We are now broadcasting on Soundcloud. Do tune in.
All the podcast interviews on the women in Parliament websites www.wpradio.co.uk and www.parliamentaryradio.com are copyright protected under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copyright belongs to Boni Sones OBE.
You can listen to our 25 minute audio documentary pulling together key interviews we have done over the past ten years with women in all parties in Westminster and the Commonwealth.
May 1st 2017 will be 20 years since 101 Labour women got elected to Parliament following the Labour landslide victory. Their subsequent photo clustered around their Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was ridiculed but we hope that our books and audio podcasts over the past 12 years has helped to write a new #Herstory for them and other women in Parliament.
It's a great listen, and some good career guidance in it too.
You can read about our new book "When There's a Woman in the Room - Part Two" and our third National Archive on our books page. It will be published in May 2017. Thanks to the wwww.parliamentaryradio.com team of journalists and our advisory board MPs for their help. The technology doesn't deliver, the teams do.
We will be updating this page once a month. Week by week you can also listen to our podcasts on soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/bonisones2 and we now distribute them through Twitter https://twitter.com/bonisones2/ with_replies. Do tune in and Retweet. We use # to distribute and retweets, rather than a mass following.
2017 is our 10th year of broadcasting. Thanks to all. You can read about our history and governance lower down this page. Two books, one international award, and the support of the History of Parliament Trust and other national archives the BL and LSE too. Not bad. Thanks to Rich our web manager.
March 15th 2017
Brexiting the EU
In the same week as MPs vote through Theresa May's European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill without the two amendments made by the House of Lords, Maria Caulfield, the Conservative MP for Lewes tells us why as a member of the Brexit Select Committee she wants EU Citizens to have a right to remain in the EU.
Maternity Rights at Work Debate
Sharon Hodgson Labour's Shadow Public Health Spokes and the MP for Washington and Sunderland West brought her maternity rights at work debate to Westminster Hall today.
You can read more about what they said here (PDF).)
March 9th 2017
International Women's Day 2017
In this special 25 minute documentary we speak to Lucy Allan the Conservative MP for Telford and Fiona Mactaggart the Labour MP for Slough about their moving International Women's Day Speeches earlier in the House of Commons and about Chancellor Philip Hammond's 8th March Budget.
Lucy spoke movingly about gender based violence crimes and about her great grandmother who as a suffragette was force fed. Fiona spoke powerfully about rape as a weapon of war and the treatment of Yazidi women under the Daesh regimes of oppression and brutality. There were also three special announcements in the budget to help women given that it was held on #IWD2017 but could more have been done?
You can listen here
and read what they said here (PDF).
March 8th 2017
Three Campaigns championed by MPs in Westminster - dress codes, children of alcoholics and #WASPI Northern Ireland
In this 30 minute podcast documentary looking at topical campaigns in Westminster in March 2017, we speak to Helen Jones, the Labour MP for Warrington North who sits on the Commons Petitions Committee about her debate on dress codes and high heels. Then we ask Caroline Flint the Labour MP for Don Valley, who has joined with others to get more help for children of Alcoholics to set out what she wants ministers to do. Caroline has recently spoken about being a child of an alcoholic parent.
We end by talking to five Northern Ireland #WASPI women: Angela, Shirley, Bernadette, Maureen and Marion and the MP Alasdair McDonnell the SD and Labour MP for South Belfast who met the women after they marched on Westminster on #IWD 2017.
You can listen here
and read what they said here (PDF).
Liz Saville-Roberts MP for Plaid Dwyfor Meirionnydd has introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on a Rape Complainants Sexual History that will get its Second Reading on March 24 2017.
We interviewed Liz just after she presented her Bill to the House to the sound of cheers from all parties.
You can read her quotes from our interview here..
Chi Onwurah MP speaks up for the #WASPI campaign and says No to the Brexit Bill
In this special interview we talk to Chi Onwurah Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central about her #WASPI debate in Westminster Hall on 9th February 2017. The night before Chi had just voted against the Brexit Bill in defiance of her own party whip. Chi said: "It really is a matter of inter-generational justice that these #WASPI women are better taken care." On Brexit she added: "This is not a Brexit about the will of the people this is a Tory Brexit and I cannot vote for that."
You can read more key quotes from her podcast here.
Brexiting the EU to be or not to be
In the first part of our special two part documentary for February 2017 we hear from the opposition parties on the second reading of the recent reading of the Brexit Bill to take the UK out of the EU. First Boni Sones talks to the Labour MP Seema Malhotra, then the SNP MP Eilidih Whiteford and finally the LD candidate for Cambridge and former MP Julian Huppert.
Conservative women champion Equality, World Poverty and Human Rights
In part two of our documentary you can hear from three Conservative Women on their fight for equalities, world proverty and human trafficking. We speak to Maria Miller MP Chair of the influential Equalities Select Committee, Caroline Spelman MP a Second Church Estates Commissioner, and Heidi Allen who sits on the Work and Pensions Select Committee.
You can read quotes from these interviews and our web links in this pdf.
Heidi Allen MP
Helping the victims of Modern Day Slavery get more help in 2017
Heidi Allen the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire and a member of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions discusses her recent question to the Prime Minister Theresa May on helping the victims of modern day slavery to be fast tracked through the benefit system to enable them to access help more easily.
Heidi says that in 2017 proposed changes to the Benefit System will allow dedicated staff at job centres to deal with vulnerable people on a one to one basis and guide them through the system more easily.
Heidi Allen MP hopes that the "sausage machine" mentality of job centres will change, and that more generally people who go to Job Centres will get more personalised help. She says she would love to be put in charge of them. She admits that Britain leaving the EU could result in more people turning to Job Centres for help as the economy slows up.
She also discusses her Conservative values, her work in the year ahead and her bid to become the Mayor of Cambridge as well as an MP. Since the death of Jo Cox, Heidi now has a member of staff accompanying her around her constituency where Boni Sones, Executive Producer of www.parliamentaryradio.com caught up with her at one of her local surgeries.
Key Quote Heidi: "There is a real determination to make the way we deliver benefits more efficient and to deliver them in a better way. Less sausage machine, more good progress, trained work coaches and more compassion in individual treatment... Do I think it is possible to turn the brand and the culture of the job centres round? "Yes" I do, and I wish I was the one delivering it. I would love that job... It's not the government, it's not the system that gets it wrong, it is human beings. It is somebody saying "No" on a computer screen... We need a cultural change. ..We may well see higher volume (in job centres as a result of Brexit), if we do, we must not return to the sausage machine days of old. We have to look after people as individuals, it is possible but it is going to be a huge cultural challenge."
Production Note January 2017 (.pdf)
2016 Reviewed and what next for women in 2017 - the MPs championing women Mims Davies MP; Angela Rayner MP; Dr Eilidh Whiteford SNP MP; Chris Bryant MP
"It couldn't be a more interesting time to be in parliament", the Conservative Eastleigh MP Mims Davies tells Boni Sones Executive Producer of www.parliamentaryradio.com. Mims is a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on women and took up her seat in parliament in the May 2015 General Election after serving as a local councillor. She starts off our Review of 2016 and look ahead to the parliamentary calendar in 2017. We then speak to another two MPs also elected in 2015 Angela Rayner Labour's Education Spokesperson and the MP for Ashton under-Lyne and to Dr Eilidh Whiteford the SNP MP for Banff and Buchan who has with her colleagues been championing equality issues including her own Domestic Violence Bill. This special 50 minute three part documentary ends with Chris Bryant the Labour MP for the Rhondda talking about his question to the Prime Minister on child funeral costs, something the government may be about to review. Thanks to all our MP supporters.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 20.5MB)
or download the MP3 file (file size: 20.5MB)
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.4MB)
Feminists Fight Back Jackie Ashley and Ann Treneman talk about Donald Trump, the 45th President elect of the USA
Jackie Ashley, President of Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge, an all-women's college, sits down with Ann Treneman, the former Lobby Correspondent for the Times and now it's Theatre Critic to discuss the new era of a Donald Trump Presidency for the United States of America. They are interviewed by Boni Sones, Executive Producer of www.parliamentaryradio.com which Jackie Chairs.
Ann was a guest speaker at a Lucy Cavendish College event today.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.8MB)
Economist Vicky Pryce on the Trump Presidency
When Donald Trump takes over as the 45th President of the United States of America in January 2017 all eyes will be watching to see how much of his hate filled rhetoric forms part of his public policy initiatives. Banning abortion for women, constructing a wall with Mexico, banning Muslims, limiting immigration, even if it is vital to the American economy, investing in infrastructure to create jobs and growth, and limiting trade and imports from China are pledges he made to his Republican supporters.
Vicky is a former Deputy Head of the UK Government Economic Service from 2004 to 2007 and joint head from 2007 to 2010, and was the first woman to be appointed to the post of Chief Economic Adviser to the DTI in 2002.
Vicky told Boni Trump would find difficulty banning World trade and creating barriers and that abortion rights were decided by individual states, so in reality his powers were limited even as a President.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9MB)
Fabian women launch a Five Point Charter for BREXIT
Fabian women are asking the government to ensure it protects women's rights in its forthcoming negotiations over BREXIT. In this podcast we spoke to three of the 30 Labour MPs who have already put their names to it, Keir Starmer, the MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Angela Rayner, the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, and Seema Malhotra, the MP for Feltham and Heston, and a member of the BREXIT Select Committee. And then we asked Ivan Bartoletti, the Fabian Women's Chair, to read the charter out to us. You can give your support by using #FWNCharter and @fabianwomen.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.7MB)
Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Equalities Select Committee
Maria Miller is known as a bit of a terrier as Chair of the new Equalities Select Committee. She and her committee members are about to look into how BREXIT and leaving the EU will affect our Equalities Legislation. The Committee has already caused a stir by examining issues such as sex education in schools, transgender equality, maternity rights at work, and the gender pay gap. Other reports are in the pipeline, including looking at the impact of boundary changes on women's representation in parliament. Miller doesn't mind being a thorn in the government's side, in fact she relishes her job and says she should be holding ministers to account.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 12.8MB)
Maria Eagle MP and the benefit system
Maria Eagle, the Labour MP for Garston & Halewood discusses how Concentrix withdrew Working Tax Credits from single parent families by a random database test to see if they were living with a partner. In one case they accused a woman of living with Joseph Cadbury a well known dead Quaker philanthropist who built housing for workers. Now HMRC has ended the Concentrix Contract which will expire in 2017. Maria also talks about food banks, the future of work, a universal basic income, and the decision by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd not to have an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave and police wrongful arrests by fabricating the evidence in this famous 1984 miners strike protest.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 19.2MB)
20 October 2016
BREXITING the EU puts jobs at risk
Sharon Hodgson MP for Washington and Sunderland West
The Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, whose constituency of Washington and Sunderland West is home to the Nissan Factory which employs 6,700 people, has been working to ensure that when the UK BREXITS the European Union jobs are not put at risk. She has put a Question to the Prime Minister about it.
Theresa May has already met with Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, who had warned that Nissan could halt investment in its Sunderland plant if the UK imposed EU export tariffs after it leaves. The Sunderland factory makes 10,000 cars a week, and around half a million a year.
After the meeting, Ghosn told reporters he was "confident" the government will continue to ensure the UK remains a competitive place to do business, and May commented that the government was committed to creating and supporting "the right conditions" for the automotive industry to go from strength to strength in the UK. Nissan is still deciding where to build its new Qashqai SUV model, so the stakes are high.
Hodgson told www.parliamentaryradio.com: "The meeting with the Prime Minister and Carlos was a very constructive, positive meeting. Carlos has been calling for compensation if we get trade tariffs. A lot of jobs a lot of livelihoods are at stake. 61 per cent voted to Brexit the EU here. I am a big Remain supporter, we are where we are and we have to make the best of it. But none of those people who voted to leave voted to lose their job or to become poorer. I don't believe leaving is the right thing. These jobs at Nissan are vitally important to the NE and the Prime Minister knows that too."
Listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 2.36MB)
14 October 2016
Speaking up for Child Refugees and for Women Against State Pension Age Rises
The campaigners - Heidi Allen MP
This week www.parliamentearyradio.com features two women MPs, one Conservative, one Labour who have used parliamentary devices to push forward issues they are campaigning on.
Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire has been "nagging" at the government's heels for many months through debates, questions, and high profile visits to the Calais camps to ensure that more child refugees can come to the UK. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has just announced that the government had agreed to verify with the French authorities by the end of this week a list of 387 child refugees with a legal right to come to the UK, working with the campaign group Citizens UK. She added: "We will move quickly within days and remove very quickly those children."
Boni Sones spokes to Heidi in Westminster - listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.33MB)
The campaigners #WASPI - Kate Green MP
Kate Green, the Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, was one of an exceptional number of MPs from all parties who handed in a petition from her constituents in protest at the implementation of the 1995 and 2011 Pensions Acts, which increased the age at which women can retire. It was a very moving scene in the House as one by one they lined up to take their petitions to the Speaker John Bercow and put them on the table before him. The Labour MP Barbara Keeley presented the largest number of petitions on behalf of her constituents in Worsley and Eccles South and those of many other MPs.
