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Campaigns for a Better Representation of Women in the British Parliament : a 21st-Century Issue ?

La mobilisation pour une plus grande représentation féminine au parlement britannique : un enjeu pour le XXIe siècle ?
Karine Rivière-De Franco

Résumés

En cette deuxième décennie du XXIe siècle, les femmes souffrent toujours d’une sous-représentation au parlement britannique ; elles représentent 22 % des députés depuis la dernière élection de 2010. Même si le cadre législatif a évolué de manière favorable sous les gouvernements du New Labour, les femmes qui aspirent à une carrière politique parlementaire doivent toujours faire face à de nombreux obstacles. Cet article se propose d’examiner les différents acteurs qui se mobilisent afin d’améliorer la représentation féminine, leurs stratégies et leurs méthodes ainsi que les interactions et la collaboration entre les différents groupes.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 For the evolution of the number of women MPs until 1997, see Martine Spensky (ed.), Les Femme (...)
  • 2 Judith Squires & Mark Wickham-Jones, “Mainstreaming in Westminster and Whitehall : From (...)

1Since women first obtained the right to vote in 1918, they have remained strongly under-represented in the House of Commons. Progress has accelerated since the end of the 20th century (women formed less than 5 % of all Members of Parliament from 1945 to 1983, 9 % in 1992, 16 % in 2001, 20 % in 2005 and 22 % in 2010)1 but gender imbalance still characterizes the composition of the British parliament in the first decade of the 21st century. In a country which only half-heartedly encourages women but without imposing quotas on parties or on Parliament,2 criticism has been increasing and activists have started campaigning for stronger measures which would lead to a greater parliamentary presence of women.

  • 3 Gabriele Griffin (ed.), Feminist Activism in the 1990s, London : Taylor and Francis, 1995, 1 (...)
  • 4 Fiona MacKay, “The State of Women’s Movements in Britain”, in Sandra Grey & Marian Sawer (...)
  • 5 <www.wrc.org.uk/about_us/faqs.aspx, accessed 12 February 2011. Dorothy McBride Stetson & Amy (...)
  • 6 For a precise classification of all women’s organisations, see Jane Grant, “The Use and (...)
  • 7 For definitions of those terms, see Geoffrey Alderman, Pressure Groups and Government in Brit (...)
  • 8 For this opposition, see for example Jacqui True, “Gender Specialists and Global Governance”, (...)

2The various people gathered in this mobilization and their actions, the activism that Gabriele Griffin described as “activity in party politics, trade unions and other lobbying and campaigning groups”,3 represent a phenomenon which has been the object of very few analyses. As Fiona MacKay observed, in recent years “most attention has been on the performance of New Labour governments in terms of policy agenda and policy developments, and the impact of New Labour policies on women, rather than on the activities and lobbying of organised groups”.4 Two categories of citizens are involved in this activism : politicians and pressure groups. Do they share the same strategies and resort to the same methods ? What is their impact and how do they interact ? This study has chosen to select only the groups which officially announce political reforms as one of their targets among the estimate of 30,000 women’s organisations established by the Women’s Resource Centre or the 240 groups defined by the Women’s National Commission’s directory of UK Women’s Organisations.5 Therefore several types were excluded :6 those defending the rights of women in general (e.g. UK Feminista), generalist umbrella organisations (e.g. the National Council of Women of Great Britain, the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations), academic groups specialized in feminism (e.g. the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association), feminist groups not dedicated to politics (e.g. the London Feminist Network), and groups promoting women politicians at local level (e.g. the Women’s Local Government Society). The purpose is to focus on the goals and modus operandi of all the persons involved within structures which may be very diverse : interest groups or pressure groups, voluntary organisations, civil society organisations, voluntary sector organisations, community organisations, non-governmental organisations or quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations or charities.7 The author will indiscriminately refer to all of them as groups or organisations. All of those chosen for analysis adopt the strategy of the moderate feminists ; they are considered as “insiders”, accepting the existing system and trying to change it from within, as opposed to the radical feminists, who advocate separatism and the establishment of parallel institutions. These two conceptions reflect the traditional position of the Women’s Rights Movement striving to seek influence through integration by resorting to traditional pressure group tactics on the one hand, and the Women’s Liberation Movement aimed at creating a counter culture and alternative institutions on the other hand.8

3Each group was sent a questionnaire about the reasons for its creation, its membership, its ideological influences, its goals, strategies and methods, the actions led during General Election campaigns, the target audience, the joint actions organized with other organisations and its point of view on positive discrimination. After identifying the various actors, this paper will study their different strategies and activities as well as their interactions through examples of collaboration.

