The husband of the Labour candidate in the Llantrisant Town by-election, is a “drug pusher”, a colleague has said.
The husband of Labour candidate Liz Smith, who moved to Llantrisant from Surrey in 2011, has been called a “drug pusher” by Labour MP, Paul Flynn.
Despite being in the same party as Liz Smith and her husband Owen, Paul Flynn MP was highly critical of the Labour candidate’s husband. “The lobbyists are a curse, a cancer in the system. It’s insidious,” he said. “One of my main interests in politics is areas in which lobbyists used their wicked wiles to get access to government,” he continued. “One example is the pharmaceutical industry, who are the most greedy and deceitful organisations we have to deal with,” he concluded, adding: “I wasn’t too pleased by the fact that we had a drug pusher [in the Labour Party].”
It is unclear how many animals were tested on during Liz Smith’s husband’s time at Pfizer, where it was responsible for lobbying for Pfizer to MPs and others working within the UK Parliament.
A Labour MP has criticised the feedback they have received on social media following voting in the UK Parliamentary debate on taking military action in Syria.
Stella Creasy, an alternate MP elected to UK Parliament following an all-women-shortlist that prevented Labour men from standing, criticised members of the public for holding her to account on Twitter for voting in favour of military action in Syria.
The MP has already had other members of the public sent to jail for trolling her, including Peter Nunn of Bristol.
Calls have been made by some of her colleagues for Stella Creasy to resign, but the alternate MP remains defiant. “The one thing I will not do is be bullied by a sitting Walthamstow Labour councillor with the threat of deselection,” she fumed.
Ann Coffey is the Labour MP for Stockport and believes it is inappropriate to target members of the public when their behaviour is little different to those of MPs. “I think that some of the remarks made by my parliamentary colleagues have been very unfortunate,” she said. “For example, remarks made about blood on your hands, that you’ve got nowhere to hide, and I think that if you have that at the top of party what you have is permission to target MPs.“
The UK Parliament has said it is to have an International Men’s Day debate on the 19 November 2015, while the University of York has refused to mark the event.
According to the UK Parliament, MPs will take part in a general debate on male suicide and International Men’s Day in Westminster Hall. The debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee following a bid from Philip Davies MP on 27 October 2015.
The University of York, however, is refusing to mark the event, because it believes organisations like it are not doing enough to broaden its senior staff membership on the grounds of sex in favour of women. “The Equality and Diversity Committee is clear that the main focus of gender equality work should continue to be on the inequalities faced by women, and in particular the under-representation of women in the professoriate and senior management,” a University of York spokesperson said following the university withdrawing its support for International Men’s Day. “We are sorry that [the statement to support International Men’s Day] has caused unhappiness for some members of the University community who felt that the statement was inappropriate and should never have been issued.“
A woman MP, elected via an all-women-shortlist, has spoken up for another woman MP who was equally not elected on merit, because she was the target of what some call Internet trolling.
Fiona Mactaggart, an alternate woman MP who only got into the UK Parliament through affirmative action, said the abuse of fellow alternate woman MP, Jess Phillips, was something that all other Labour women MPs, whether alternates or elected on merit, should take a stand on.
After Jess Phillips MP was sent death and rape threats online, Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart joined her and called upon other Labour women MPs to stand up against online abuse. “I know how terrifying this kind of violent threat can be,” Fiona Mactaggart said. “When I was a student a university newspaper published my photograph with the caption ‘would you rape this woman?’”
Despite this early exposure to what would be expected of public life, Fiona Mactaggart did not change, going on to become an alternate parliamentarian. “The internet and Twitter has given more people a platform from which to launch such threats and too often they target women,” she said. “I am happy to engage in constructive debates on issues but abuse isn’t a part of the job and nobody in public life should ever expect abhorrent death and rape threats from people who don’t like things they have said,” she concluded.
As both Jess Philips MP and Fiona Mactaggart MP were selected to Labour Party seats via all-women-shortlists, they share a lot in common as alternates. “Jess said that she didn’t think parliament needed to debate discrimination against men until the discrimination against women was tackled,” Fiona Mactaggart said in defence of Jess Phillips not being able to cope with the realities of being a Member of Parliament.
The position of Jess Phillips and Fiona Mactaggart is out of tune with the law. In 2012, Paul Chambers, in what became known as the Twitter joke trial, was acquitted of sending a threatening message because it was found by the court to be unlikely to cause apprehension. Whilst Jess Phillips admits she did not experience any apprehension, her view is contrary to the judgement in both this case (i.e. DPP v Chambers) and Calver v The Adjudication Panel for Wales, which say that politicians need a thicker skin and that abuse from the public is a normal part of being an MP.
The UK Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton, Steve Rotheram, is part of the establishment and part of the problem – that is the message of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Liverpool’s People’s Party, Dzon.