In some cases just a few months' difference in age can mean three or even four years difference in a woman's retirement age. This change affects 2.5 million women across the UK who now face real financial hardship, and some have to rely on benefits and are being sent on work experience in their 60s rather than receiving their state pensions, which come from the contributions they have themselves made. Poor communication of these changes has been a big problem for the so called #WASPI Women (Women Against State Pension Age Increases) who do not oppose the raising of the state pension age to align it with that of men but they do point out how unfairly this has been done, particularly for women born in 1953 and 1954.
Boni Sones spoke to Kate Green - listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.41MB)
8 September 2016
The PM Theresa May returns from the G20 to face PMQs on Modern Day Slavery and Domestic Violence Refuges
Maggie Throup MP and The APPG on Modern Day Slavery
Maggie Throup the Conservative MP for Erewash is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Day Slavery. Following Theresa May's first Prime Minister's Questions after the Summer break on September 7th 2016 Ms Throup asked May if she would help "eradicate" modern day slavery. May acknowledged the problem affected many people here and globally. Ms Throup is hopeful that the New Modern Day Slavery Act 2015, which May supported while in the Home Office, will be making an impact with its two new civil orders. The APPG is soon to publish a new report but Ms Throup said the vote to BREXIT the EU meant we all needed to be more vigilant to ensure international standards are upheld and that people are not enslaved particularly those working in the beauty industry such as nail bars where customers can themselves ask questions.
Listen to Maggie's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.54MB)
Vera Baird QC and PCC Northumbria
Saving Domestic Violence Refugesâ€‹from closure
Vera Baird, QC, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and PCC for Northumbria, discusses concerns that a soon to be imposed benefit cap will lead to the closure of many Refuges for women fleeing Domestic Violence at home, and an inability for them to find somewhere to go. She says such a policy would be a "disaster" but is hopeful that Theresa May the new Prime Minister of the UK may be about to knock heads together at two different ministerial department's The Home Office and DWP to ensure there is a change of heart. When at the Home Office May introduced a Violence Against Women & Girls Policy and her reply to a PMQ about the issue has raised hopes that help is at hand.
Listen to Vera's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.07MB)
Our Summer Break 2016
Here are some thanks we have received:-
21 July 2016
It's a great listen - well done, you are amazing!
Really enjoyed it too.
All v best,
14th July 2017
"Well done @bonisones2 for keeping such important archives @theresa_may @Women2Win. What a journey since then!"
Baroness Anne Jenkin, Co-Chair Women2Win
"We love Soundcloud and Tweeting your interviews"
Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire
"Excellent interviews, great work thank you", "This is good a must listen for #Waspi", "Brilliant and informative", "It's a great listen", "Excellent and informative", "Fabulous piece on #WASPI", "Brilliant Boni, thank you"
Some twitter responses from @WASPI_Campaign members to our July Documentary following their rally to parliament. @Everywoman6, @MoMonotdaft, @Bugseybeevers, @enajeco, @carol580532
21 July 2016
Pure Thatcher or just Theresa May being her own person at her First PMQs as the Second woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In this special www.parliamentaryradio.com podcast our presenters Jackie Ashley and Deborah McGurran talk to three Conservative Women MPs about Theresa May's First PMQs.
Wendy Morton, the MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, Victoria Borwick the MP for Kensington, and Caroline Spelman the MP for Meriden debate Theresa's first appearance in the House as the Second female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Dressed conservatively in grey, commentators said she resembled Margaret Thatcher - even her voice sounded similar - but as Wendy, Victoria and Caroline explain May has her own style and is very much her own person.
They recall moments when May has encouraged them personally and they say that she stands firmly by the side of other women MPs helping them to get selected and elected to parliament going on to help them when they are in the House.
May is a founder of the Conservative's Women2Win Campaign which she co-chairs with Baroness Anne Jenkin.
At her first PMQs she answered questions from Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs on Honour Killings, the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, and gender based violence.
Morton: "She said we were the party that brought two female prime ministers into the House without the need for a shortlist, and then after the exchange with Jeremy Corbyn she just said 'does it remind you of anyone?'""
Borwick: "It was calm, that underneath all the rowdiness, and underneath all the usual Commons chatter she was actually in command of the brief.""
Spelman: "She did say to Tim Farron at the end of her question, 'size does matter', so she is not without humour, she balances the serious with some gentle ribbing, which I think is her hallmark.""
Thanks to Rob Coleman for helping us produce this documentary.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.2MB)
14 July 2016
Theresa May takes over as the UK's Second woman Prime Minister as David Cameron bows out still willing them all on!
Theresa May MP is Britain's 55th Prime Minister and the second only woman following in the footsteps of that other Conservative Margaret Thatcher. As David Cameron MP bowed out and said farewell at his last PMQ he said he had answered 5,500 Prime Ministers Questions and attended to 92 hours of statements in the House. www.parliamentaryradio.com for women caught up with Jo Churchill the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and sits on the new Select Committee for women, who thanked Cameron for the work he has done for women over his six year term in office. She also asked him about one of her pet causes women and cancer and compensation for those affected by contaminated blood, an issue he has shown interest in. He said all those infected with hepatitis C and HIV following failings in the 1970s and 1980s, would for the first time receive an annual payment, but some campaigners were not happy with his response.
Before Cameron sat down to a standing ovation he told the House he would be "willing them all on" and that "I was the future once". He also gave a reassurance that he did "love" Humphrey the No 10 cat. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, facing a bitter leadership challenge, questioned Cameron on his record on homelessness and affordable housing.
We asked Jo Churchill MP to give us her response to Cameron's last PMQ, and then we asked Baroness Anne Jenkin, co-chair with Theresa May, of Women2Win to tell us what kind of Prime Minister Theresa May MP would make. Later we spoke to the former NI Secretary, Theresa Villiers MP for Chipping Barnet, as she talked to the media outside parliament, and to Dr Sarah Wollaston MP for Totnes, the Chair of the Health Select Committee.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.9MB)
Women2Win Archive interview with Theresa May Autumn 2007 now the new Prime Minister of Britain (elect)
Copyright Boni Sones OBE
Theresa May, a founder of Women2Win has spearheaded the parties attempts to recruit more women by getting them onto the initially controversial "A" list of candidates, even when she personally received criticism for doing so.
In this exclusive Archive interview, Boni Sones talked to Theresa May on the train as she travelled back from one Liverpool event in November 2007 just before Women2Win's first birthday on November 23rd. Back then the Conservative party had just 17 female MPs and now it has 68.
We congratulate Theresa May today for becoming only the second woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Baroness Anne Jenkin and all the Women2Win team deserve praise too.
This photograph was taken by www.parliamentaryradio.com to celebrate 90 years of women and the vote in 2008. Photographer Kieran Doherty. Copyright Boni Sones.
Listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 3.61MB)
Archives April 2008
Theresa May says PMQs needs reform to appeal to more people
In April 2008 Theresa May MP, then the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, told wpradio.co.uk that she thinks debate in the Chamber is sometimes too confrontational.
She said that she supported her leader, David Cameron, for being robust in Prime Ministers Questions, but that she was disappointed that the then Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, chose to be confrontational in the recent International Women's Day debate.
Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones spoke to her.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 4.29MB)
Archives March 2009
International Women's Day Women and the Recession
Women across party celebrated International Women's Day 09 with a heartfelt debate in the Chamber on Women and the Recession. The debate had been arranged by Labour's Harriet Harman MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party and Vera Baird MP, the Solicitor General. It came a day after women from all parties had been invited to number 11 to discuss how to support women during the recession. Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women spoke of the need to help older women and families and her Facebook campaign "Theresa May for Equal Pay".
And THANKS Theresa for the mention of WP Radio's women MPs photographs in the debate which are to be promoted to schools.
Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones spoke to her.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 1.26MB)
Archives Autumn 2011
Women2Win: Looking Towards 2015 - The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
It was a five year birthday party and a packed celebration of the Conservative Women2Win Campaign that saw a record 49 of their women MPs elected to Parliament in the 2010 General Election. But not content with their numbers the campaign is marching on to get even more Conservative women MP elected in the next General Election probably in 2015. So could the event panellists envisage a gender balanced parliament in the next ten years? Our intrepid reporter Linda Fairbrother talked to the Guest Speaker, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, then she chatted to Helen Grant MP, Priti Patel MP, Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol and Jackie Ashley, Columnist, the Guardian. Thanks to Baroness Jenkin, Director of Women2Win & Co-Founder of Women2Win.
Theresa May Hot Quote: "The Party did do quite a lot, we didn't go all the way to create All-women shortlists, but the creation of the "A" list the "Priority" list, the Open primaries, the all postal Open Primaries too. We have done a lot in the past of course we will have to look at the new scenario and what needs to be done in future as well."
Listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.26MB)
29 June 2016
The Big #@waspi_campaign Rally in Westminster June 29th 2016
It had been planned for months, banners made, cakes baked and labels diligently pinned on stating your date of birth and depicting the &"unjust" escalation over years of women's retirement age.
73 local grass roots branches of the #WASPI campaign and an estimated 2,000 women turned up in Parliament Square to meet with their MPs who joined in their protest. A little later the SNP's Mhairi Black, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South presented her own Private Member's Bill to parliament calling for action.
"The #WASPI women won't go away, the government should listen and get round the table to start discussions", said former Tory Minister, Tim Loughton the MP for East Worthing and Shoreman who now co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the #WASPI Campaign with Labour's Barbara Keeley the MP for Worsley and Eccles South.
Loughton told us that after five debates in the Commons and 140 Members of Parliament from all parties who have now joined the APPG on #WASPI the numbers didn't add up for the government. He said that when they put down amendments to the new Pensions Bill in Parliament in the Autumn the government faced the prospect of â€śdefeatâ€ť.
In this special 30 minute documentary www.parliamentaryradio.com met with the women as they met with their MPs in the corridors of Westminster hot foot from their Rally.
We speak to: Dennis Skinner MP, and his constituents, Pauline, Katharine, and Tricia. We then hear from Tim Loughton MP, then four #WASPI women Carole, Anne, Sheelagh and Wendy.
Outside the committee room where the WASPI co-founders were meeting with Conservative MPs we then spoke to Andrew Bingham MP for High Peak and his constituent, Kathleen. We also talked to Robert Halford MP for Harlow and Valerie, another women impacted by the changes.
We end by asking Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire and a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which has already produced a report on the WASPI campaign and a possible solution, what she thought the best course of action was now.
At the beginning and end of the documentary you hear the voices of WASPI women Valerie Pears and Tricia Clough.
Listen to the documentary:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 21.6MB)
27 June 2016
Black Monday in Westminster: Statement, after Statement after Statement...
We talk to Gisela Stuart MP Chair of Vote LEAVE, Seema Malhotra MP who had just left Labour's shadow cabinet, and the LD Business spokes Baroness Burt.
Historians will look back at the events in Westminster today as tumultuous! At 8 am the Chancellor George Osborne appeared in public for the first time since Thursday's vote to leave the European Union with a statement that was meant to steady the markets. It worked for a bit and then the pound sank to a record low since 1985. Next came Labour's Deputy Leader Tom Watson, back from Glastonbury, to issue a statement to his own leader Jeremy Corbyn, that he would in all likelihood face a leadership challenge after at least 20 of his shadow cabinet expressed no confidence in him and resigned, issuing scathing statements attached to their individual tweets criticising their leader for not doing enough to pull out Labour's vote in the referendum.
By 2.30 pm all took to their seats in the Chamber to listen to the Prime Minister David Cameron issuing his own statement about his resignation as Prime Minister and how a BREXIT from the EU might be handled. Of course Jeremy Corbyn then issued his own statement, including congratulating the Prime Minister for his record in office on gay marriage, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and for his reactions to the tragic shooting ten days ago of Labour's Jo Cox MP.
The day ended with a downgrading of the UK's S&P credit ratings from AAA to just AA. In the evening a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party agreed to hold a vote of no confidence in Mr Corbyn the next day. Meanwhile speculation was rife that leading BREXITEER Boris Johnson MP and lukewarm REMAINER Theresa May MP would be the two contenders for the Conservative throne after the Tory backbench 1922 Committee had met. A new General Election by the end of the year and possibly revoking the five-year Fixed-Term Parliament Act was also being discussed.
In these three exclusive interviews for www.parliamentaryradio.com we speak to the Chair of the Leave camp Gisela Stuart the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, now tipped to be a leading BREXIT negotiator; Seema Malhotra, the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston, who had just resigned as shadow secretary to the Treasury; and Baroness Lorely Burt of Solihull the Liberal Democrat's business spokesperson who actually managed a laugh when we asked her how bad things were?
Gisela: "I am not the government, not even the alternative government. I was Chair of an organisation that campaigned for a LEAVE Vote; a government's responsibility even when it goes into a General Election is to take the manifestos and work out a plan of what the alternatives are. We had a government that called a Referendum at choice and it was so certain it would win that it didn't have to think about what it itself had to do. I am a Labour back-bencher, I am not an alternative government. The Prime Minister put that question to the people. The European Union is a busted flush."