The sources of mobilization

4Some of the people committed to increasing the number of women in Parliament are directly involved, such as female and male politicians, MPs and party members, while others are ordinary citizens and activists belonging to an organisation which is not a political party.

Politicians

5The three main British political parties have a women’s section : the Conservative Women’s organisation (created in 1919 but which can be traced back to the Primrose League of 1883), Labour Women’s organisation (first founded in 1906 as the Women’s Labour League) and the Women Liberal Democrats (which first emerged in 1887 as the Women’s Liberal Federation). Those sections, gathering the women members of the parties (and men for the Lib Dems), claim various degrees of interest for women’s parliamentary representation. The original purpose of their creation was not to fight for equality and gender balance but to ensure that the parties take into account women’s interests in their programmes and policies.9 However, they now work on questions of equality as well (through work or family policies for example). The Conservative Women’s Organisation clearly mentions this double function, both “campaigning on issues of particular concern to women” and “encouraging women to be politically active and to get elected at all levels”.10 Within the Labour Party as well the women’s section has “formulated plans to improve women’s representation”,11 and at a local level the Women’s Forums encourage women “to hold elected office within the party, stand as councillors, MPs, MEPs and other forms of elected representative for the party”.12 Miki Caul Kittilson identified the late 1980s and the 1990s as the years when the two major parties started to show this increased awareness,13 even if the subject was already mentioned during the inaugural conference of the Women’s Labour League in June 1906 (“to form an organisation to work for independent Labour representation of women in Parliament”).14 Women Liberal Democrats also “pledge to eliminate all inequality based on gender”15 and specifically to “seek to secure the election of Members of Parliament” as its 2004 constitution reveals.16

6Several initiatives have been launched specifically aimed at female political representation, to reinforce the work of the women’s sections within political parties. Women2win – which also includes men on its board – represents the Conservative party’s first campaign group for equal representation for women at Westminster (“We declare our determination to increase the number of Conservative women MPs, by campaigning for more women to win nominations for winnable and Conservative-held seats”).17 Inaugurated in 2005 and chaired by Theresa May, the current Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, it was created partly as a reaction to the party’s failure to elect a greater number of women MPs in 2005 as well as to benefit from the opportunity for feminization which was opened up by the party leadership election in 2005.18 Labour Women’s Network – whose membership is reserved to women – was formed in 1988 to “secure the election of more Labour women to public office at every level”, because of the absence of change in the number of Labour women MPs since 1945 (21 after both elections) and because of the numerous obstacles encountered by four women who had attempted to stand as candidates for the 1987 General Election.19 Moreover, during the Labour Party’s leadership election that followed Gordon Brown’s resignation in May 2010, the Campaign Lead for Women was set up ; this women-only group of party activists expressed its frustration at the low profile of senior Labour women during the General Election campaign and sent a letter to the five contenders asking them what they would do on five subjects related to women, including how they would “act to ensure gender balance at every level of the Labour Party”.20 In 2001, the Liberal Democrats launched the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB) ; supported by men and women, its role is to “increase the number of women on the list of approved candidates and the number of women candidates fighting target seats”.21

Pressure Groups

  • 22 Hugh Butcher, Patricia Collis, Andrew Glen & Patrick Sills, Community Groups in Action : (...)

7Apart from political parties, numerous organisations, charities and NGOs keep fighting against the inequalities still encountered by British women at the beginning of the 21st century. Some of them encompass women’s parliamentary under-representation as part of a larger campaigning programme of reforms or as a “focal goal”22 set only at particular times, while for others it remains a constant concern.

  • 23 It was created in 1944 by an independent MP, Stephen King Hall, and has 1,650 members : V (...)
  • 24 It was created in 2007 from the merger of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network : <www. (...)
  • 25 NGO founded in 1884 by Liberal MP Sir John Lubbock. “First-Past-the-Post lets d (...)
  • 26 Created in 2003, it has a blog and is present on Facebook and Yahoo: <www.thinkingwomen.b (...)

