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Lone parent benefit – Women MPs against women?

1st February 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: February 1998

Only eight Labour women MPs voted against the attacks on lone parent benefits, with a handful of others conspicuously abstaining. Despite more than 90 MPs signing the parliamentary motion against the proposals tabled by Audrey Wise MP, outbursts of anger at meetings of the PLP addressed by Harriet Harman, protests and vocal opposition from women Labour Party members and lone parent organisations – even Glenys Kinnock MEP added her name to a petition and letter against the proposals – the new batch of Labour women MPs were largely noticeable by their absence. Of 97 MPs who, by 2 December, had signed Audrey Wise’s Early Day Motion, only 9 were Labour women, and of these only 2 were from the batch of women MPs elected for the first time in May 1997.

There is no clearer test that these women MPs could have failed than this one, involving the fate of the poorest women, and children, in society. Ninety per cent of lone parent families are headed by women. The proposals will have a racist impact, since black women are disproportionately represented as lone mothers. Removal of lone parent benefits will thus also deepen the disproportionate representation of black women and children among the poorest in society.


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Gains for women could prove short lived

1st March 1997 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1997

In addition to electing an historic number – 101 – of women MPs, Labour succeeded in closing the gender gap in voting in this general election. In 1992 exit polls showed that only 35 per cent of women voted Labour. This compared with 37 per cent of men.

The increased number of women MPs still leaves the Parliamentary Labour Party made up of only 24 per cent women members and the House of Commons as a whole with 18 per cent of MPs being women, lower than parliaments in Spain, Germany, Austria, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. At least 33 of the new women MPs elected were originally selected through an all-women shortlist. However, following the failure to appeal the Leeds Industrial Tribunal ruling, this policy was dropped and has not been replaced with any other mechanism.