Seema: "I think it is time now to work for a peaceful transition and I believe that is in Jeremy's interests as well. I hope he will have the courage to step down and know he will have the party behind him. It was incredibly difficult it was heart breaking, I feel for Jeremy, but it was the right decision, and he has taken this party as far as he can and we now need a fresh start. Jo Cox is someone I think about every day. The message we should have from Jo's #MoreInCommon is a very powerful one and I want to make the effort and take the time to make coalitions across parties to make change happen."
Baroness Burt: "I just feel really gutted because we know it is going to be an uphill struggle from here on in, but arrangements are being made should the worst happen, and the worst is happening. Osborne sought to reassure the markets today that Britain is still open for business and who knows there maybe opportunities for businesses to benefit in different ways from this result. I would love to see a second referendum, if possible I would certainly do so. My Party is committed to taking us back into the European Union with full membership back. I would counsel business to keep calm."
Listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 20.9MB)
25 June 2016
What Now for Equal Pay and Rights at Work following the LEAVE Vote on BREXIT?
Equal pay, rights to Maternity Leave and holiday pay are often given as positive outcomes from Britain's membership of the European Union. So what now for Equal Pay following Britain's LEAVE vote in this week's Referendum?
In this special podcast for www.parliamentaryradio.com for women, Simon Deakin, Professor of Law University of Cambridge and Director CBR, says women and families will keep those rights in the short term but the UK government will now be able to draft its own new legislation that can adapt or change these for the better or worse in the future.
Deakin goes on to say Britain does need to belong to a trading block such as the European Economic Area, and that renegotiating 50 new trade deals will be complex and take years. He believes there may be a need for a second referendum and calls for an action plan to be made public.
Listen to the interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 1.51MB)
20 June 2016
The Guardian's political editor Anushka Asthana, The Liberal Democrat Baroness Susan Kramer, and the Conservative Baroness Anne Jenkin pay tribute across party from the Commons and the Lords to Jo Cox the former Labour MP for Batley and Spen, shot and murdered in the UK while carrying out her constituency duties last Thursday in West Yorkshire.
Thanks to all for the interviews at such a sad time in the House of Commons. All our thoughts are with Jo's colleagues on the Labour benches. Our thoughts and our love is with Jo's family.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 13.6MB)
8 June 2016
150 years later and women's rights are celebrated in Westminster
#NewDawn a new art work for women is unveiled over St Stephen's Entrance
Caroline Noakes MP, Chair House of Commons Works of Art Committee, artist Mary Branson, and Melanie Unwin, Deputy Curator, discuss the launch of the new art installation in parliament to celebrate women's suffrage called New Dawn. It was installed 150 years after the first mass petition to parliament was presented by John Stuart Mill MP calling for women to be given the vote.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.89MB)
@fawcettsociety ensures Millicent Fawcett's values of equality for women live on forever!
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP; Chair Women and Equalities Select Committee, Maria Miller MP; Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP; and Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett give their views on the legacy of campaigner Millicent Fawcett. Also Caroline Criado-Perez, who is campaigning for a statute of Millicent; Professor June Purvis, Historian, and Sam Smethers, CEO Fawcett. They discuss the achievements and contribution of Millicent Fawcett 150 years after the petition for women's suffrage was first made to Parliament and gender equality today.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 19.5MB)
25 May 2016
#WASPI women and the APPG fighting to remedy an injustice
Three leading members of the All-Partly Parliamentary Group for the WASPIs - Women Against State Pension Inequality - tell www.parliamentaryradio.com why they are campaigning for new transitional arrangements to help women affected by the injustice of the equalisation of the pension ages for men and women to 67. Speaking up for the WASPIs in this special documentary are the Chair of the APPG Barbara Keeley, the Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, Mhairi Black the SNP MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South, and Caroline Spelman the Conservative MP for Meriden.
Listen to the WASPI women interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.3MB)
The Europe Referendum June 23rd 2016 - why staying IN matters for our economy and world peace
#Intogether and #StrongerIN @iVoteStay
As the arguments to REMAIN or LEAVE in the forthcoming referendum on Britain's membership of Europe on June 23rd get more heated we ask two leading women #Intogether and #StrongerIn proponents to tell us why they are voting to REMAIN.
Baroness Shirley Williams the LD peer and Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden, both say Britain's economy is stronger in Europe, and that Europe has done much to ensure Peace over many decades. They also agree that the Referendum debate is being dominated by the men which puts off women voters. Baroness Williams says Britain counts for more in Europe and that â€śpeople will listen to itâ€ť. She also points out that Europe has given women maternity pay and holiday leave.
Baroness Williams says that in Europe we can battle to prevent climate change, and help catch sophisticated criminal elites trading in trafficking. Caroline Spelman MP is about to do a 5 mile run with a sign on her back saying she will speak to anyone about Europe as she runs.
Listen to Baroness Williams' interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.60MB)
Listen to Caroline Spelman's interview on Europe:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 3.15MB)
Proposing the Queen's Speech, what an Honour, Caroline Spelman MP
Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden since 1997, and now the Second Church Estates Commissioner was afforded the honour of proposing the Queen's Speech in Parliament. She is a former Secretary of State, with numerous shadow ministerial roles to her name, and a former Chairman of the Conservative Party. Clearly Caroline is no novice at speaking in the Chamber but in this interview forwww.parliamentaryradio.com we hear how she overcame her nerves on this very special occasion to speak of the friendship and warmth across all parties in Westminster she has received. MPs she says are in Parliament to "make a difference" and that "no-one has had their day as long as they are still serving as an MP." Proposing the Queen's Speech she said was a "one-off opportunity" that she relished.
Listen to Caroline Spelman's interview on the Queen's Speech:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.4MB)
10 May 2016
David Cameron uses PMQs to pledge to do more for child refugees after angry exchanges
Heidi Allen, The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, has secured a significant victory to get her own government to take more child refugees fleeing war torn Syria after visiting camps in Lesbos and Calais. David Cameron used Prime Minister's Questions to make the announcement, the details of which are still being worked out.
She had worked with MPs in other parties, including Labour's Yvette Cooper, to visit the Calais camps, and she spoke with the LD leader Tim Farron, who had both been lobbying hard for change with angry exchanges across the floor of the House.
Now children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March - when the EU struck its refugee deal with Turkey - will be eligible for resettlement in the UK, but no numbers have been agreed yet.
Some had wanted the UK to take 3,000 and had compared the plight of these children to the Kindertransport when the UK took in 10,000 mainly Jewish children before the outbreak of the Second World War.
We caught up with Heidi just before she went in to vote on her own amendment in the Immigration Bill where she wanted to see refugee children and those still seeking asylum treated on similar terms.
Heidi key quote: "It was Calais where I saw the people living underneath the motorway bridges, there was so little provision and the eerie quietness of the camp in the morning because all the kids had been desperately trying to scramble onto lorries at night. The children had spent a night of hell in sheer desperation. It made me determined to do something. When it is about humanity it doesn't seem political in a way. I am not shy about saying what I think but this doesn't feel like a 'U-turn'. The government was always very welcoming to refugees, and all the way through we were at pains to say "this is fantastic but...". We weren't expecting it and we met with the Minister immediately after PMQs to see how it could become a reality. We will continue to go back to the camps and take the advice of the charities on the ground and work with local authorities to see how to implement this policy as a team."
Listen to Heidi's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.99MB)
How one teenage Mum turned her life around and is now an MP helping others
It was one of those debates that united all parties in the House of Commons and also gave rise to one of the most moving personal stories Westminster has heard. When the family rights campaigner Lucy Allen, the Conservative MP for Telford, introduced her debate on Regional Differences in Teenage Pregnancies in Westminster Hall recently it received a ringing endorsement from all who wanted to see a reduction in unwanted births and the resulting deprivations like low self-esteem and low income attainment.
Lucy Allen MP told the Chamber that the good news was that data published by the Office for National Statistics in March showed a steady decline in the average rates of teenage pregnancy in England and Wales, but that England and Wales still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, with extremes in regional variations.
One of those to speak was Angela Rayner the Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, who at 16 was a teenage Mum who had been made to feel so ashamed by her midwife that she gave birth without pain relief, but through the love of her son, took herself back into the classroom to study, and became a home-help and with the help of the Trade Union Movement is now an MP. Her son now a young man is doing well too.
Angela's colleague Sharon Hodgson, Labour's Children's Minister, and the MP for Washington and Sunderland West also spoke of her own Party's teenage pregnancy strategy first introduced in 1997 but which she warned was now under threat from the introduction of more Academies despite the welcome decrease in births.
Angela Rayner MP key quote: "It was my pregnancy that turned my life around. I was deprived, I did have that background, I did suffer in my childhood and it was having Ryan that pulled me from the brink of potentially going down the wrong path because I had a responsibility. I had somebody to love and to take care of and I had a sense of purpose all of a sudden. I am not suggesting that this is right for everyone; because it was incredibly difficult for me as my son had disabilities he had ADHD. I went to parenting course and to the SureStart Centres because I wanted to prove young Mums can succeed and every child should be celebrated. But we can't hide from the key high risk factors as to why women end up like this and we need to invest more. Adult education was fantastic for me, I went back to do a carers course, but a lot of adult education courses are now closing. The interventions of the State helped me and my son."
She continued: "My Midwife asked me when I was in Labour if I had done my GSCEs like her daughter had and she made me feel so upset and worried I didn't ask for any pain relief! I was terrified and in pain and didn't say anything because I did not want them to think I wasn't good enough to have my child. The debate touched my heart, I wanted people to think â€śdon't write them offâ€ť, â€śhelp themâ€ť, don't make assumptions about their lives. We need to learn from young people and listen to them, and stop taking away the public services they vitally need."
Sharon Hodgson MP key quote: "There are large variations in teenage pregnancies between and within regions. My Local Authority area has reached a 45 per cent reduction but other areas in the NE are only in the early 30s. Thankfully now more and more young Mums do keep their babies but we do need to support them. Angela is the best role model for all young Mums out there. It has been a timely debate since 1997 when Labour introduced the first strategy; the worry is now that strategy isn't in place because the funding that has got us this 51 per cent reduction is no longer there. With the move to Academies there is a real risk to sex and relationship education and a possibility we will see a reversal in that huge gain that we have made, we can celebrate where we have got to, but we have to have our eye on where we want to get to."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.55MB)
18 March 2016
â€‹George Osborne's 2016 March Budget
The Political Editors, the MPs, and the campaigner Jamie Oliver
George Osborne's eighth budget got a mixed reaction from MPs and lobby journalists. No sooner had he sat down on the green benches beside the Prime Minister, David Cameron, than his supporters and opponents either begun to shower praise on him or to re-frame his record as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Within minutes the Daily Mail headline writers had summed it up: "Osborne stuns MPs by announcing a sugar tax on soft drinks, lifetimes ISAs and plans to turn every school into an academy". BUT it also showed a photograph of Theresa May, the Home Secretary sitting beside Osborne wearing a low cut dress and went on to say: "and gets an eyeful from Theresa May".
Women are used to being the butt of ridicule in politics, particularly when they are in the Chamber, so we hot footed it over to the press Lobby to talk to the newly appointed first female political editors of a national broadsheet,â€‹Heather Stewart, and Anushka Asthana, who job share working for the Guardian. Just as they pinged their copy off to their news desk we stood below the "Burma Road" sign in the corridor of the Lobby and asked them to tell us what their analysis of Osborne's budget showed. The headline on their story was a touch more sober: "George Osborne unveils sugar tax in eighth budget as growth forecast falls."
The next day the government had to do a "U" turn over its controversial cut-back to Independent Living Allowance for disabled people and it led to the resignation of the Secretary of State for Welfare Iain Duncan Smith.
In this special www.parliamentaryradio.com half-hour documentary we first spoke to Heather and Anushka, then we asked three female politicians, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Rupa Huq MP, and Baroness Susan Kramer, to give us their reaction to the budget announcements. We also spoke with Jamie Oliver, who was "over the moon" about the new sugar tax.
Heather Stewart said: "He has missed most of his fiscal targets, so it is hard to say he has been a roaring success as a Chancellor, his record looking at the economic and fiscal forecast is quite mixed."
Anushka Asthana said: "He was trying to sweeten the picture with that sugar tax, to almost cover up that grim economic picture but we are watching all of this through the lens of a leadership battle that we know is to come, and George Osborne has his eye on it. I think he was trying to walk a careful path towards a centrist path as a Conservative Chancellor. He has a difficult EU referendum and has to throw some red meat to the back benches and he did that with policies to help small business, a reduction in corporation tax, trying to help out savers, and freezing fuel duty.
"The impact on disability benefit with a cut back of £1.2 billion is going to hit people who are struggling who needs aids, and it is not just Labour who is going to be worried about it Conservatives are showing a lot of angst too, and so is the Department of Work and Pensions."
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed said: "I am very pleased with it, it is a very robust forward thinking programme that includes measures like rolling forward the Academy programme, and the introduction of a sugar levy which is something I have campaigned on for a long time, with a certain amount of ridicule. I think it is really important that a government understands how to look after our children at every level."
Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton said: "I was a bit disappointed by this, it was a bit thin, Osborne is known as a master magician who can pull rabbits out of hats, a lot of these things won't come in until 2020 after which he will long cease to be a Chancellor, it seems to be a lot of smoke and mirrors. For the average person it is not going to massively improve their lives all these things are skewed towards the rich. They are putting the next generation first if they have rich parents who can help them save with these ISAs but it has done nothing for the environment. The sugar tax is something I have lobbied for. Women have borne the brunt of these cuts as it is. Women have borne the brunt of these cuts... as they work in local government which is being cut back."
Baroness Kramer the LD Economy spokesperson said: "This is the sweet and sour budget, the government has missed its targets and Osborne is making us pay for that with 3.5 billion of mystery cuts to come out of public spending. They will be front line, the schools and health service have to put an extra 2 billion into pension funds and that will come out of the front line. He has made some very welcome cuts in business rates but that is coming out of the money that usually goes to local government, people are going to feel that cut. I am delighted with the sugar tax all credit to campaigners because obesity is a blight, but the education budget is being cut, so I only see the sugar tax as a little bit of a token. The ISA saving scheme is a way of changing all of our pensions in future years, so I hope young people put the money first into a pension and only the left-overs into an ISA."
Chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver said: "When I woke up this morning, I didn't even think this would happen it is an extraordinary curve ball in my day and on behalf of all the parents and children in Britain I am over the moon. I am so happy, not just because of the sugary drink tax, it is also the hard cash going into primary schools, and it is a precursor to the government releasing the childhood obesity strategy which is the real grunt work. If you are a poor kid in Britain you are four times more likely to be obese, and I told Osborne that, it is about the fact they have done it and now I am excited to see what happens with the strategy."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 25.7MB)
International Women's Day Special Broadcast
Baroness Featherstone â€“ How Britain's gay marriage laws were changed and the Liberal Democrats fight for equality
"Just believe in yourself and keep pushing forward, keep pushing. Without women pushing forward change won't happen, men don't give away power women have to take it. The level of abuse I was told about internationally is stunning."
In a new book Baroness Featherstone, a former Liberal Democrat MP tells her gripping story of how she as a Minister in the Home Office fought to get MPs of all parties to vote in favour of gay marriage in Britain. Civil ceremonies were already allowed, thanks to the previous Labour government but wanting to put her stamp onto political history, and as part of the first Liberal government of any kind in 70 years, she determined to make society more liberal too. 'Equal Ever After: The fight for same-sex marriage and how Lynne Featherstone made it happen' gives a blow by blow account of how one of the great social changes of modern times came about. This Uber-Liberal junior minister persuaded her Uber-Conservative counterparts in the 2010 coalition government including her own highly conservative Home Secretary, Theresa May, that this was the right moment to allow gay marriage.
At Second Reading Lynne and gay marriage supporters from all sides of the House, Conservative MPs, Labour MPs and the LDs won the vote 366 to 161 and the Bill received Royal Assent five months later on 17th July 2013. But it split and led to bitter battles in Conservative Party Constituency Associations and in all denominations of the Church. Lynne's recriminations to church leaders are heart felt, and she is still waiting for the Prime Minister, David Cameron to thank her for a success he likes to claim as his own, which has not previously been disputed. It was not in any Party manifesto before the General Election. She thanked PinkNews for its tireless campaigning. She failed to get heterosexual couples to be allowed to choose civil partnerships as she said David Cameron would not support this, a further change some are still waiting to happen.
Lynne went on to become a Minister in the Department for International Development and to campaign for gay rights globally and she also led a campaign against Female Genital Mutilation. She is now the LD energy and climate change spokesperson in the Lords.
In this special International Women's Day podcast we asked Lynne to relive some of the moments from her memoir and tell us why she to this day dislikes organised religions.
Key quote International Women's Day: "I was the violence against women champion overseas and women's rights and gay rights are tied up together. Where they oppress and suppress women they do even worse to homosexuals around the World. There are 79 countries where homosexuality is still illegal, and seven or eight still carry the death penalty. Some of the biggest companies in the World are in Africa and elsewhere, and they employ people who are gay so they can help change things."
Key Quote equality: "I was standing on the shoulders of giants and the book is dedicated to all the brave campaigners on the way and I was very proud to go the last mile. I have had so much abuse, but if you are really committed and really dedicated and believe in things you can make a difference you can drive things forward and you can change the World and every politician should really want to do that."
Key Quote religion: "I never understood why they (the churches) were so vitriolic. They used intemperate and homophobic language and they were vicious, I had many public attacks on what I was doing. I couldn't understand why they couldn't have a live and let live attitude. If I was prepared to let them have the right in their own religious organisations not to marry people of the same sex, I didn't understand why they would want to stop people who believed differently to them from living the lives they believe in. It seemed very authoritarian and unnecessary. It is the opposite to what I believe religion to be about because if there is a point for me in religion it is goodness, love and caring about the poor and those fine noble spirited things in life, it is not about hideous homophobia."
Key Quote the Conservative Party: "Theresa had really changed her views, and as my relationship with her developed I admired her greatly, I did not agree with her on anything except violence against women and same-sex marriage but she is someone of principle and she is not overly tribal She is Uber-Conservative and I am Uber-Liberal, but you can work with people. They wanted to get away from that Nasty party tag that Theresa had given them, and in that move half of them moved, so they were split on same-sex marriage. The thing they were really up against was that the polls that were carried out showed that people had moved on, all were in favour except the over 65s. The World had moved on and David Cameron knew that and wanted to be a moderniser, but then he shifted around and now says it was one of his major achievements. He has never said a word to me about same sex marriage, he has never thanked me."
Listen to Baroness Featherstone's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 23.5MB)
'Equal Ever After: The fight for same-sex marriage and how Lynne Featherstone made it happen' is published by Biteback Publishing.
25 February 2016
The Labour Opposition Day Debate and the WASPI Women - just 24 votes in it!
What began as an e-petition to government has ended up snowballing into a major national campaign that might in time force Ministers to re-negotiate their changes. This week the Women Against State Pension Increases sat in the public gallery of the Commons to hear a Labour Opposition Day Debate that put Ministers on the back foot, even though it was eventually defeated by just 24 votes. Embarrassingly for the government some of their own Conservative MPs voted with Labour, the SDLP and the SNP who unanimously oppose the government plans. The Conservative Nadine Dorries sided with the Opposition saying she hadn't received a letter telling her about the proposed changes even though the Department for Work and Pensions must surely know where she lives. Other Conservatives spoke up for their constituents too and against the changes.
Helen Jones, the Labour MP for Warrington North, said the government's State Pension changes were based on "wrong information": "These women started work before the Equal Pay Act and other equality changes, so why disadvantage them twice! I can't remember receiving a letter from the DWP, some were not sent a letter at all they have had very little notice of these changes. We need transitional arrangements to mitigate some of these changes. Ministers need to say they got it wrong and want to put it right".
Listen to Helen Jones' interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.87MB)
Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said that the WASPI women are a "fantastic group of women": "We lost the debate but we are making progress, a number of Conservative MPs voted with us today. I have constituents suffering real financial hardship. It is so unfair. It is just not true that Europe has said we have to do this. Some countries will not move to equal pensions until 2040. It can be very harsh to move very quickly as we have done in the UK. Hiding behind EU law won't do at all. Where are the jobs for them? Other Countries have bridge pensions we need a range of transitional arrangements, how demeaning to tell them to claim benefits. This campaign is moving the SNP, SDLP and Labour and now some Conservative MPs are voting with us. By 2020 there are going to be one million affected women, their votes will be important to maintain a majority. How demeaning to be told to go to a job centre or to claim ESA when you have 40 years of contribution and you have worked all your life, that is terribly wrong. I will refer it to the Equalities Select Committee."
Listen to Barbara Keeley's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 12.5MB)
Marion and Lynne, co-founders of the WASPI campaign, and WASPI supporters Suzie and Shirley, travelled to watch the debate. They said: "We do agree with equalisation. There are some good proposals put forward to the Select Committee to help. We have done everything we should have done and yet they are expecting us to rely on benefits. We are not sure what today means for us but we will keep on. We want fair transitional arrangements and for the government to open the door to discuss what those arrangements should be. They could open the doors."
Suzie said: "I have worked for 44 years, I am a dance teacher, I have had enough and my knee is giving up. When I do get my pension I will have worked for 50 years non-stop. We are being whipped like work horses until we drop, if we were animals it wouldn't be allowed."
Shirely said: "I will continue the fight, I watched the film Suffragettes and men are still determining women's lives."
Listen to Barbara Keeley's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.0MB)
15 February 2016
A www.parliamentaryardio.com Exclusive Report
The Conservatives 25 year fight for equality - why radical reform is on the agenda in 2016
Bernard Jenkin MP, Caroline Spelman MP, Maria Miller MP, Margot James MP, Caroline Dinenage MP.
Read more about The Conservatives Fight for Equality and what our guests said (.pdf - file size: 316KB)
When the Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin first took up his seat in the House of Commons in 1992, he admits, it was well, "Laddish". As others have commented, it was more like a boys' boarding school. So have times changed that much since, or is there still a case for further reform of the working practices, the late night sittings, the unpredictability of the hours, even electronic voting, and just how radical should the Conservative Party be in fighting for greater representation of women in Westminster? 21 per cent of its MPs are currently women - 68 out of 330.
The Conservatives Women2Win Campaign formed in 2005 by Baroness Anne Jenkin and the Home Secretary Theresa May MP, has ensured more women have been recruited, trained and selected as MPs, but when will equality really have been reached? Would reaching 30 per cent female representation of MPs in the House be enough, or should the Party adopt a more radical approach by enacting legislation that would ensure that by the time of the next General Election, probably in 2020, ALL parties must have equal representation of men and women MPs.
Bernard Jenkin, a self-confessed feminist, thinks so although even some of his female let alone male colleagues may not agree with him that legislative change is the best way forward. Given the boundary changes that are to take place that will lead to 50 fewer MPs sitting in Parliament, 600 in all, this would be a very controversial approach indeed. But Margot James agrees.
In a two part EXCLUSIVE audio documentary debate www.parliamentaryradio.com got together five equality movers and shakers in the Conservative Party: Bernard Jenkin MP, Caroline Spelman MP, Maria Miller MP, Margot James MP, Caroline Dinenage MP to relive some of their historic equality battles, including enacting The Gay Marriage Act in 2013. We also asked them what further reforms they would like to see to progress both women's representation in the Chamber and other pressing equality issues. Maria Miller now chairs the newly formed Equalities Select Committee which recently published a report on transgender issues.
The five MPs have been interviewed by presenters Deborah McGurran and Linda Fairbrother in the order in which they entered the Commons. The producer is Boni Sones and thanks go to Rob Coleman.
In Part One Deborah and Linda talk to Bernard Jenkin MP, Caroline Spelman MP and Maria Miller MP.
In Part Two Deborah and Linda talk to Margot James MP and Caroline Dinenage MP and later they open up the discussion to all on the future of equality in the Party.
We set out below key quotes on the major future reform issues discussed in our documentary:
Bernard Jenkin MP
Bernard Jenkin is the MP for Harwich and North Essex and has been an MP since 1992. He currently chairs the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee. He was Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, and had responsibility for candidates until 7 November 2006.
Jenkin key quote: "We need to start talking about what legislation there should be. There is no Parliament in the World that has created equal representation without some form of positive action across the Board and that should not be a taboo subject."
Caroline Spelman MP
Caroline Spelman is the MP for Meriden in the West Midlands, she was first elected in 1997. She was also Chairman of the Conservative Party. From 2010 to 2012 she was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Within Westminster, she is a Church Estates Commissioner.
Spelman key quote: "We need to extend the experiment on electronic voting for MPs who are too sick to attend or who ae on maternity leave. We need some compassionate leave arrangement to allow both sexes to participate in the life of this Parliament."
Maria Miller MP
Maria Miller has been the MP for Basingstoke since 2005. She is a former Secretary of State for Culture, and now Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
Miller key quote: "I would like to see a commitment to increasing the number of female MPs on the Conservative benches at the next Election, which will be a challenge given we have a reduction in the number of seats due to boundary changes."
Margot James MP
Margot James has been the MP for Stourbridge since 2010. At the end of 2005, David Cameron appointed Margot to the position of Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for women's issues, a position which she held until 2010. She was an "A" List candidate. She is now Assistant Government Whip with responsibility for Education and Equalities.
James key quote: "I would like to see more women special advisors, and more women around the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, in their core inner circle teams because I think that there is more to Parliament than meets the eye. Some of those backroom changes would be a jolly good thing."
Caroline Dinenage MP
Caroline Dinenage, who is the MP for Gosport, Stubbington, Lee-on-the-Solent and Hill Head, was elected in May 2010. In May 2015, Caroline was appointed to the dual roles of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice and Minister for Women and Equalities at the Department for Education working with Nicky Morgan the Secretary of State.