Since being elected to the UK Parliament in May 2010, Steve Rotheram’s record has been to conserve the Westminster status quo, Dzon says the statistics show. “Steve Rotheram has only voted 46% of the time for further devolution to Scotland and Wales, he has voted against giving control over the police to local people, and has only voted to reform the way the UK Parliament works on 32% of the votes,” he said. “Steve Rotheram might have only become MP for Liverpool Walton in 2010, but his links with the establishment go back even further.”
Dzon holds a Masters of Economic and Social Studies and edited the book, ‘Transforming Politics and Policy in the Digital Age,’ under his professional name of Jonathan Bishop. The book suggests ways in which people can have a greater say in decisions using the power of technology.
Tougher trolling laws are needed. That is the opinion of Angie Bray, the Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton.
Angie Bray has had an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill accepted by Parliament. “The clause proposes a small but potentially highly significant change to the Malicious Communications Act 1988, making offences under it either-way rather than summary-only offences,” Bray said to the House of Commons. “In short, it will allow magistrates to refer certain malicious communication offences—the most egregious, at least—up to the Crown court for tougher sentencing.”
Bray hopes that this clause will help solved perceived gaps in the law. “The other crucial aspect of the change is that the six-month time limit on bringing a case to court will be dropped, leaving more time to investigate where necessary,” she said. “I hope and believe that one of the key effects will be to provide for much tougher penalties for the worst cases of cyber-bullying and, consequently, that there will be much more of a deterrent.“
Women who can’t stand the rough and tumble of parliamentary life should find something else to do says one of the UK’s strongest willed former government ministers.
Ann Widdecombe has hit out at the current generation of women MPs who feel they deserve some form of special treatment to avoid the abuse and criticism that comes with being an MP. “If an MP cannot cope with the weekly half-hour of PMQs then let him or probably her stay away,” she said. “There is plenty of other work to be done and no need to home in on this very short interlude in the serious matters of representing constituents.”
In the last year women MPs, Stella Creasy and Louise Mensch were verbally abused via the Internet. But it seems all sides of the debate on Internet trolling are united in terms of MPs being made to expect tough scrutiny. “We all know that parliamentarians are pachyderms with little or no feeling, so it (trolling) shouldn’t bother us,” said anti-trolling MP Steve Rotheram. “It has been said by many women MPs that in order to have true equality in Parliament, mediocre women have to be sitting next to mediocre men, rather than only exceptional ones, which it seems in the case of the former we now have” said former town councillor and Internet trolling expert Jonathan Bishop. “There should be no escape from scrutiny for those seeking to enter Parliament or any other elected body online or offline, and so regardless of whether one is a man or a woman if one cannot learn to develop a thick skin and take the rough with the smooth, one should not expect special treatment.”
In Wales the Welsh Assembly was originally packed with women who got in on the basis of affirmative action rather than merit. Whilst many of those retiring have gone onto successful careers outside of politics, like former environment minster Jane Davidson who is now an academic, as Ann Widdecombe says there is still a lot to be done in terms of getting women who can cope with public life. “Much is made of the fact that several women are leaving Parliament at the next election after serving as MPs for relatively short periods,” she said. “Yes but that is not because there is something uniquely inimical to women at Westminster but because they were part of a drive to recruit women by artificially smoothing their paths, something that would have been anathema to those of us who were campaigning for real equality in the 1970s.”
Bishop agrees with Widdecombe and says that all too often women in public life seek to avoid criticism, including by relying on out-dated stereotypes to work things to their advantage. “As we have seen with Maria Miller, it appears that some women entering politics think they are above scrutiny and criticism, and will use their status as a woman to gain an unfair advantage over their critics,” he said. “My grandmother was a true woman as she would not give up on her political beliefs and I’m sure would be disgusted by those who seek to use the law and other means to avoid scrutiny of their policies and beliefs, unlike her as she was always willing to account for hers.“
Gavin Callaghan, a Labour councillor on Basildon Council, who has racked up numerous complaints for trolling other councillors on Twitter, has been selected by Ed Miliband’s Labour Party to contest the parliamentary seat of Basildon and Billericay in the 2015 General Election.
Gavin Callaghan, 24, has risen to the dizzy heights of the Labour Party since moving to Basildon only 9 years ago. The outspoken youth says that his campaign against other politicians will not stop. “I will continue to be a highly-visible local Labour politician and ensure in May 2015, Labour has a strong vote across this constituency,” he said. “I will also be ensuring John Baron is held to account for the pain that his Government’s policies have caused thousands of people in this constituency over the past three-and-a-half years.”
Callaghan thinks he’s in with a chance of unseating the Conservative Party candidate that has held the seat for 12 years, but which has recently had its boundaries changed, giving Gavin Callaghan the rare opportunity to contest a general election for Labour as someone young enough to be a member of ‘Young Labour,’ which is the Labour Party’s youth wing.
