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Manchester Evening News Column: We need more women in politics

Women in politics is high on the agenda this week after David Cameron's reshuffle which his own spin doctors rather unfortunately dubbed a ‘catwalk reshuffle’.

More women ministers is a welcome development but with just half as many women in his cabinet as Tony Blair did seven years ago, the PM still has some catching up to do.

While I’m proud that my party, Labour, has by far the highest proportion of female MPs (33 per cent, compared with 15pc for the Conservatives and 12pc for the Lib Dems) the fact remains that there still aren’t enough women in politics, just under a quarter of all MPs are women.

This isn’t good for the country or for making good policies.

To tackle this, the Labour Party introduced All Women Shortlists for some parliamentary selections. These remain controversial and I would far rather we didn’t need to have them, but I support them because they are the most effective way to increase the number of female MPs.

We must also acknowledge that the culture of politics puts many women off.

Too many women, especially those with young children, worry that becoming an MP will have too much of an impact on their family.

It’s hardly surprising. For most MPs, splitting their time between Westminster and the constituency means long periods away from their children.

Making Parliament more family-friendly must therefore be a high priority and I’m glad progress is being made.

As well as opening a nursery four years ago, the Commons is starting to make it easier for MPs with children to attend votes in the evening, when childcare can be hard to arrange.

Just last month I was allowed to stay in my office with my one year old but still have my vote counted.

These small steps mean that finally more women are now ministers and MPs. Certainly for my party, this has a real impact on our policies, on issues like zero-hours contracts, childcare, energy prices and Sure Start centres.

That’s why I’d encourage any women reading this who aren’t sure if politics is for them, to get involved.

While it’s not perfect yet, there’s never been a better a time to be a women in politics and if more people put themselves forward, things will only get better.

First printed: www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/news-opinion/women-politics-lucy-powell--7478944

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