Dinenage key quote: "Being an MP is not all about tub thumping speeches and the screaming and waving of our bits of paper around in the Commons it is actually about the skill sets that women have in abundance, the ability to empathise and listen and the ability to multi task and get things done."
These historic interviews are now placed in The History of Parliament Trust Archive.
Listen to Part One:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.5MB)
Listen to Part Two:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 18.1MB)
14 January 2016
2016 and two teenagers keep feminist studies on the school curriculum
Dr Rupa Huq
The Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Dr Rupa Huq, successfully used an Adjournment debate in Westminster this week to ensure she held the government to account to keep feminism studies on the school curriculum.
She was prompted by a letter and e-petition from two of her constituents, June Eric-Udorie and Jessy McCabe, both schoolgirls who she referred to in the debate as "gender warriors". She said she was "blessed" to have them in her Constituency. McCabe had previously succeeded in her campaign to have female composers included on an A-level music syllabus.
Nick Gibb, the Minister for schools, cast a solitary figure on the government benches, but he said that he too was committed to keeping feminism on the A level politics course, alongside Liberalism, Conservatism and even Socialism, he jested. Mr Gibb thanked Dr Huq for making some "compelling points" and tabling the debate. He said guidance would be published on who was to be studied but that Simone de Beauvoir, as well as Hannah Arendt and Rosa Luxemburg, were a few names being considered.
Hot quote Dr Huq: "At the tail end of last year the new draft A Level in politics syllabus had removed any reference to feminism. If we don't know about women we only know half the story. Nick Gibb said he was definitely on side and he admitted the government had made serious mistakes on this. They did speak about this climb-down to the media first."
Listen to Rupa's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.59MB)
History of our broadcasting
All 350 interviews with women MPs across party from May 2007 to May 2014 can now be listened to at The Boni Sones OBE and Associates Political Archive at the London School of Economics under copyright protection.
In March 2014 our second book When There's a Woman in the Room was published and it was mentioned favourably in the Chamber. It is a record of the history of our broadcasting over seven years and extracts from our 350 interviews are quoted in it.
In August 2010 the British Library opened a historical audio archive of the 82 interviews of women in politics from our first book on women in politics The New Suffragettes, published in 2005 by Methuen. It was nominated for the Orwell Prize in Journalism.
The House of Commons Works of Art Committee acquired four photographic portraits of women MPs party by party taken by the Reuters photographer Kieran Doherty who took the famous Blair's Babe photograph, which we studio produced in 2009. In 2015 all four portraits featured again in the House of Commons art exhibition of women in politics thanks to Melanie Unwin the Deputy Curator.
From February 2015 to March 2016 we have broadcast on this page of the www.bonisonesproductions.com website. Our documentary interviews over this period on the history of equality in all three parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat are now deposited in the History of Parliament Trust. Thanks to its Director, Dr Paul Seward.
Our history and all those who have assisted us is written up in more detail in our Wikipedia entry. We thank them all.
Thanks to journalists: Jackie Ashley, Linda Fairbrother and Deborah McGurran. Thanks to our MP supporters, who are more recently: Caroline Spelman MP, Gisela Stuart MP, and Baroness Susan Kramer.
From March 2016 we have also moved our broadcasting onto mobile, twitter and Soundcloud. Please follow this link to hear our latest broadcasts.
This Production Note (.pdf) tells you more about our ten year history.
21 December 2015
2016 and Putting Equality First in the New Year: what the parties will be doing for women
Maria Miller MP for Basingstoke (Con), Chair Women and Equalities Select Committee
Maria Miller has taken the reigns of a new Select Committee in Westminster and in 2016 will be ensuring her voice is heard to protect women and those who are disadvantaged in Society. Her Committee has already looked into the pay gap for older women, and the issue of transgender equality. So what will be her priorities for 2016?
Maria told us: "In 2016 we have a huge pile of work that we do need to do, we have to cover a lot of ground very quickly, we will be picking up on the nine protected areas in the Equality Act; women, disabled people, pregnancy, maternity leave and the LGBT community too, so it is a wide spectrum of issues.
"Every single Select Committee Chair, does their job in a different way, I work with a great team of MPs across party, and our reports will be intrinsically interesting. We will bang the table on issues that we raise. I want to look at making parliament more representative of British Society of women and ethnic minority communities and disabled MPs. The reduction in the number of MPs in Parliament is going to make that tougher."
Listen to Maria's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.72MB)
Kate Green MP for Stretford and Urmston (Lab), Shadow Equalities Spokes
Kate Green knows her field of equality extremely well, and recently led an opposition day debate in the House of Commons on women and the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. She has been described as the most knowledgeable person in the Commons on household finances. So what will the Labour Party be doing to advance equality in 2016?
Kate Told us: "The most important thing in the long term is a proper strategy to address low paid female careers like hairdressing and child care so women can go into ITC or Engineering. We need to ensure older women can get grants to go onto further education, this is what Labour would be doing.
"There are most certainly real differences, gender equality is a political issue, we are committed to closing the gender pay gap and to improve the life chances for women. Issues like tax credits, like the new deal, like investment in further education, all of which this government is striping back. There may not be a difference in what we want to see but there is a difference in investing in women's lives. We will continue to fight for equality for women and men and we still have a long way to go."
Listen to Kate's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.73MB)
15 December 2015
Margaret Thatcher's Christie's Sale
So what did they bid for? We talk to Michael Crick, Neil and Jacqueline and Robert
What who wants a second hand handbag or a dispatch box or a misspelt St Francis of Assisi Poem? Quite a lot of very rich people it seems who also live in South Korea or America. This week at Christie's Auction Rooms in St James's in London "old" belongings of the first woman Prime Minister of Britain, Mrs Margaret Thatcher went on sale and with bidders from all over the World prices soon exceeded their asking prices.
Gasps went up and then loud applause after Thatcher's Red Ministerial dispatch box was sold for over £200,000. You are allowed to keep those boxes when you leave office, so long as the seal is broken. You can listen to the five minute 35 second sale of that box, and then we spoke to Channel Four's political correspondent Michael Crick. Neil and Jacqueline, had hoped their £20k might secure it for their family, and another bidder, Robert, had his eye on a couple of the more minor items, a book, and a painting of Ham. Thanks to all for the interviews.
Crick told us: "What really went was the stuff you strongly associate with Thatcher, the dispatch box, the poems, the pearl necklace, the clothes, the handbags, and perhaps if it actually hit somebody it might get a bonus price! There are a lot of rich people around who are admirers of Margaret Thatcher."
Neil and Jacqueline said: "We were slightly out on what the item would go for, the Briefcase was valued at between £3k up to 5k and we could go up to £20k and it went for £200k, so we were a little bit out and I didn't get a chance to lift my paddle. It was good fun."
Robert said: "This is a bit of history, a lot of items have gone for tremendous prices, by huge multiplies of the upper reserve price quoted, and there are clothes, books, and jewellery, emerald rings. The Dispatch box went under the hammer for 200k compared to an asking price of £4k which was a lot compared to the cost of having the whole thing made."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 13.0MB)
9 December 2015
Opposition Day Debate
There is no good health care without equal Mental Health care!
Luciana Berger, the Labour/Co-op MP for Liverpool, Wavertree, and the Shadow Public Health Minister, won all party support this week for her motion to treat mental health with the same priority as physical health but it was eventually after three hours of debate voted against.
She spoke in favour of "parity of esteem between mental and physical health" and during the debate there were a few well-known name checks of people who have spoken up for better care in mental health services, such as David Beckham, Alastair Campbell and the USA President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Berger was critical of the Government's decision not to enshrine the right to psychological therapies in the NHS Constitution; and called on the Government to urgently rectify this systemic inequity in entitlement to treatments, reinstate the annual survey of investment in mental health services and develop and implement in full a new strategy to improve the Government's cross-departmental response to mental health. For the government, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP said progress was being made.
Norman Lamb, the LD MP for North Norfolk, got a few mentions too for his work on mental health. Dr Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow a former mental health care clinician, agreed that the post code lottery of care for mental health needed to end and so did the stigma attached to mental health illness.
Lamb told us: "It's a complete inequality. Across physical health we have comprehensive maximum waiting times, whatever your condition is, for A & E, cancer, and operations, there are maximum times to be treated. But until April this year, when we introduced the first maximum time standards for mental health, there was nothing at all. This inequality drives where the money goes. physical health always benefits to the disadvantage of mental health, you cannot justify this, it needs to change. I want to build a movement of change, I involved Alastair Campbell and Andrew Mitchell MP and I want to get society to come together to make the case for equality for those who have suffered from mental ill health. We have secured £600 million dedicated funding for mental health. It has to go beyond party politics and go to the citizens of this country."
Dr Cameron told us: "There is a collegiateness across the House in terms of its importance and the need to tackle these issues. I hope progress will continue to be made over the long term. As an MP and mental health clinician I think health and the NHS should be beyond politics, we should agree a long term strategy for health and mental health and make sure it is supported by all parties. I have an adjournment debate on mental health provision for the armed forces and veterans and I am pushing that too with ministers."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.0MB)
2 December 2015
Syria - Will Bombing Stop the War?
When the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn gave his MPs a "free vote" on today's debate on whether or not to take military action in Syria some thought he was showing weak leadership. Others argued exactly the opposite that he was in fact showing strong leadership as someone who had once chaired the "Stop the War" group.
As David Cameron delivered his Prime Minister's speech proposing action against IS Daesh, Labour MPs intervened to criticise him for calling anti-war MPs "terrorist sympathisers". They also questioned whether Cameron was right in saying there are 70,000 Syrian moderates ready to back the UK.
Hot foot from the Chamber we asked two Labour women MPs how they were going to vote, and a lobby journalist who reports regularly on the Middle East if he thought the Prime Minister was winning the argument?
Chi Onwurah the Labour MP for Newcastle Central - voting with your conscience Against
Chi said: "I am voting against air strikes but I want action to stop financing them and cut off the finance that buys the arms to kill us and kill people in Syria. I want action I don't want false air strikes. Nobody really thinks there are 70,000 forces on the ground which David Cameron believes in. I went out door knocking and asked everybody what they thought of air strikes in Syria and I asked my local party too. I am voting against, because this vote has my name on it and the consequences of air strikes is that people will die, so this is an issue I will vote with my conscience on. Making that decision is something that has stopped me sleeping for the last few nights. I did intervene in the Debate to aks a question of my leader."
Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley - Labour should have come to a consensus position
Jess said: "I shall be voting against today, but I found neither of today's front bench speeches in any way convincing. Yes my leader too. It is very difficult to build up a flow in a speech when there are so many interventions, so I go with my heart. Every single person I have spoken to in the last few weeks, door knocking too, I have taken all opinions on board, and my heart makes the decision and I am not satisfied enough of my questions have been answered today by the Prime Minister. I also think it is lamentable that the Labour party couldn't come to a consensus position."
Adel Darwish, Political Editor of World Media and Middle East News, and for 35 years Correspondent in the Middle East - Cameron made two mistakes!
Adel said: "I was asked by some MPs how to vote. I would say there have been two mistakes by Cameron, one is the phrase he used of terrorist sympathises was most unfortunate and inaccurate and the other was his mention of the 70,000 figure of an army on the ground. All the strategic questions have not been answered."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.0MB)
26 November 2015
Will Quince MP and Baroness Susan Kramer give their reaction to Osborne's Autumn Statement
Will Quince MP
While the pundits are still scrutinizing the Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, the headline writers have welcomed his "U" turn over reversing planned tax credit cuts to the working poor. He told the Commons yesterday that he now has £27 billion more to spend than originally forecast in July of this year according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
Osborne also mentioned by name the new Member for Colchester who had previously met with him to suggest that revenue received from the much criticised EU imposed VAT on Tampax should be given to women's charities. Osborne said the £15 million a year raised from the Tampon Tax would be given to women's health charities. The first £5 million will be distributed to Eve Appeal, SafeLives and Women's Aid and The Haven. With bids from others. He said they were committed in the longer term to getting the EU rules changed on scrapping VAT on sanitary products.
We asked Will Quince the Conservative MP for Colchester to give us his reaction to the Autumn Statement including his own special mention. He has also campaigned on still birth and grief after his own son died at birth.
Will told us: "The news around the economy was very exciting. I had called on the Chancellor in the debate to mitigate the effect of the tax credit changes so I am delighted that he had taken this measure today, because there are over 5000 tax credit claimants in my constituency. I am also delighted my suggestion on the Tampax Tax money has been given to women's charities, many of us think sanitary products should be zero rated."
Baroness Susan Kramer
We then asked Baroness Susan Kramer, the LD Treasury spokesperson to give us her reaction to the Statement, including new taxes that are to be introduced, changes to the funding of social care and Further Education, and the closure of the women's prison at Holloway as part of a new prison rebuilding programme.
Baroness Kramer said: "He is still cutting £12 billion in Welfare, but he has stopped the cut in tax credits for the working poor. He should have voted with the LDs in the Lords when we moved that amendment. Housing benefit is going to be a serious problem, he is very tough to green industries and renewables, and to further education, which is key to the skills we need. Local government has really been hit taking over the burden of social care. What's happened to the bus network?
