This Mothering Sunday, give the gift of labour representation across the UK

Stella Creasy
© Richard Townshend/CC BY 3.0

Westminster might be the mother of all parliaments, but it is not a place that welcomes mums. Whether the absence of any formal maternity or paternity cover, the late nights, lack of hybrid working or the abuse, it’s not hard to see why the ‘Good Parliament Project’ found men with young children are as likely to stand or be elected as their peers while women with young children are particularly underrepresented among MPs. This translates into policy making. The Chancellor’s spring statement was 3,500 words long – but none of them were about children or the cost of childcare and the cost-of-living crisis despite evidence that many families are now paying more for care than they are on their mortgages or rent.

The Labour Party itself has more to do. The stories of women standing for selection being asked about what their children will do, or whether they will be able to juggle family life with a busy constituency – whilst their male counterparts are not – are legion. Whether our meeting lengths and times, or our traditions and bureaucratic practices, they don’t work for those with young families – with candidates who have taken time out to have children often being told they haven’t done enough campaigning or sat on enough committees to be considered eligible for selection. My own experience of fighting for better maternity policies in parliament and raising concerns that mothers are being shut out of politics revealed a large volume of internal hostility to change.

Labour Women’s Network and Fabian Women’s Network have done amazing work to mentor women to stand. The Jo Cox leadership programme, the ‘Keep the Good Stuff’ and the changes to include a cap on spending in selections show it is possible to address these concerns. Confirmation that the selections spending cap excludes childcare and caring costs is also very welcome – yet finding the cash to cover these costs is still a barrier to participation for mums if you don’t have the extra money in the first place.

That’s why, today, women across the labour movement have joined together in taking action to ensure that mums are part of the party’s future. MotheRED is a time-limited fund modelled on the successful Emily’s List, which helped women get selected ahead of the 1997 election. It is intended to tackle the ‘motherhood penalty’ in parliament by giving financial grants to Labour women during selections to help ensure they can cover their childcare costs.

This Mothering Sunday potential recipients can register their interest in applying for this funding, with the first round of successful candidates being announced in June 2022. A group of 30-strong MotheRED ambassadors will choose the recipients of these grants, with additional support being made available for those who need it include single parents and those with children with special educational needs. The ambassadors who will decide who gets a grant are drawn from across the movement and include Cherie Blair, Baroness Shami Chakrabati, Jacqui Smith, Polly Toynbee, Bell Ribiero-Addy MP, Kate Green MP and Tulip Siddiq MP as well as representatives of trade unions, the Fabian Womens Network and the cooperative movement.

Those who are funded will be expected to support the ‘This Mum Votes‘ ambitious policy programme to make sure the next Labour government’s agenda works for mums. This includes affordable childcare, a reformed benefits system and ring-fenced paternity leave, ensuring putting more mums in parliament leads to better outcomes for all mums across the country.

Donations have already been received, which means that we can fund a first group of women, but today we are also opening a crowdfunder and asking those who recognise this challenge to contribute so that we can help even more women to stand. With selections expected to start imminently, we are aiming to extend the programme to multiple cohorts of mums over the coming months as more donations are raised.

MotheRED will help open up our selections to a cohort of talent currently excluded not by their skill set, but by their childcare costs. It is also about sending a powerful message about the importance of including parents and mums in our politics – an objective anyone can get behind. Every penny donated will go towards these candidates – so this Mothering Sunday, help us give the gift of labour representation across the UK.

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