Help us unlock parliament for women and disabled people
Help fund our legal challenge to allow job share MPs
It is shocking that the total number of women who have ever been elected to the House of Commons over the last century are still outnumbered by the number of men sitting as MPs today.
Many of those, like Sarah and Clare, who would be amazing MPs have children, family responsibilities or have disabilities, which means that they can't be a full time MP. Allowing MPs to job share would unlock the potential of these disadvantaged groups, and allow for people from a wide range of backgrounds and with a variety of skills to contribute to our society.
Clare and Sarah applied to stand as joint Green Party candidates in Basingstoke for the 2015 General Election, but had their nomination rejected. We want to challenge this unequal system by overturning this decision in court.
This campaign is being supported by the Green Party, but is an issue that has won support across the political spectrum (see below). Any money you donate will go towards the legal costs of oveturning the ban on MPs job sharing, not towards any political party
It's going to cost us £30,000 in court costs to fight this decision - please give what you can to help us make parliament more representative of the society it serves. Let’s #UnlocktheHouse
How will job-shares help make parliament more representatives?
Many women can and do successfully work full time - but we know that women are still doing the majority of childcare, and are most likely to be the ones caring for ill or disabled relatives. For example, Sarah is the main carer for her two young children, one of whom has a learning disability, which means she isn’t able to work full time.
With the right adjustments and support, it's great that many disabled people are able to work full time. But for some disabled people, like Clare, that isn’t an option. Clare’s condition, idiopathic hypersomnia, means she is only awake for around 12 hours a day - she can’t work full time.
Do job-shares work?
One of the ways other professions have sought to achieve greater equality is through job shares - something that is widespread in the majority of professions, including for high court judges. We believe it is time Parliament caught up.
Are job-shares in Parliament a new idea?
No. In 2010, Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, used her first speech as Green Party Leader to call for the post of Member of Parliament to be opened up to job-shares to encourage more women MPs and make Westminster politics more accessible to ordinary people.
Allowing MPs to job share has been official Green Party policy since 2012. It’s also a cause backed by a whole range of organisations and by other political parties:
- Back in the mid-1990s Labour MP Margaret Hodge stated that job-shares should be introduced for MPs.
- In 1999 Lorraine Mann sought to stand on a job-sharing basis as a candidate to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament.
- In 2012 over 45 organisations and individuals, including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, signed a letter to The Guardian seeking a change in the law to allow Members of Parliament to job-share.
- Later that year the Labour MP John McDonnell introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would have allowed the role of MPs to be job-shared. Sadly, like most Private Members’ Bills, this failed to make it into statute.
What is the current legal situation? What are you trying to achieve?
Green Party members Sarah Cope and Clare Phipps’ request for joint candidacy was rejected by the Electoral Returning Officer at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on the grounds of a ban on job-shares for MPs.
We believe that preventing this joint candidature contravenes Sarah and Clare’s human rights, including the right to respect for their private and family lives and the requirement of respect for rights and freedoms without discrimination on the grounds of disability. We are therefore seeking a judicial review, which will hopefully lead to Sarah, Clare and others like them becoming able to job-share the role of MP in the future.
We have a fantastic legal team from solicitors Leigh Day behind us, led by Karon Monaghan QC.
What will £30,000 pay for?
We are incredibly lucky: as such an important equality issue, the legal team from Leigh Day have agreed to work pro-bono. As it is a case in the public interest, we have applied for a protective costs order. This means that, if our application is successful, we won’t be responsible for all of the costs risks associated with the case - but we will still be responsible anything up to £30,000.
How would job-shares work in practice? How would you share a vote?
MPs in a job share would be elected together as a pair, standing to represent one constituency, exercising one vote between them and sharing one salary and allowance.
If one was unable to continue for whatever reason, a by-election would be called - as happens when a single MP steps down.
Job-share MPs are likely to have selected their job-share because they have similar political outlooks. As they will both be representing the same party, they will also be speaking from the same manifesto and platform. However, there are several ways in which the voting issue could be resolved, should any disagreements arise.
- Both job-share MPs have half a vote each, with the ability to exercise the other's half a vote in their absence when previously agreed.
- The MPs have one shared vote, which they would only cast if they both agreed which way to vote. In cases where they did not agree, they would simply abstain.
There will always be logistical concerns whenever changes are made to our political system but we think these should be engaged and dealt with, rather than presenting a barrier to progressive reform.
Practical objections have been raised in the past to major, positive political changes that we now take for granted – giving women the vote or voting by secret ballot, for example - such problems should always be weighed up against the benefits of having a more representative House of Commons.
Would Sarah and Clare make good MPs?
We think so!
Sarah joined the Green Party in 2003, a party she felt was most in line with her passions and beliefs about social and environmental justice. Sarah stood in the London local elections of 2010 and in 2012 became the Chair of the women’s group within the Green Party, Green Party Women. The lack of women representatives is an issue of great concern to Sarah. She believes there is much that can be done campaigning on a grassroots level, which is something she have done over the years, with Transition Town groups, Community Centres, and as Chair of our local Residents’ Association. Sarah would be a hard-working, dedicated representative of her constituents and an eloquent advocate for governmental and societal change that would benefit the many, not the privileged few.
Clare researches gender differences in health and disability as part of a part-time PhD. She joined the Green Party after moving to London, and was subsequently elected to communications positions in the local and regional party. In 2014 she was selected to run in one of the party’s target Council seats, helping with the successful election of a colleague who is now the only opposition councillor in Labour’s Lewisham Council. She was a key player in the successful re-election of London’s Green MEP Jean Lambert in May 2014. She currently job-shares a nationally elected position on the Green Party Executive. Clare’s experience as a disabled woman means as an MP she would be uniquely placed to empathise with and speak for others in a similar position – providing a voice that is currently missing in a parliament that currently only contains a handful of disabled MPs and a disproportionately low number of women.
But we believe voters have a right to decide for themselves whether they would like Sarah and Clare to jointly represent them. The current ban means that voters are being denied this right.