"â€śWe are delighted to see the end of Holloway that is a real victory. On the tampon tax, that always needed some kind of reform, it is good that the money is going into some very good charities, and good it is going to the Eve Appeal, I am happy about that. I would put the budget over 5 but not much more than 7, out of ten, there is a lot of missed opportunity. There is still going to be unnecessary suffering because he wants to deliver a surplus for its own sake, but it is not required for economic stability, and not required for economic strength or growth.He could have done a lot better."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.14MB)
19 November 2015
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail gives the thumbs down to the first International Men's Day Debate
Today Parliamentarian's will have their first International Men's Day Debate in the Commons held in Westminster Hall. The high rates of male suicide will be discussed and other issues such as the need for more research into male cancers, and boy's under performance in education may also come to the fore. But do such debates really help push forward change and do men need their own debate? The Labour MP Jess Phillips received Twitter abuse when she said every day in Westminster was a men's day. The debate was proposed by Philip Davies MP.
We asked the Daily Mail columnist, Quentin Letts to tell us what he thought. Not surprisingly he had an opinion and he questioned whether special days were the best way of instigating change, even for those of his own sex.
Quentin said: "I am all a quiver. Does one have to be for or against things? It is disgraceful that Jess Phillips got abuse on Twitter. Issues have to wriggle their way up stream like salmon and they have to get noticed on the basis of urgency and merit, and just having one day of the year, means people can have an excuse for neglecting it the rest of the year. They are created by PR companies. I have to confess I haven't sat through an International Women's day Debate, I am such a coward; imagine the abuse I would get!"
Listen to Quentin's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.54MB)
19 November 2015
Why teaching children to cook should be back on the curriculum again big time!
The Kids' Cookery School came to Westminster this week to show MPs and Peers how they have been improving the cookery skills and eating habits of children, some with special needs and disabilities. So while the speeches were being made, the children wore aprons, and rolled out pastry.
Here we speak to: The Conservative Peer Baroness Anne Jenkin; Rebecca Widdoson, Marketing Director, Brita; Victoria Prentis MP for Banbury, and Fiona Hamilton-Fairley, CEO Kids' Cookery School.
Victoria said: "I helped teach at one of these Kids' Cookery Schools in my own home town of Bicester and the kids picked up lots of information about nutrition while they were having fun learning how to cook bread roles. The main message is to eat a moderate amount of everything, but sugar is something we need to focus on more. I want to promote cookery in schools."
Baroness Jenkin, a member of the All-Party Group on Poverty and Food Hunger, said: "Cookery skills and food waste are a massive issue; we are going to be the first generation whose children are going to die ahead of us because we haven't brought them up with these traditional skills. I would personally support a sugar tax or anything that is going to grip this issue. We have got to take it seriously it is going to bankrupt our NHS."
Rebecca said: "We do a lot on the ground with Kids' Cookery School. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Children can make a real difference. Sugary drinks are convenient, but we are trying to give people alternatives and choices around drinks."
Fiona said: "When my son went to school I watched them rip out the kitchens and put in the computers. We are a small charity, we try and see as many children as possible, we try and see special needs and children excluded, we teach everybody to cook from scratch, and our chefs are highly trained. Please put cooking back on the curriculum in a fun exciting way. Our pop up kitchens is the solution for many schools."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.49MB)
11 November 2015
Jo Cox MP - Another PMQs, but how do you get noticed?
Why devolving powers to make abortion laws to Scotland could signal a change
When the Prime Minister, David Cameron, stands up on his feet to answer questions from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Wednesdays, a number of other MPs will get to their feet too to try and catch the eye of the Speaker, John Bercow, but just how do you do that?
Jo Cox the new Labour MP for Batley and Spen says she often gets to her feet and sometimes she is "called" and on others she has to sit down again, but it is at least a "good parliamentary workout"!
We asked Jo to tell us the tricks of getting noticed at PMQs, and why she wants David Cameron to raise the issues of the killing of three of her constituents in riots in Gujarat with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, this week when he visits. Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time. Jo, like other Labour women, also wants to raise the issue of devolving to the Scottish Parliament, laws on abortion. She fears that: "This Scottish boundary change might lead to a change in the legislation. I haven't heard of any consultation with women's groups, and I don't want to see a change in the law so that women in Scotland have different rights to women in England".
But she says: "At PMQs it's incredibly disappointing if you don't get called, but it is fair. I wanted to ask an urgent question on behalf of my constituents on the killings, but I didn't get called. It is an effective way of catching the Speaker's eye, and it's also a good workout, you get up and down about 15 times."
Listen to Jo's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.62MB)
Jess Phillips MP - Coming off Twitter, or just cooling it after you get abuse?
Another Labour MP, Jess Phillips, Birmingham, Yardley, shares Jo's concern over devolution and abortion rights. She told us: "What I want to see is a genuine consultation with some women's groups on the devolution of abortion, and that has never happened even though it was recommended. We need to commit to some kind of consultation."
Jess received a lot of abuse on Twitter recently when she opposed suggestions for an International Men's Day debate in the Commons. Jess told us: "I received a lot of abuse, and a small minority of it was around raping me and hanging my children. About 90 per cent of it was angry and loud and from male rights activists from around the World. It was like 100 updates a second, and I felt like being harassed by a horrible angry crowd. But for every one message of abuse there were ten of solidarity from across the World.
"We just had a photo-call in the Commons where men and women parliamentarians came out in support of stopping this kind of thing. I won't let people push me off Twitter, I am not a victim. I won't let them stop me yet but I might cool it a bit, it is massively time consuming and I have a job to do."
Listen to Jess' interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.34MB)
31 October 2015
The Jack Lewy Debate
We asked Cambridge University politics student, Jack Lewy, to debate this week's issues in Parliament with a group of his friends. He quickly assembled, Jack, Carl, Ellie and Will, to talk about Jess Phillips MP and the Twitter abuse she got after opposing a suggestion for an International Men's Day debate. Jack and his friends then discussed the other week's burning issues, including lifting all VAT on tampons, and the Lords throwing out the Chancellor, George Osborn's tax credit changes. Structural misogyny, new media versus old, soundbites or serious policy making, and the under representation of women in Westminster were all hot topics with our panel of students.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 14.1MB)
30 October 2015
The parliamentary radio team pinned their IAWRT award to the press gallery notice board. Our "Throwing in the Towel" audio documentary of how the Labour women changed Westminster was reported on by: Jackie Ashley, Linda Fairbrother, Deborah McGurran and Boni Sones. These ten interviews are now in The History of Parliament Trust Archives. Thanks to Dr Paul Seaward its Director.
click on the photos to magnify
21 October 2015
The Women's Equality Party Policy Launch â€“ Much done much to do!
"Austerity has a female face, things are falling very heavily on women", so says Dr Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender at the University of Bristol, in our new podcast on the Women's Equality Party Policy launch in London on Tuesday.
WE flagship policies include: a 50/50 Parliament by 2025, equal pay, universal childcare and gender equality lessons for all children from the age of four as well as more male primary school teachers.
We asked Dr Childs to narrate the launch and the speech of its leader Sophie Walker, a former Reuters journalist, as it was happening at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. We than hot footed it over to the Press Gallery to ask Lindsay Watling, Westminster correspondent for the Press and Journal in Scotland to give us her reaction to the launch event.
Lindsay told us: "I think there is space for a different kind of politics, a kinder politics, and there has been a lot of talk from Sandy (Toksvig) and Catherine (Mayer) co-founders, of moving away from the usual animosity and looking at the policy issues and dealing with them and I think that is really important. It will be hard to make change, they will have their work cut out because the Commons is male dominated. There is room for this place to evolve."
Dr Childs said: "Until all the parties really grapple with quotas nothing will really happen with Westminster politics. I think what we are seeing is a sense where the WE are presenting some very bold statistics, they have very clear messages, and they are almost saying to the other parties: &"why can't you agree with us?" It is a very robust challenge to the other parties, it is very clever."
You can find out more about WE and Sophie's speech here: www.womensequality.org.uk.
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 14.6MB)
14 October 2015
Chloe Smith MP takes the Keeping Abreast Portrait Exhibition to Westminster to break taboos!
Chloe Smith, the Conservative MP for Norwich North championed the need for women to have greater awareness of how to access breast reconstructive surgery when she opened the Keeping Abreast Portrait Exhibition in Westminster this week.
Fifty remarkable renaissances style "bared breasts" portraits were on display, to stimulate debate about the need for elective or post op reconstructive surgery if you have a breast cancer BRCA gene link or actual cancer diagnosis. One showed a mother and her daughter, who was now deceased, another showed a mother holding her ten week old baby. All are smiling.
Chloe Smith MP said: "What this exhibition does powerfully is to show that you are not alone if you are in this situation. You can't be alone with 50 portraits with kindly, friendly, smiling faces saying look at us it's OK we are proud to be here. They are a good Norfolk-based charity, and many of the women here are from Norfolk."
Julia Holland the photographer said: "To me it was about the best portrait I could possibly take of that woman. We would have a long chat, and we got to the place where that woman looked at her breast and we achieved this. One described her breast cancer journey as having a silver lining; that is a very strong, powerful and emotional description. This exhibition is trying to break taboos."
Anna Beckingham, Trustee and co-founder of Keeping Abreast who has her own portrait in the exhibition said: "All women who have a mastectomy should discuss this type of surgery, but that may not happen in every hospital in line with the guidelines. You are very much at the control of the doctors and surgeons and you should have all these options discussed. Raising awareness of this is something we want to do."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.0MB)
12 October 2015
Why Parliament's modern day suffragettes need more support!
As the Suffragettes movie goes on general release today all of us at www.parliamentaryradio.com would like to raise a banner and salute the modern day suffragettes of Westminster.
While we still don't have a gender based parliament, or Cabinet, we do have women MPs past and present from all parties who have fought over many years for greater equality for women.
Over the past ten years women's www.parliamentaryradio.com has campaigned for greater recognition of modern day political progress for women and the MPs across party who have made that happen. We have conducted around 400 interviews with women MPs and they are now in two historic political archives at the London School of Economics and the British Library. We have also written two books on women's political progress and public policy making. Our four portraits of women MPs taken by Kieran Doherty, formerly of Reuters, were recently displayed at the photographic exhibition in Westminster celebrating women's political progress.
Our team of women MPs and journalists have ensured that historians of the future will have a record of what women have achieved today. I would like to thank all the MPs across party who have sat on our advisory board, and the women journalists who have helped conduct these interviews, particularly Jackie Ashley, Linda Fairbrother, and Deborah McGurran. Thanks also go to our supporters Anastasia de Waal and our webmaster Adrian Wright.
Women MPs who have supported us include: Gisela Stuart, Barbara Keeley, Baroness Susan Kramer, Eleanor Laing, Penny Mordaunt, Caroline Spelman. Former MPs Esther McVey, Jo Swinson, and now Baroness Lynne Featherstone. Thanks to them all. Our wiki link will tell you about our history.
We have just won an amasing 'Honour' from the International Association of Women in Radio & Television for the documentary we made in March 2015 on the Labour Women MPs leaving Westminster. Other awards went to Bangladesh, Chile, Kenya, Norway, Australia.
Here are some recent and past links to our work since 2005. All content is copyrighted to Boni Sones OBE:
Blogs: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Millicent Fawcett: Fawcett Society Blog, January 2015.
Guardian Article March 2015: The Labour women who changed the face of Westminster.
Print journalism: East Anglian Daily Times, April 2015.
Audio Archive: LSE Boni Sones OBE and Associates political archive of women MP interviews, May 2014.
Book: When There's a Woman in the Room: Women MPs Shaping Public Policy, May 2014.
House of Commons debate: Our mention by Esther McVey MP in the House of Commons debate on women and the global economy, June 2012: "Boni is a visionary. She set up that project in Parliament, but she is seeking to make global links to tell stories across the world."
Audio archive: Our British Library Archive of 82 women MPs interviews across party, launched September 2010.
Portraits: Our four portraits of women MPs in the Parliamentary Archives October 2008: The Day the Carlton Club Accepted Women, 90 years after women got the vote.
Book: Women in Parliament: The New Suffragettes, October 2005.
Guardian Article: Belittled Women by Jackie Ashley, August 2005 2012015.
Listen to 'Two Sisters':
or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.5MB)
29 September 2015
The Labour Fringe Meetings
It's all go! Jess Phillips MP and Lucy Powell MP
Motherhood, childcare, DV and children, and a new push on Sure Start
Jess Phillips elected to Parliament in May 2015 as the new Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, is making quite a name for herself. Gone are the days when you had to wait a few years to get onto a committee or into a shadow ministerial role. In no time at all Jess has become a Shadow Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Education Minister, and is also a member of the new Women and Equalities Select Committee and is also sitting on a Bill's Committee and on the Welfare and Work Committee Bill too. Phew! If that wasn't enough she is also a mother of two boys, and has her work cut out juggling her home and career. Oh and she had a tricky birth with her second son who was a rather large baby!
Never a woman to be daunted, it seems, she told a Progress Fringe Meeting at the Labour Party Conference 2015 in Brighton, on 'The politics of motherhood: How does public policy shape families and can it do better?' that she drew on her personal experiences and that of others to inform and improve policy makings.