Not all are satisfied with the selection of Gavin Callaghan. “He looks like a doggie (sic) second hand car sales man,” one person said online. “I think he will fit in fine with the labour villains, sell ya (sic) promises from liars just like the rest of them.” Another said: “Not only did they scrape the bottom of the barrel they also scraped the underside of the barrel to unearth this slug.“
While the men in suits surround Parliament in defence of its traditions, a new generation of students were in Parliament to put forward the case for more women in politics and government. Westminster Cathedral was taken by storm with the maiden Winihin Jemide Series conference, which brought together women from about 22 countries. The conference, “Women in Government and Politics 2013 – Africa Edition,” had its opening ceremony take place in the House of Commons.
One of the attendees was Zainab Ushman, who is a DPhil student in International Development at the University of Oxford. “African women have made remarkable strides in positions of leadership and authority across the continent,” she said. “This has been especially evident with the wave of democratization over the past two decades.
“Women now occupy presidential seats in Liberia and Malawi, foreign ministry portfolios in Rwanda, Kenya and Somalia, the leadership of the African Union and many other positions hitherto regarded as the exclusive domain of men.”
There is still more to be done, however. Mrs Winihin Ayuli-Jemide is founder of The Winihin Jemide Series and the Women in Government and Politics conference organiser. She says this is only the first of many conferences. “The Women in Government and Politics conference will boldly explore issues and concepts surrounding women’s increased involvement in Africa’s political arena with consideration given to succession planning and the next generation,” she said. “This will be an annual conference aimed at raising the global profile of the growing role women play in the heart of African public life.”
Another speaker at the conference, Mr Simon Wooley, a self-described activist and Director of the UK-based Operation Black Vote, sought to rally the conference behind its cause. “We are not asking for justice, we are not asking for race equality, we are demanding it,” he said. “And we will use our electoral clout, to decide whether you win or whether you lose.” The conference was left inspired by the Honorable Proscovia Alengot, who is the Ugandan Member of Parliament for Usuk County Katakwi District. “When I was a child I always wanted to become one of the most important people in the country,” she told delegates. “I said I would be someone important in this country, but I was really so ambitious that it was a dream, but a dream that became true.
“My dad died, and I took over from him, and who of you could take on being in politics one week after your dad or mother’s death?” she asked. “If your dad was a politician, you could still have that pain in you, as I had a pain in me, but I said no. “I looked at the young children we had – we had eight in the family and I was the second one. But I had to take the courage, and I told my mum, ‘I don’t want you to cry, everything is okay, because I am going to stand as a Member of Parliament.” One might argue that the only question young people could ask is; “What type of activist should I become, and when can I next stand for my national parliament?”
A manifesto document is being prepared based on the key agreed outputs from the delegates of the conference. Another key outcome is the campaign to generate 1 Million Signatures online, to advocate for more women in government and politics. The campaign is well underway. Every woman, from every country and from every walk of life is invited to sign up for this history making drive that will see better socio-economic outcomes for many nations of the world through the appointment or election of more women.
More than 20 countries in the world today have a woman holding office as the head of a national government. But as delegates at a recent conference at the House of Commons in London discovered, whilst the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is gradually improving, there is still a lot to be done.
The Winihin Jemide Series conference sees its role as a change driver in Sub-saharan West Africa. It drew together about 22 countries in Africa to what was described as an “extremely significant gathering.” The conference brought together academics, students and others in the field in order to help inspire better public policy and to capture their views in a participant-led manifesto taken from those views expressed at the maiden edition of the Women in Government & Politics Conference series.
The aim of the two-day conference was to articulate steps and concepts that will make government leaders, law makers and academics, who jointly influence policy, to support an increase in female numbers and to begin succession planning for young African women. “We need to pull up as many women as possible up the ladder and put aside petty grievances and nuances” was the message of Dr. Diezani Alison Madueke, the Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources, who delivered her message to the conference delegates. “We must educate, empower and mentor more of our women, it goes without saying, to ensure that they have the compelling attributes and capabilities that make us as good as anyone else that may be considered to occupy any job or any office,” she stated.
Sponsors of the conference included the Onboarding Impact Consultancy, a Nigerian owned public sector and soft-skills training firm. “As a sponsor of the first Women in Government and Politics Conference we are honoured to have had the opportunity to support the efforts of the Winihin Jemide Series in their drive to Increase the Numbers through Access and Progress for women participation at all levels of Government and Politics,” a spokesperson said. “We look forward to playing a bigger role in the next edition of the WIGP Conference.
“We believe through our collective participation we can make a significant difference for this and future generations.”
Also attending the conference was Jessica Jemila Kawra, otherwise known as Miss Tourism Ghana 2013. Forming a key part of the conference’s breakout sessions, Miss Kawra explains why taking part in the conference was so essential. “Part of my mission as Miss Tourism 2013 is to encourage Ghanaian girls to aspire to be leaders, no matter the area of endeavour they find themselves in,” she said.
The conference left women inspired and motivated, all knowing that sex equality is not something that could happen in the future, but something that can only happen in the present. “You cannot really achieve anything unless you have gender equality, because gender equality and progress, and the eradication of poverty are inextricably linked,” was how the anchor for the BBC World News service, Zeinab Badawi, put it.