8Two groups focus on preserving democracy and that includes ensuring a fair(er) representation. The Hansard Society, a political research and education charity, was created “to promote the ideas of the parliamentary system of government and to ensure that democracy would be safeguarded by being understood, debated and improved by parliamentarians and the public”.23 Unlock Democracy, an independent grass roots movement, campaigns for “a vibrant, inclusive democracy that puts power in the hands of the people”.24 As for the Electoral Reform Society, as its original name – Proportional Representation Society – clearly points out, it demands a reform of the electoral system. The theme of women’s under-representation provides a further argument in favour of adopting a form of proportional representation for Westminster elections, since the current system allegedly disadvantages women candidates.25 In addition to those three large organisations, composed of ordinary members but also of MPs, peers, academics, journalists, civil servants, businessmen, trade unionists or lobbyists, Thinking Women is a small group of ordinary women promoting the achievements of women in society as well as in politics.26

  • 27 It was founded in 2002 as an academic research centre, based in the School of Politics, I (...)
  • 28 It was created in 2005 as an independent think tank and research centre, School (...)
  • 29 It was created in 1866 under the name of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (...)
  • 30 Lisa Young, “Feminizing British Political Parties”, in Sarah Child, Women and British Par (...)
  • 31 Set up by Nan Sloane in 2006 : <www.cfwd.org.uk/about>, accessed 12 March 2011.
  • 32 Created in 2009, it is a small group without membership but with a database of contacts o (...)
  • 33 Launched in 2005 : <www.fabianwomen.co.uk/about>, accessed 11 March 2011.
  • 34 Created in 1993 by Barbara Follett, it is modeled after its American counterpart. The nam (...)

9Other organisations regard the issue as a top priority. This is the case of two academic groups : the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics (CAWP) “aims to bring a critical feminist perspective to bear on women’s political and public participation in the UK and Ireland”27 and the Constitution’s Unit is specialized in constitutional reforms and more particularly in elections and political parties.28 Among the activists, the Fawcett Society represents the oldest and the largest organisation, campaigning for women’s representation in politics and public life.29 It continues to be considered by feminist academics as the leading women’s rights civil society group and is “central to campaigns for women’s political presence”.30 The Centre for Women and Democracy (CFWD) also believes that women are “under-represented at all levels of public life and public decision-making”.31 Progressive Women, a small voluntary organisation, was founded to “try to establish a supportive networking and discussion space for women interested in equality in politics, society and economy”.32 Contrary to the groups mentioned above which are not affiliated to any political party (independence from party politics being a condition to be registered as a charity, such as the Fawcett Society), the Fabian Women’s Network has close links with the Labour Party33 and Emily’s List UK supports the election of more Labour women MPs by giving grants to prospective candidates.34

Strategies and actions

  • 35 Sandra Grey & Marian Sawer (eds.), Women’s Movements : Flourishing or in Abeyance ?(...)
  • 36 For a complete description of all the tactics used by women’s movements, see Ann Phillipps, (...)

10In the 21st century pressure groups no longer resort to the mass demonstrations and the radical actions which characterized the Women’s Liberation Movement. Current activism, or the “tactical repertoires” of organisations, to quote Sandra Grey,35 is expressed in two main ways : attempting to reform the existing legislative framework and the rules regulating political parties or encouraging and helping women candidates so as to increase their likelihood of being selected and elected.36 Action can therefore be intra-parliamentary or extra-parliamentary, individual or collective.

Influencing legislation

11Some groups champion the cause of female representation by gathering information, publishing the results of their research and providing arguments in favour of change. They become scientific experts and illustrate the “collaborative strategy” of community groups described by Hugh Butcher.37 These non-campaigning organizations can contribute to legislative reforms since their studies and publications can be used both by campaigning groups and by Parliament as sources of information in reports, committees, Speaker’s conferences or as a basis for discussion during debates. Hence the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics intends “to produce and make available rigorous research on women’s political representation, to support like-minded organisations and women in politics with research on representation issues”.38 The Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics, created “to support women in politics with research-based information”, has established an observatory on women’s public leadership, which gives “regularly-updated figures on women in parties, government, Parliament and local government in the UK and Ireland”.39 One of the functions of the Centre for Women and Democracy is to submit evidence and other papers to consultations and inquiries carried out by Parliament, government and political parties.40 Since 1990 and the launch of its “Women at the Top” programme, the Hansard Society has made public a report every five years examining women’s representation in politics and in public life ;41 furthermore, its members regularly give evidence to parliamentary select committees, as do the spokespersons of Unlock Democracy.42 As for the Constitution’s Unit, it issued several reports which led to changes of British legislation : Women’s Representation in UK Politics : What can be done within the Law ? (2000) and The Women’s Representation Bill : Making It Happen (2001) influenced the law on candidate selection and sex discrimination.43 At the grass roots level, organisations attempt to modify the existing legislation by urging citizens to put pressure on politicians through campaigns of letter-writing, e-mails or online petitions. The website of the Fawcett Society contains a template letter to send to one’s MP.44

  • 45 <www.number10.gov.uk/Page22337>, accessed 3 February 2010.
  • 46 Only five Speakers’ Conferences have taken place since the beginning of the 20th century, (...)
  • 47 For Dorothy McBride, in several countries “the most striking consequence of twe (...)
  • 48 Judith Squires & Mark Wickham-Jones, “Mainstreaming in Westminster and Whitehal (...)
  • 49 Ibid., 59.
  • 50 <www.equalities.gov.uk/about_geo.aspx>, accessed 31 March 2011.

