Do we really mean it when we say we want more representative politicians?
There was a protest at the weekend against Lambeth Council. I won’t go into the details as our leader Lib Peck does so with more eloquence.
But according to reports one of the speakers said the Lambeth leadership ‘belong in the Thames with rocks around their ankles’. As a cabinet member I took this personally and felt threatened. As someone who cares passionately about increasing representation amongst politicians I cried inside, not for myself but for the climate this creates where so many good people would now not consider putting themselves forward for office.
Over the last few years the number of women, especially young women, who have seen the abuse politicians are subjected to, especially online, and told me they’d not consider standing for election has grown. Why would they put themselves through that? I often wonder why I put myself through it! (And comments like that in my life are inevitably followed by the lovely chimes of ‘please don’t bother’ from mainly anonymous twitter accounts)
I spoke at the Labour Party conference to members considering standing as Councillors, and you can’t really talk about being a Councillor anymore without covering the issue of abuse. Which is really sad. I tried to remain upbeat, talk about the positives — which there are many — but people need to go into this with realistic expectations. They need to make sure they have good support networks.
And of course younger people are, on the whole, less emotionally prepared for dealing with abuse. I know I certainly wasn’t in my 20s when I stood for Parliament and Council in 2010.
So talented and excellent women are turning away and politics will be poorer and less representative for it.