Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog – Today I’m gonna be marking International Women’s day by chatting to Andrea Jenkyns (MP for Morley & Outwood) about her experiences as a woman in parliament.
Andrea was elected in 2015 and so far, has won two general elections. Andrea is a member of the Conservative party and is an advocate for Social Mobility, Fibromyalgia and Brexit. In 2017, Her son Clifford was born and she married her fellow conservative MP later that year.
I began our chat by asking Andrea about her experience as a female in parliament. Her response was promising as she feels that the environment is great for women. Westminster seems to be pretty accommodating – there is even an on-site nursery. This provides somewhere for Andrea’s son Clifford to spend his time whilst his Mum votes on the countries decisions. It was also really nice to hear that Andrea has friends across all parties, mainly the Labour Party and the Lib Dems. I was pleased to hear about the cross-parliamentary friendships as politics can seem so divisive, especially in the midst of Brexit.
Recently, the house has agreed to a year-long pilot scheme to allow proxy voting for those on maternity, paternity and adoption leave. I asked Andrea about her opinion on the motion and her support was clear. When the snap-election was called in 2017, Clifford was 3 weeks old. Due to the impending vote which Theresa May called to try to gain a higher majority in the government, many important things were happening in Westminster that Andrea needed to be there for. Andrea recalled one experience where she needed to go down to London and so, only a few weeks after giving birth, she was travelling to London with her very young baby and, on returning home that evening she received a call that she had to be back in London the next morning to vote.
Obviously, in this instance, a Proxy vote would have make life much easier. It would allow mothers to be under less pressure so recently after having a baby. Andrea also commented on her ‘mummy guilt’ which most working mothers experience, and I hope that proxy voting can help to ease this for future MPs.
I wondered if Andrea felt like she had received more negativity due to her opinion on Brexit because she was a woman. However upon asking, Andrea doesn’t feel like she has. Overall, her opinion is that Brexiteers tend to get more of a battering than retainers generally. Especially on question time where the number of Remainers vs Brexiteers seems bias and questionable, however she doesn’t believe that her gender has impacted that. She has experienced misogynistic hate on twitter though. One especially horrific letter from an ex-pat in France who threatened severe genital mutation which I doubt he would have sent to a man. This was the only incident that Andrea felt she had to report to the police. Yes she does get sent various things by trolls. These include being called an ‘extremist’ however they tend not to be targeting her gender.
Finally, I ended our chat by asking if Andrea felt empowered by the fact that our prime minister is a woman. I particularly liked that Andrea said that she
sees the prime minister, not a woman.
It’s clear that Andrea does not have any gender bias and truly does judge people on their ability and competency instead of any external factors. Its also evident that she expects that other people do the same. Andrea also voiced her passion about social mobility and her belief that everyone should have the same opportunities. I completely agree with her and think that she is an example of what you can achieve even if you’re not born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Her Yorkshire upbringing by two working class parents and her life/work experience prior to becoming an MP clearly have moulded her personality and help her to aid her constituents the best she can.
No matter what your political affiliation, Andrea is someone to look up to. Her perseverance through fibromyalgia (an invisible illness which causes debilitating pain that affects over 1.5 million people in the UK according to NRS Healthcare). You can also see this in her personal manifesto which includes campaigning for better mental health funding, better local transport and holding local authorities accountable. I’m proud that young girls in Yorkshire can experience women in power and feel like they can achieve that too – regardless of their socio-economic background or their gender.
*Image by Chris McAndrew