12In terms of legislative progress, the major reforms were implemented by the last Labour governments. The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act of 2002 enabled political parties to adopt same sex candidate lists – women only – without being accused of infringing the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975.45 Gordon Brown’s government also convened an exceptional Speaker’s Conference, which led to the Equality Act of 2010 and includes positive action provisions for the selection of party candidates, even if they remain “entirely voluntary”.46 Moreover under New Labour, campaigners for women’s rights47 succeeded in imposing mainstreaming, defined by Judy Squire as introducing “gender equality perspective into everyday policy-making”.48 The concept was pioneered in 1997 with the setting up of the Women’s Unit which came to be known as the Women and Equality Office in 2001. Mainstreaming aims not at ensuring equality of opportunities as anti-discrimination laws do, but at taking into account the impact of a policy in terms of gender.49 Since 2007 the Government Equalities Office has been responsible for equalities legislation and policy.50

Practical actions

13The other course of action to develop women’s political presence in Parliament is to help them to succeed under existing political circumstances to make up for the disadvantages that they face and the obstacles they are confronted with. Some organisations, such as Thinking Women, arrange forums for women to meet and discuss. Debates are also held by Progressive Women and the Fabian Women’s Network, which invite ministers, charity leaders, businessmen, academics and journalists.51 As to the Centre for Women and Democracy, its mission is to make networking and the exchange of good practice easier.52

  • 53 Roxana Cimpeanu, Questionnaire, 11 April 2011.
  • 54 50 % of the places are reserved for women, ibid.
  • 55 Set up in 2004 : <www.qub.ac.uk/cawp>, accessed 12 March 2011.
  • 56 Launched at the Labour Movement’s International Women’s Day Conference on 5 March 2011, i (...)

14Furthermore, practical actions cover advice, training and mentoring schemes for women politicians. Most of the groups included in the study provide these types of services, such as the Conservative Women’s Section or the Labour Party’s Women’s Forums. More precisely the Labour Women’s Network train women to write a CV or a personal statement, to build confidence and relationship and to speak in public ; each year the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Gender Balance runs a residential future Women MPs week end, on top of a monthly newsletter and an online resource centre.53 The Lib Dems have also established a “Leadership Programme” focused on media, leadership and team building skills as well as opportunity to shadow a parliamentarian.54 Non-party organisations resort to the same methods. Progressive Women holds sessions of leadership training, as does the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics through its “Next Generation”,55 and the Fabian Women’s Network has launched a mentoring scheme.56

  • 57 Joni Lovenduski (ed.), State Feminism and Political Representation, op. cit., 2 (...)

15Additionally establishing good relationships with the media has become a significant activity for pressure groups ; a professional communication, such as the one developed by the Fawcett Society since the 1990s,57 enables them to increase their visibility and to get their issue on the news agenda.

Interactions and collaboration

  • 58 Britain has never had a women’s party, the only example of a party focused on women’s inter (...)

16In the absence of a women’s party58 or of an inter-party organisation, pressure groups and sometimes campaigns inside parties have joined forces to strengthen the case for reform. After considering the difficulty of agreeing on a common platform, this part will examine the collaboration between people sharing the same view.

The difficulty of agreeing on a common platform : the case of positive discrimination