Jess told us: "We have to make sure that any public policies we draft are about understanding what modern families are about. Families are not just a mum and dad and two children. That is rubbish, we now have to talk about blended families. The government's two child policy is forgetting what today's families are like. The government is taking us backwards.
"I definitely draw on my own personal experiences to make public policy, and the thousands of families I have worked with over the years. Public policy can be catastrophic for people or save their lives. In any policy around motherhood, I know there is not enough wrap around childcare, and breakfast clubs, and I know how it affects me as a mother, so that does help inform me. On disabled policy, if there were more disabled MPs, we would have better disability policies. I will use my personal experiences and scream up for all the Mums in the World. I would like to see 0 to 5 fully funded child-care, and it does come down to economics. We need to invest in our future through childcare and investing in better outcomes for the Treasury."
As a former head of a domestic and sexual violence organisation, she is currently an expert on domestic and sexual violence services too and she is going to use that knowledge to try and change the way people think: She told another fringe event: "Children are the hidden victims of domestic violence. There is no psychological or supportive care for children, it doesn't exist."
On life as an MP Jess says: "Westminster is full of 25 year old men called Will, Tom and Ben. It definitely still needs reforming, until we have 50/50 women it won't change. It is an old boys club. It is not somewhere women would feel comfortable. The late hours don't affect me as I don't go home to my family but stay over. I don't know why we don't just work 9 to 5 like everybody else. I think we should move Parliament to Birmingham. The building is the way we keep to the old traditions and we could modernise it."
Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, and the Shadow Education Minister, said: "We are going to hold the government to account on its promises where it is falling short on these, so that the extra provision is met. We are going to make sure the funding is there so we can continue to see increases in quality in child-care. The Sure Start models is absolutely the right one and we need to see how we can renew that missions for early intervention, and multi agency community based approach and rebuild those family hubs for the future."
Listen to Jess and Lucy's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.0MB)
21 September 2015
PMQs gets a Jeremy Corbyn makeover but what lies ahead on the Reform agenda in Parliament?
The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out to reform PMQs on a Wednesday when he is supposed to hold the Prime Minister David Cameron to account for his actions. Last week, he at least began the process of change, with questions that were submitted by Labour supporters called Gail, Marie, Steven and Angela, on housing, tax credit cuts and mental health. It may have sounded more like a local radio phone-in but there was a remarkable degree of acceptance that the weekly noisy exchanges at the Dispatch Box needed to change and that this "experiment" had been worthwhile even if it cannot be maintained in the future when Parliament resumes after the Party conferences.
Here we asked three parliamentarians from the Conservative's, Labour and the Greens how they would reform Westminster in the future. Their suggestions include further reform to PMQs to allow more supplementary questions; moving parliament to the North of the Country while repairs are undertaken; reforming the way amendments are put down to Bills and voted on; the opening up of Bill Committees and reforming the timetabling of amendments; further reforms to the hours.
First we spoke to Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2010, who came in with a reforming zeal, publishing her own paper on: 'The Case for Parliamentary Reform' soon after in November 2010. She is still a reformer and backs Corbyn's attempts to change the culture of Westminster with renewed enthusiasm.
Caroline told us: "I think Corbyn's suggestions are a breath of fresh air. They are entirely sensible we absolutely need to overhaul the way that PMQs works. I know that many of my colleagues don't even go because it is such an excoriating experience. It is so childish, it is so pointless. I think the idea of crowd sourcing more of the questions is a good idea, I have done that myself in advance of PMQs, I put it out on Twitter, and the public could also be putting their questions to the PM. I would also like to see supplementary questions allowed, the PM often brushes off questions, if you were allowed a supplementary, with fewer questions, you just might have more light on the subject."
Caroline also supports the SNP in clapping in debates, not braying as MPs do now, and comments on how present they are: "Their presence here is all to the good". "I think we should move out to the North of the Country to demonstrate that we are not just a metropolitan elite in London. The Commons makes a wonderful museum but is an inadequate place to do serious politics.
"When people come here they go native and lose their reforming zeal. I have been struck by the number of new intake who do think it's crazy, who have come in from high powered business or public sector jobs. Westminster is such a wasteful pointless way of doing it. I hope Heidi will persuade people to change."
Caroline is continuing to push for the reform of the way amendments are put down on Bills: "I have literally seen colleagues pushed into the relevant lobby, even when they don't want to vote that way, and they get pushed in. I wanted to bring in explanatory statements to amendments, and we lost that vote, it is voluntary now, but the whips were against it.
"Many reforms have been cross-party such as changing the sitting hours on a Tuesday which meant we finished at 7pm not 10 pm. There have been small steps forward we have a reforming Speaker, who is open to proposals, and now the Chairs of the Select Committees are elected by the whole House. I would like to see the opening up of the Bill Committees, they are stuffed full of "yes" people who aren't going to rock the boat and that is the next thing we need to reform. We spend 250 hours in queuing up to vote in a four year parliament, if we had electronic voting we would be able to put more amendments to Bills. It is time wasting."
Listen to Caroline's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.0MB)
Heidi Allen, the newly elected Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, set out to reform Westminster from her first week as an new MP in May 2015. Coming from a business background Heidi still finds Westminster a bit of a maze.
Heidi told us: "Having run my own business, good decisions are made when we do things well, and I think we need to do more and talk a bit less. It's the value for money that you get in this building, I see waste everywhere. I am the only MP not to do a Maiden Speech, and I am not going to. I would much rather have proper debate and it hasn't mattered much. I seem to do well in the ballot for asking questions such as the Syrian refuge crisis. I was concerned how we can help with that, so I seek the answers to the questions that need answering from the people who can give it to me.
"In terms of reform, I find the voting peculiar. How can you possibly be making quality decisions at one O'clock in the morning as we did last week. Whether the refurb of the building will allow that kind of change I don't know. You make consensus by listening, and we don't do that, we just talk. I have met some really fun people in the SNP, I want to get on with people who want to do stuff and I don't care about the colour of your rosette."
Listen to Heidi's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.4MB)
The Labour MP Helen Goodman, who has represented the Durham seat of Bishop Auckland since 2005 and is the Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform gave us her reaction to her new Leader's first PMQs and said it had: "less gamesmanship"! Helen, has also been a junior minister in Works and Pensions when Labour was in government, so knows what it is like to be asked questions about public policy and be put under scrutiny.
Helen told us: "I thought PMQs was effective, using questions from the public, made it authentic and it boxed off the Prime Minister's sneering at questions, so I thought it was rather clever. There is not adequate health care for those with mental health problems and it was good to raise it. I have got used to the panto aspect of PMQs, you get used to it, but a calmer approach will come across more clearly to the public.
"There is a big reform I would like to see at the Report Stage of a Bill, where it is almost impossible for the opposition to have something debated, but the government can get things onto the statute book without having any debate at all because the timetabling is too short. It was a successful first PMQs for Jeremy Corbyn, not as much gamesmanship which I think is good."
Listen to Helen's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 4.59MB)
Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn for giving an interview to us when he came to Cambridge for his pre-election rally: When asked about appointments to his shadow cabinet, Mr Corby confidently told us: "Women will get half the appointments, it will be gender based." He did fulfil his promise but why did he not appoint one woman to the most senior ministerial positions. Who wants to be the supporting act?
16 July 2015
Women MPs of Achievement
The "Nudge" approach to achieving change for women
Often in politics it is the "nudge" approach to public policy making that pushes change forward. This week two women MPs of different parties tell us of how they have been helping women achieve change.
Dr Therese Coffey MP - Getting there! More Women in the Boardroom
Therese Coffey, the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal has worked with other women in her party to push forward more women in the Boardrooms of the Top FTSE 100 Companies. The 25 per cent target for women's representation has now been met, although they mainly sit as Non-Executive Directors.
Therese told us: "Getting the pipeline of Executive Directors of women is going to take a lot longer. You can't just leap there. What is useful about having more women Non-Ex Directors is that the evidence shows how a more diverse management is good for company performance. In the Conservative Women's Forum we took to this idea very early on. I am so pleased our reports got the full backing of the government and I will continue to push this forward with my good friends."
Therese also has something to say about how daughters help male Directors push change forward and how she "dared" to ask for equal pay herself.
Listen to Therese's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.52MB)
Fiona Mactaggart MP - How lunch and a chat can pave the way for change! The work of the WPLP!
Fiona Mactaggart the Labour MP for Slough, gave us a special exclusive interview as she stepped down as Chair of the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party, a group that meets over lunch and sandwiches every other week. You may not have heard of it, but it has been responsible for putting many issues for women onto the agenda, and succeeding at getting the support of men in their party, and others across party too.
From Domestic Violence to Human Trafficking, to Equal Pay, to prostitution, rape and stalking laws, and even that Harriet Harman Pink Bus the WPLP has confronted and fought for change for women.
As Fiona told us: "I think that we as women have made a real difference, and I think that women in other parties envy us. A lot of Conservative women and Liberal women wish they had Women-only shortlists because they know how slow the change is. We have 99 women MPs (was 101), but the proportion of Labour MPs who are women is increasing enormously, we are close to half. I think that when women and men are equally represented in Parliament, then we can be confident of the future of Britain's democracy and frankly not until then."
Fiona also had a confession to make: "I have to confess I was responsible for the pinkness of the Women's Election bus and it got us onto the front pages of the papers. If we had had a white bus no-one would have known. You have to be prepared to be controversial. Feminism means that you have to be willing to stick your head above the parapet and have it slapped down. And "Yes" it is great to have sisters who say don't worry about it you will be fine."
And she added: "My top personal change for women, was when I was a Home Office Minister I asked Jean Corston to do research on Women in the Justice system and she transformed the lives of women in jail. It came from the wonderful moment you have power when you are a Minister."
Listen to Fiona's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 12.2MB)
27 June 2015
Ann Treneman - Sketch Writer, The Times champions a new word "Splitism"!
She has a birds-eye view of the weekly sword fight between the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the leader of the opposition (acting) Harriet Harman and all the other debates that take place in the Chamber.
Ann Treneman, the Sketch Writer for The Times can be found sitting in the front row of the Press Gallery - often referred to as the Fourth Estate of Government - watching, and diligently making notes of what is said, and importantly, the expressions on the faces of those who make the "said" remarks. She pokes fun at politicians and often describes them as "naught schoolboys" who need a good telling off.
When our executive Producer Boni Sones spoke to Ann minutes before this Wednesday's PMQ, her Sketch had just poked fun at Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, for his suggestions to improve our Courts. "However" - a word Gove does not like - did enter our podcast but Ann spoke about much more including:
How the SNP are doing a good job and are "very vibrant and subtle" but are still "finding their feet"; how sitting in the Gallery is so much better than "Twitter"; how "a lot of good is done in the Chamber" when politicians debate serious issues; how the representation of women in Parliament has "changed out of all recognition"; how Harriet is "the best of the lot"; and how "frightening" being a sketch writer is because "you don't know what is going to happen"!
"However", our best quote of the podcast is: "All humour has a serious side. The reporting of Westminster has gone down and down. We used to have Gallery Reporters who wrote about Debates and we don't have any of that anymore. Almost all of the political stories come out of Downing Street, or what I call 'Splitism' - someone who has disagreed with someone over something small. I think, slightly pompously, Sketch Writers are telling it a bit more like it is. With Twitter you are onto a loser, (I love to do Twitter), it is a lot of people going berserk. They are vibrant and opinionated, and everyone has a major view on PMQs but it is usually nothing to do with what happened in PMQs."
No doubt Michael Gove would have something to say about Ann's use of English and the word "Splitism"! Hopefully, he may in due course, tell us on Twitter. "However"......
Listen to Ann's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.61MB)
19 June 2015
David Lammy MP for Tottenham is hoping to become Labour's candidate to become the Mayor of London. On Wednesday he put a PMQ to the Chancellor George Osborn, standing in for David Cameron the Prime Minister, drawing attention to the significant increase in sexual violence towards women.
Afterwards he stopped to talk to us about why he asked the Prime Minister this question, and how if he becomes Mayor of London, he will take action to prevent such crimes.
"I asked the Chancellor why rape in London over the last ten years is up by 68 per cent, and sexual crime over the past year is up by 35 per cent, that is a staggering increase. And I asked about funding for the police and for more sensitivity towards the victims and the organisations that support them. I have a great platform over the next three months to make this an issue in the Mayoral contest, and to ensure this becomes a bigger issue in the future."
Listen to David's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 4.18MB)
15 June 2015
Is PMQs too rowdy and does David Cameron, the PM, ever answer a question?
Naz Shah MP â€“ Diversity Matters!
Women MPs have their task cut-out to transform the processes of Westminster. This week the acting leader of the opposition, Harriet Harman, accused David Cameron, the PM, of "gloating" to much applause. The new Labour MP, Naz Shah, Bradford West, who fought a particularly hard campaign to win her seat against her abrasive opponent, George Galloway, of the Respect Party, told Mr Cameron that he didn't answer her PMQ adequately. Next week Naz will be giving her Maiden Speech in the House. Here Naz tells us what she thought of all those animal noises and the Prime Ministers style:
"He didn't really answer the question, Bradford has been neglected for many years but even so it was very important for my Constituents to get a PMQ. Diversity matters, I think the Parties do need more diversity, whether it is the EdStone debate or anything else, diversity is worth its weight in gold because it brings different opinions to the table."
