Labour’s female MPs are planning to operate as a parliamentary bloc to force Theresa May’s minority government to pass policies beneficial to women across Britain.
The 119-strong group has been emboldened by the success of Stella Creasy’s Queen’s speech amendment, which paved the way for women in Northern Ireland to be given free access to NHS abortions.
All the female MPs in Jeremy Corbyn’s party now plan to use the strength of their bloc in a variety of policy areas. These include:
- Heavy scrutiny of the domestic violence bill that the government promised to bring forward in the Queen’s speech.
- Pressing for social security reform to support female recipients.
- Ensuring that women are central to the government’s industrial strategy.
- Focusing on the experience of carers, older women needing care, and those working in the industry.
- Pushing for increased representation, particularly in local government.
Jess Phillips, chair of the women’s parliamentary Labour party (PLP), said the bloc was bigger than most others in Westminster and would have a particular power in a hung parliament.
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“The women’s PLP is 119 strong; as a group, we dwarf the 10 DUP [Democratic Unionist] MPs,” she said. “We will be using our collective voices to push for the things that we know matter to women in the UK.”
Phillips said Creasy’s amendment showed how opposition MPs could effect change in a finely balanced parliament. Creasy, the Walthamstow MP, argued that it was wrong that Northern Irish women could receive medical care, such as an appendectomy, for free on the NHS on the mainland, but not an abortion. Raising the issue as the Tories secured a confidence and supply deal with the DUP, Creasy was able to secure the support of Conservative backbenchers, forcing the prime minister to act.
Phillips said: “We will be using our power to make sure that the voices and concerns of women in the UK are never forgotten. We have seen the Tories co-opt policies such as a domestic violence bill and a separate commissioner, which have been Labour policies for many years thanks to the efforts of Labour women in changing the agenda.
“In the hung parliament, we intend to use our voices to keep pushing for change.”
Source: The Guardian