17When several groups wish to lead joint actions or organize collective activities the first step is to find a common strategy that women and men from all groups and parties can support. The question of positive discrimination represents the perfect example of the different shades of opinions within the movement. Several organisations would like the parties and/or Parliament to adopt measures of positive discrimination, considering that there is no other effective solution, as both the sluggish increase in the number of women MPs and the success of the Labour reform of the candidate selection show. This judgment is endorsed by the Fawcett Society according to which “voluntary action has not delivered a strong enough change”59 and by the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics which advocates using quotas “to break the cultural barriers to women’s representation”.60 The Centre for Women and Democracy also mentioned “the introduction of some form of quota system” in its report for the Speaker’s Conference.61 Paradoxically the groups which are in charge of encouraging women politicians within the parties are fierce opponents of positive discrimination, such as Women2win for the Conservatives and the Campaign for Gender Balance for the Liberal Democrats. The former calls for a reform of the selection procedures but “short of compulsory all-women shortlists”.62 The latter deems “quotas, zipping and all-women shortlists” to be “tokenistic” and to damage democracy.63 Both organisations conform to their party’s official line and party loyalty prevails over women’s interests. In these circumstances, one wonders if they can have an independent identity or if they are purely symbolic with a very restricted freedom of speech and action. Other groups do not express a clear point of view on the question, either because they are bound to remain politically neutral on account of their status (the Hansard Society as a charity)64 or because they consider that it is up to the parties to adopt whatever measures will be effective (Progressive Women).

Joint actions

18Despite the lack of total agreement about the means to reach a mutual objective and the various status and activities of the people involved, instead of running parallel independent campaigns in isolation, those organisations endeavour to join forces. Hence the Hansard Society, the Fawcett Society, the Electoral Reform Society and the Centre for Women and Democracy have worked together and shared resources.65 The Women and the Vote Campaign, a typical example, represents an alliance of civil society organisations and political parties (the Centre for Women and Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, Engender, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society, Unlock Democracy, the Green Party, etc.). It was launched in 2008 to “call on the government and the political parties to put gender inequality back to the top of their agendas”, since eighty years after universal suffrage women still face many “barriers” in British politics.66

  • 67 Joni Lovenduski (ed.), State Feminism and Political Representation, op. cit., 4
  • 68 Fiona MacKay, “The State of Women’s movements in Britain”, in Sandra Grey & Mar (...)

19Along with collective action, similar individual strategies may generate a cumulative effect and influence the political system as a whole, as the case of cooptation into mainstream politics illustrates. Indeed, women activists are increasingly integrated within conventional institutions, a trend which has led some commentators to talk about a “state feminism” or “the advocacy of women’s movement demands inside the state”, to quote Joni Lovenduski.67 Thus Shela Diplock became the executive director of the Hansard Society after leaving the Fawcett Society ; Becky Gill, former political officer at Fawcett, moved to Trade Union Congress ; and Laura Shepherd Robinson left Fawcett for the General and Municipal Workers Union. As Fiona MacKay highlighted, by entering political parties, trade unions, public sector bodies, local government and state bureaucracies, feminists have managed to impose the image of a “respectable feminism”.68

The case of the 2010 election

20The 2010 General Election both exemplified the positioning of the British political parties on the issue of women’s representation, and was a good opportunity for pressure groups to put the question on the campaign agenda.

21Preparations for electoral campaigns and, in particular, the selection of candidates give political parties the best chance to express their commitment to female representation and act so as to increase the number of their women candidates and MPs. The Labour Party, which had endorsed the principle of quotas as early as 1996, proved to be the most dynamic and efficient, re-introducing All Women Shortlists (AWS), which led to 190 women being selected and 81 elected. The Conservatives singled out priority candidates for some constituencies : the A-Lists made up of male and female politicians without privileging the gender criterion ; 151 women stood as candidates, 48 of whom won a seat. As for the Liberal Democrats, they merely organized training for their women candidates, who numbered 134, only seven managing to become MPs.

22Furthermore, election times mark a moment of increased activity for pressure groups. By revealing the absence or the limited role of women politicians, election campaigns provide those organisations with arguments to put pressure on the political parties so that they reform the system. During those few weeks, this type of activism is also more likely to be reported in the media. Before the 2010 election, the Fawcett Society launched a campaign called “What about Women ?”, which brought together over forty organisations (among them the Centre for Women and Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, the Hansard Society, the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, the National Council of Women of Great Britain, Progressive Women, Unlock Democracy, the Women’s Resource Centre, etc.). One of the questions asked by the campaign to all parties dealt with political representation : “How will you increase the number and diversity of women in Parliament and government at the national and local levels ?” The Labour Party answered by highlighting its pioneering approach (Equality Bill, All Women Shortlists). The Conservatives also emphasized the reform of their selection procedures and David Cameron’s personal commitment (the question being a “top priority” for him). The Liberal Democrats established a link between women’s representation and the type of electoral system, and used the under-representation of women as another argument to reinforce their plea for proportional representation, which according to them would lead to a higher number of female representatives.69 Apart from them, the two major parties did not suggest any new solution. “Vote for Democracy”, a project of Unlock Democracy, ranked the parties according to their answers to a survey. On inclusive citizenship, the organisation concluded that Labour was the most inclusive, even if “there is far more to diversity than all-women shortlists” ; it underlined the opposition of some Conservative Associations at the local level to the measures taken by the party leadership. As for the Lib Dems, they do not seem to take the issue seriously, “although there are individuals in the party working hard to increase diversity”.70 During the campaign, Progressive Women also organized a roundtable discussion with female politicians from the main parties to discuss what their party would do for women. Making the parties accountable for their points of view on the representation of women in politics, praising their progress or, on the contrary, criticizing the status quo, may create a competition between the parties which could lead to significant changes. Unfortunately a lack of serious concern on the subject does not penalize the parties much, as the example of the Lib Dems showed in 2010 ; British voters did not consider the issue as a priority and therefore the parties’ various stances on the question did not prove decisive for their voting decisions.