Listen to Naz's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.04MB)
Pat Glass MP - Is PMQs Not PMQs?
We also asked another outspoken critic of PMQs, or as she calls it "Not PMQs", Pat Glass, the Labour MP for North West Durham what difference reforming this weekly Wednesday ritual would make. Pat told us she often spoke about it to young people:
"It is incredible bad for politics. Which young girl looking at that would think 'that is what I would like to do?'. I have never seen this level of sexism, it is 50 years behind the rest of the Country. It is appalling what goes on in that Chamber, and some of it is infantile. Working class women, women with an accent and the younger women get some really bad behaviour in the House and it is particularly unacceptable. I say to young girls this will not change until we get 50 per cent of the MPs in parliament to be women."
Listen to Pat's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.76MB)
116 MPs have become "Arthritis Champions" in the new 2015 Parliament.
We spoke to the CEO of Arthritis Research UK, Dr Liam O'Toole, about how MPs of all Parties are helping to push forward the new campaign to encourage more people to be "Arthritis Champions". The Charities manifesto sets out to "Prevent, Transform, and Cure", and it was sent to all PPCs in the run up to the Election:
There are now 116 Arthritis Champion MPs in Parliament and going forward the charities 'Ask' is for more personalised care for the individual. Who knows soon they might even get a PMQ asked by one of their champions on their behalf and even the first parliamentary debate on Arthritis. Surprisingly there has never been one.
Dr O'Toole said: "We were blown away with the response."
Listen to Liam's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.15MB)
4 June 2015
Heidi Allen MP - her first "intervention" in the Chamber and doing politics differently!
Heidi Allen, the new Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire took her own Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and Labour's Andy Burnham the Shadow Health Secretary to task for sounding too adversarial in Tuesday's Health debate. Without even the normal protocol of her first speech in the Chamber being her Maiden Speech, which has now been relaxed, she got to her feet and "intervened" on the "pair" telling them that they should be more positive about the National Health Secretary and its new CEO Simon Stevens.
Heidi said: "Let's let Simon Stevens get on with it and help him deliver his five year plan. They sounded like Meerkats - and Wildlife at One - I was so angry, I couldn't sit on my hands any longer I had to get up on my feet and say something. I had a good seat and caught Any Burnham's eye, I only had to Meerkat for four or five times."
Listen to Heidi's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.1MB)
28 May 2015
The Class of 2015 and reaction to the Queen's Speech
We asked three leading members of the opposition parties to give us their reaction to the Conservative government's planned new legislative programme contained in this week's Queen's Speech.
Measures include an EU Referendum Bill, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Bills, a new Bill of Rights to replace the European Human Rights Act, and free childcare of up to 30 hours a week for three and four-year-olds with two working parents. There was mention of 26 proposed new Bills covering many areas of life from housing to energy security, to health and social care, abusive substances and more devolution to towns and cities.
We gave three leading women MPs - Seema Malholtra, Shadow Home Office Minister for Labour, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh for the SNP and Baroness Julie Smith for the Liberal Democrat's five minutes each to outline their opposition parties views on the Speech. We will soon be asking Conservative Minister's how they plan to implement the proposals.
Seema: "Cameron is good at talking the rhetoric but he is covering up what is going to happen to those who are struggling. He is playing with fire in dividing up the Nation. We need unity not division."
Tasmina: "As a mother of four we should have maximum childcare available to all. Women fall way short of representation in the House of Commons, the SNP do well, but we do need equality. I am very proud of being a Scottish Asian woman MP."
Baroness Julie Smith: "I was expecting more to be in the Speech. The idea of fairness was not in it, which it would have been if the LDs were still in government. The Conservative's themselves are split on the new Bill of Rights and they appear to be back-peddling on it already."
Listen to the interviews:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.1MB)
27 May 2015
The class of 2015 and their Maiden Speeches
The wheels of Westminster politics are moving seamlessly into another five year fixed term Parliament. Of the 187 women MPs now elected, 81 are new but two have been MPs before so in all there will be 79 official Maiden Speeches which could begin shortly after the Queen has delivered her Speech today. (For the men there will be 98).
Maiden Speeches are a defining moment for MPs, particularly women who get more criticism for their voice skills. Convention has it that they speak about their constituencies and the issues they care about most, rather than draw swords with their opponents. As they stand in the Chamber, they will be required to speak from memory not notes but as our Executive Producer, Boni Sones has been finding out, your friends might lend you a helping hand. Here we asked six women MPs what issues they would be championing and the advice they had been given for their Maiden Speeches.
Conservative - Seema Kennedy, South Ribble: Small businesses, farming, defence and rights for older people - "The Commons Library have been very helpful and sent us two of my predecessors Maiden Speeches."
or download the MP3 file (file size: 1.97MB)
Labour - Colleen Fletcher, Coventry: Domestic Violence and FGM â€“ "I'm the first woman MP for my constituency so maybe women's issues, communities and housing."
Labour - Karin Smyth, Bristol South: Decent apprenticeships, housing, the NHS and social care â€“ "I have read Dawn's Primarolo's speech, mine will mention job opportunities, youth unemployment, education and access to work. All Bristol's four MPs are now women."
or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.31MB)
Labour - Kate Osamor, Edmonton: Health â€“ "We've been told to salute and remember our predecessor!"
or download the MP3 file (file size: 3.28MB)
SNP - Anne McLaughlin, Glasgow North East: Welfare benefits, unemployment, suicides, drug addiction, alcohol addiction - "I'm going to talk about the incredible voluntary work that goes on in my constituency. I'm looking forward to learning to speak note less too."
or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.03MB)
SNP - Michelle Thomson, Edinburgh West: Small business growth, getting liquidity into the economy - "I represent people who are affluent and also those who are struggling. I chose to affirm rather than take the Oath to the Queen."
or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.49MB)
18 May 2015
The new Girls on the Block and their Maiden Speeches 2015
So they are unpacking their bags and getting used to life as a Westminster MP. But just what issues will women across party talk about in their Maiden Speeches when Parliament resumes this week.
Here we talk to Catherine West who bucked the national swing to the Conservative's by winning an 11000 majority for Labour over the Liberal Democrats to take the seat of Hornsey and Wood Green from Lynne Featherstone. Catherine has won a national award for her leadership of the London council of Islington, and she knows the issues she will be campaigning on in Westminster including better public services and the London Living Wage of £9.15 an hour. Her Maiden Speech may even mention those contract workers cleaning government buildings who are not paid the minimum wage of £6.50. Catherine talks to Boni Sones, our Executive producer.
or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.34MB)
The UK jumped up 20 places to 39th in the world for women's representation (it was 59th) after the May 2015 General Election. There are now a record number of women MPs in Westminster - 187 (up from 148) representing 28 per cent of all MPs. Labour has 100 (44 per cent); Cons 64 (19.4 per cent); Lib Dems 0 (was 7); and The Scottish Nationalist Party 18 (out of 57) and this includes the youngest MP since the 17th Century, Mhairi Black who is 20. The Greens have 1 (100 per cent) Caroline Lucas. Women are well represented in leadership positions. Nicola Sturgeon leads the SNP; Leanne Wood leads Plaid Cymru; Natalie Bennett leads The Green Party; and Harriet Harman is Labour's acting leader; while Suzanne Evans is deputy leader for UKIP.
Throwing in the Towel - How Labour women MPs fought to change Westminster politics
On 30 March 2015, when Parliament concludes, ten Labour women MPs will be "throwing in the towel". Together they have served a remarkable 200 years in Westminster. The list includes two former Secretaries of State, Tessa Jowell and Hazel Blears, and five former ministers or junior ministers; Anne McGuire, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, Glenda Jackson and Joan Ruddock, as well as former parliamentary private secretary Sian James and committee chair Joan Walley. Their colleague Linda Riordan, another committee stalwart, is also now standing down.
Together they have put major new government laws on the statute book, on everything from equality to education, the environment and civil partnerships. Even the 2012 Olympics might not have come to London, but for the more than ten years that Tessa Jowell spent pushing for it.
To mark their achievements the History of Parliament Trust joined with Women's Parliamentary Radio to recorded 'Tribute' interviews with eight of them, which will be placed in the Trust's archives.
In Part One we talk to Dame Joan Ruddock, Tessa Jowell and Hazel Blears. They are interviewed by Jackie Ashley and Deborah Mcgurran.
In Part Two we hear from Joan Walley, Dawn Primarolo, Anne McGuire, Meg Munn and Sian James. They are interviewed by Boni Sones, Linda Fairbrother and Deborah Mcgurran.
Listen to Part One:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.22MB)
Listen to Part Two:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 14.5MB)
Our two books charting women's modern political progress. 'Women in Parliament: The New Suffragettes' was published in 2005 and nominated for the Orwell Prize in Journalism. 'When There's a Woman in the Room - Women MPs Shaping Public Policy' was published in May 2014 and won accolades in the House.
You can read Boni's earlier 2005 article in the Guardian on how Belittled women MPs of all parties felt by the media coverage of them, including Mo Mowlam, Vera Baird, Harriet Harman, Theresa May and Caroline Spelman.
Our Tribute interview: February 2015
'Cutting greenhouse gases and monitoring our environmental targets in 2015'
Joan Walley MP Stoke-on-Trent, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee
Joan Walley, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee who has represented Stoke-on-Trent North, since 1987 calls herself a "behind the scenes below the radar" MP. This interview is to mark her considerable achievements in Parliament over 28 years on the environment. She steps down in May 2015.
In 2015 two important environmental conferences will be held one in Paris to agree carbon budgets and another in NY looking at the Sustainable Development Goals.
Labour's 2008 Climate Change Act established the world's first legally binding climate change targets. It commits the UK government to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent (from a 1990 baseline) by 2050.
Joan Hot Quote: "We are world leaders in respect of carbon budgets. I was involved in helping to lobby for that with others and NGOs, pushing it onto the statute book and then once there making sure it is implemented at every level.
"It is important to have a Committee like ours looking at policy in detail not just the rhetoric. If you look at the 15 or so reports we have done on air quality, on food policy on subsidy, on green finance on international development a whole string of reports on the arctic, you can really see that we are drilling down.
"Over the next parliament there is a huge amount of work that needs doing within the Cabinet office and the Office of National Statistics as to how we work to make a reality of the Sustainable Development Goals which I hope will be agreed in New York in 2015 which will apply as much to developing countries as it will to developed countries."
Listen to Joan's interview:
or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.1MB)
The Boni Sones OBE and Associates Archives
The 'Boni Sones and Associates' Archive opens at the LSE on 8th September 2014. These links will take you there.
This database of significant interviews can now be accessed by permission only. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
These two websites are now an important historic archive. In all we conducted approximately 350 interviews with women Politicians in the UK Parliament and in Parliaments all over the World from March 2007 to March 2014 ending with the International Women's Day Debate 2014 on the contribution of women to the economy.
A new book written by Boni Sones OBE tells the story of our seven years of broadcasting: 'When There's a Woman in the Room - Women MPs Shaping Public Policy', first published in March 2014.
You can now read about our 350 audio interviews, the journalists who conducted them, and the MPs who supported us, together with an MP "Hot Quote" beside each report in this new book. There are international interviews too with women parliamentarians in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Boni has looked at: Childcare and Parenting; Women's Representation in public life; Equal pay and low pay; Women in the Boardrooms; Violence against women, DV, Stalking, Prostitution, Forced Marriage, FGM; Women in Government and the Shadow Cabinets; The men supporting women; Campaigning women of the past; International issues and parliaments; Campaigning in the Constituency; Speaking in the Chamber and Westminster Hall; Campaigning in Parliamentary Groups; Web links, blogs, and press articles.
The British Library and now The Bodleian Library Oxford University, The Cambridge University Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales and Trinity College Dublin have all requested a copy of the book. The National People's History Museum in Manchester, have said they liked it. Here is what the History of Parliament Society have said:
Just picked up your book - many thanks for sending it, and congratulations on completing it and getting it out. It's a good read and a great stimulus to us - our own oral history project is now under way and will eventually be a complement to yours.
Dr Paul Seaward, Director, History of Parliament Society."
Five Star Review on Amazon:
"This book follows Sones's previous examination and analysis of women in Westminster, which provided a fascinating insight into the progress - and lack of - made in addressing the gender imbalance in Parliament. When There's a Woman in the Room takes us on the next leg of the journey, looking into the impact and views of women in Westminster on the key public policy issues of the day. Using these issues as a lense through which to gauge the role of female parliamentarians works really well, providing a revealing account of the ways in which the UK has and hasn't changed in terms of both gender equality and in relation to a backdrop of economic downturn and public expenditure cuts. Generally an interesting read, but especially valuable for those interested in women's role in 21st century British politics."