Female politicians in the UK do well in the European Parliament as it offers “the sort of politics women like to be associated with” and is “much more collegial, much more consensual and less confrontational ‘ya-boo’ boy politics of Westminster,” the leader of the UK Labour delegation in the European Parliament, Glenis Willmott, told EURACTIV in an interview.
Willmott noted that Labour lists for the European elections are rigged to allow for equal representation, but regrets that this is not the case for national elections.
“I think the way we operate in the European Parliament is a good model and can encourage women to get involved in politics,” said Willmott, noting that having more women in politics would trigger higher voter turnout. The MEP noted that unless “women candidates appear on the horizon” and function as role models, women will find it difficult to associate with national and European politics and not bother to go to the polls in upcoming EU elections in June.
Recent surveys have shown that women across Europe know little about the EU (EURACTIV 06/03/09). Despite the fact that women make up half of the bloc’s population, women still remain a minority in EU and national politics. At European level, 31% of MEPs are women and 69% men. In national parliaments across the Union, slightly less than one in four members of parliament are women (24%). Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland are the only EU countries with more than 40% female representation in parliament.
“It is good to have equality and it is good to see women in these top jobs. But what you do not want is to have women put there just for the sake of it. You do not want a token woman,” stressed Willmott.
The Labour leader in Europe also noted that the Socialist (PES) group might potentially become the biggest group in the Parliament should David Cameron, leader of the UK Conservative party, go ahead with his plan to withdraw the Tories from the EPP-ED group, which is presently the leading political formation. Wilmott added that UK eurosceptic party UKIP is unlikely to gain much support.
“Last time round, they had a celebrity, Robert Kilroy-Silk, who was a very well-known television presenter that people saw in TV everyday for many years. People knew who he was and that pulled their vote right up,” she said. “Now they seem to have gone down a black hole, quite frankly. I can’t see them getting anywhere near the same number of seats that they have at the moment,” she declared.