Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
It was 100 years ago today that 8.5 million women in our country were able to vote for the first time, and every woman over the age of 21 was able to stand for Parliament. 17 women did so at that election, and one of them was elected, Constance Markievicz, from her prison cell in Holloway jail, although like every other Sinn Fein MP elected since then, she refused to take her seat.
Since then, 490 more female MPs have been elected to Parliament, but to give you an indication of how slow that progress has been, the current number of female MPs on the Labour benches in the House of Commons represents a full quarter of that total.
And while I’m proud to be part of a Parliamentary Labour Party which is 45 per cent female, well on our way to equal representation at the next election, it’s such a disappointment to know that – if every party in the House of Commons was at that same rate of electing female MPs – Britain would be sixth in the world and first in the EU when it comes to our percentage of women in Parliament.
But as it is, because the other parties have some catching up to do, especially the dinosaurs on the Tory benches, we’re only 41st in the world and 12th in the EU. It’s a simple failure by our country as a whole to put forward enough women for election, and get them into Parliament.
That’s why I’m still the only Emily who’s ever been elected to Parliament, and Constance Markievicz is still the only Constance, and the first woman MP to take her seat, Nancy Astor, is still the only Nancy, while – over the past 100 years – 23 men called Herbert have become MPs.
If you’re a girl or woman reading this message, and you want to know how many women with your name have been elected to Parliament over the last 100 years, let me know in the comments and I’ll tell you, because if it inspires you to be the first, the next, or indeed the greatest, then we need your spirit and energy in Parliament today – rather than any more Herberts.
Best wishes, and here’s to a hundred years of women at the ballot box,