office, without waiting for an invite. For me, the most important speaker was Siobhan Benita, the independent candidate who was motivated by her frustrations with the lack of diversity in our public leaders to resign from her job and stand for mayor. She felt like living proof of what we could all achieve if we dared to stand out from the crowd.” — Emma Ward