Sunday, July 27, 2008

What the MPs really get up to on awaydays..........and other stories from Jo Swinson!

One of the great things about the Blogger's interviews is meeting other bloggers that you feel you have at least got to know a little through their blogs. So I was really pleased to meet Alasdair on Monday when we interviewed Jo Swinson. The adorable Milly, Helen Duffett and her son George were also there. Milly and Alasdair have already covered a lot of what Jo said, so I will just pick up on a few things that particularly interested me.

One of the little asides that appealed to my sense of humour was her insight into the recent MP awayday. Apparently one of the things they did was tell each other, one thing they should stop doing, one thing they should start doing and one thing they should carry on doing. Hmmm, sadly we got no more detail than that!

Given Jo's position as chair of the Gender Balance Taskforce, the issue of discrimination in all forms came up, for her age was still an issue she still had comments made about her youth in the House.

Her view was that on gender we had made great strides, with women in 29% of winnable seats, however the support was still not perfect and finance, particularly for child care, was missing.

On dealing with diversity in regard to BME representation in the Parliamentary party Jo's view was that we were rubbish. She was disappointed that having not recruited a diversity officer the post was replaced with a diversity adviser. Her view was that an officer would have had a more action orientated role. Whilst it was encouraging what has been achieved with regard to women, much more needed to be done at all levels of the party to increase our ethnic diversity.

Jo also talked further about the barriers to selection that women still face, herself having been asked by a member when she was seeking selection about having children. The reality is that women still disproportionately take on the caring responsibilities and it was notable that of our women MPs 5 had grown up children when they were elected and the other 4 have no children. She felt that lack of confidence was a barrier we can and are doing something about. Some of the other barriers, like for example being able to attend conference and even the cost of clothing, were more difficult to overcome.

Role models were important and Jo felt it was easier for her after Sarah Teather's election in Brent, people could then imagine a young woman as an MP.

Jo talked quite a lot about foreign policy, I was particularly interested in what she said about Iran and Israel. She felt there was gross hypocrisy in the way it appeared there was a one rule for us another for them in the way no one was asking Israel to give up their nuclear weapons but talking about attacking Iran to stop them having the same.
Her concern was that the region was a tinderbox and attacking Iran would be very dangerous. But her view was that if there was an attack it would be Nov-Jan once the US elections were out of the way and before George Bush stood down.

I asked what had been done in relation to the motion passed at conference on Israel/Palestine and heard that so far nothing had been done. However Ed had raised the issue of the blockade in Gaza and they had met with the Israeli ambassador and CAABU.

What was striking about Jo was her ability to comment intelligently on any issue. This, combined with her undoubted people skills and generosity of spirit, made me recall some of the comments that others have made about her being a potential future leader. I certainly came away very impressed.


Anonymous said...


The diferance between Israel and Iran, is that the president of the later, is a Holocaust denier, and has called for the distruction of the former.


Anonymous said...

Are Egypt still blockading Gaza?

Whats going on with the Chris Dreyfus thing.

Linda Jack said...

will post about it in a mo