Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where are the women?

I read a list today of all the candidates so far declared for the Liverpool Mayoral elections.

Ten names, all male. All white as far as I know too, although I may be mistaken. Not absolutely all middle-aged, thankfully, but pretty nearly so.

And not a woman's name amongst them.

This disturbs me greatly.

I guess I need to stave off the critics and the finger-waggers right from the off by saying I firmly believe that Joe Anderson is the right candidate for Labour and the best person for the job, even if he does happen to be a bloke. I am behind him 100%. Okay? Hey, you at the back, did you make a note of that?

But I cannot help be utterly miserable about the fact that no women have put their names forward.

There are good women in this city, good political women, I know there are. Three of our five MPs are women, very nearly  half of the Labour councillors are women, the leader of the Green Party and the leader of the LibDem Party are both women and Hazel Williams was widely thought to have been a particularly good Lord Mayor.

We also know that Jane Kennedy is keen to put her name forward as Labour's candidate for Police Commissioner, so at least that contest - in Labour terms - will have a woman showing passion and commitment, whether she wins the nomination (and the election) or not.

But where are all the women in this election for Mayor?

The biggest job on Merseyside, with the potential of the biggest mandate in the country - for a short while at least - after Boris Johnson (or Ken hopefully). 300,000 eligible voters will mean the winner in this election has more weight behind them than any MP...

So why have no women put themselves forward?

Have we no ambition? Are we scared of a big job? Do we think we would be wasting our time? Does the degree of public scrutiny put us off? The fish bowl that Cherie talked about? Do we not want to read comments about our skirt length or the colour of our lipstick or hair or age or the size of our bum? Is that it? Is it because we think it is a foregone conclusion? Do women not like to waste time on an election (or other campaign) they cannot foresee victory in?

Who might have stood? Paula Keaveney, Sarah Jennings, Hazel Williams, Maggie O'Carroll, Kath Flanagan, Caroline Kenyon, Joan Burnett, Babs Hennessy, Eithne Brown, Carla Lane, Colleen Rooney, hell, even Cilla Black and Ann Robinson might have thrown their hats into the ring. One of our MPs might have resigned to stand, like has happened in other cities elsewhere in the country.  I don't know who I think should have had a go, but I had hoped to see a few women's names in the hat.

Perhaps like me they all want Joe Anderson to win and that is why they have not put their names forward. But forgive me, much as I would like to think that he will command every woman's vote in the city, I cannot help but think there is more to it than that.

What is putting off Liverpool women from pushing to the front?

And why did I find it so hard to think of prominent women in Liverpool even to add to my imaginary list of candidates?

I do sincerely hope that when Joe becomes our first Liverpool Mayor as he surely will, he will make it his business to elevate and promote women in the city - I don't mean that literally within the council, I mean that he will hold up women as good role models. That he will seek out, encourage and push good women to the front, encouraging them to become the leaders and heads of our Chamber of Commerce, our Universities, our Media, Police Force, Fire Service, MerseyTravel, the LEP, the Hospitals, Museums and Art Galleries...

This is the best city in the country, possibly in the world - but it has fallen short in this one regard, we are not giving the young women and girls good role models and we are not showing the truly equitable face that I am sure we do possess. It is not a man's city, but you could be forgiven for thinking it so.

PS Talking of Maggie O'Carroll, I was rather disturbed to see that although she was sitting next to Joe at his press conference (which perhaps explains why she isn't standing), she was not name checked in the Echo report or the caption or quoted in any way. Not even "Mystery blonde with Joe".... What is that all about? Why didn't the newspapers name her? Do they not know how important she is to all the women in our city?


Sioned-Mair Richards said...

This appears to be a general trend throughout the country. During the phone in on Radio Sheffield it was all about "A Mayor will be a strong Leader" but the subtext was "..and this will be a man...". Similalry for Police Commissioners. Jane is the only woman I have heard of putting her head above the parapet.

Anonymous said...

"Ten names, all male all white as far as I know too".

So Miss Baldock comes with her own all women list all 13 of them white as far as I know too.

Gloria Hyatt is the one person who would beat all the other mayoral candidates no matter what their gender,colour or religion.

Louise Baldock said...

Fair play. If there is a shortage of prominent women in the city, then it is a dire shortage when it comes to black women.

You could add Tracey Gore and Michelle Charters to the imaginary list too.

Of course I don't know whether any of these are LP members, but if they were then presumably they would not give up their membership to stand.

Emma Stewart said...

i have to ask... why didn't you run? I think that backing a candidate is all well and good, and as you said, it the partially why you didn't run. However, the first thing we can do to empower women in politics is to empower ourselves in politics. If we would like to see a woman's name on that list then in my view we must be the change and put our names forward.

Louise Baldock said...

Hi Emma

The way it works, when you belong to a political party, all party members choose their candidate from amongst those who have expressed an interest. Once that person is chosen, all the party members get behind them.

If another Labour Party member tried to put their name forward in competition to the Labour candidate they would automatically expel themselves, and would have to stand as an Independent.

So if I had wanted to stand against Joe, which I didnt, I would have had to give up 20 years party membership, and become an Independent Councillor too, and have no more to do with the Labour Party ever again, just because I fancied my chances.

Very few people take that course of action.

It is local party democracy and all the parties work in the same way.