Conclusion

  • 71 Drude Dahlerup, The New Women’s Movement : Feminism and Political Power in Europe and the (...)

23A contrasting picture about the campaigns for women’s political representation has emerged from this study. On the one hand numerous groups and organizations are involved. Activity has intensified since the late 1990s : specific campaigns have been launched within the political parties, many academic and pressure groups were created at the very end of the 20th century or at the beginning of the 21st century and the last Labour governments introduced significant reforms. Moreover, if one applies to Britain the three signs identified by Drude Dahlerup to assess the level of interaction and of influence between the women’s movement and the established political system – absorption by society of the movement’s ideas, cooptation of the movement’s leaders into mainstream politics and gaining access and influence by the former marginal group –,71 the country seems to be on the right path.

  • 72 Referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) held on 5th May 2011 ; Against : 67.9 %, For : (...)

24Nevertheless despite the efforts of all the groups studied in this paper, the number of women MPs remains disappointingly low ; it increased by only 2 % between the last two General Elections. If the current trend continues, it will take decades to reach gender balance. In the present circumstances the only measure which would be both effective and immediate would be to set some forms of quotas, either for Parliament or for the selection process of all political parties, accompanied with deterrent sanctions. Such a reform seems unlikely in the near future with a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in power, a Labour Party in favour of positive action in opposition and an electorate which has just rejected a global reform of the electoral system.72 The best hope for women politicians in Britain may therefore lie in world organisations and in the respect of European and international rules and regulations.

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Bibliographie

ALDERMAN Geoffrey, Pressure Groups and Government in Britain, London : Longman, 1984.

BLACK Lawrence, COHEN Gidon (eds.), “Analysing Party Activism”, Parliamentary Affairs, vol. 62, n°2, 2009, 189-195.

BUTCHER Hugh, COLLIS Patricia, GLEN Andrew & SILLS Patrick, Community Groups in Action : Case Studies and Analysis, London : Routledge, 1980.

CHAPPELL Louise & HILL Lisa (eds.), The Politics of Women’s Interests : New Comparative Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2006.

CHILD Sarah, Women and British Party Politics : Descriptive, Substantive and Symbolic Representation, London : Routledge, 2008.

CHRISTENSEN Hilda Romer, HALSAA Beatrice & SAARINEN Aino, Crossing Borders : Re-mapping Women’s Movements at the Turn of the XXIst Century, Odense : University Press of Southern Denmark, 2004.

CROWSON Nick, HILTON Matthew & McKAY James (eds.), NGOs in Contemporary Britain : Non-State Actors in Society and Politics since 1945, London : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

DAHLERUP Drude, The New Women’s Movement : Feminism and Political Power in Europe and the USA, London : Sage Publications, 1986.

GOULD Joyce, Women’s Organisations in the Labour Party, London : Labour Party Publications, 1982.

GRANT Wyn, Pressure Groups, Politics and Democracy in Britain, New York : Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995.

GREY Sandra & SAWER Marian (eds.), Women’s Movements : Flourishing or in Abeyance ?, London : Routledge, 2008.

GRIFFIN Gabriele (ed.), Feminist Activism in the 1990s, London : Taylor and Francis, 1995.

KITTILSON Miki Caul, Challenging Parties, Changing Parliament : Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe, Colombus : Ohio State University Press, 2006.

LENT Adam, British Social Movements since 1945 : Sex, Colour, Peace and Power, London : Palgrave, 2001.

LOVENDUSKI Joni (ed.), State Feminism and Political Representation, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2005.

MAGUIRE G.-E, Conservative Women : A History of Women and the Conservative Party, 1874-1997, London : Macmillan Press in association with St Anthony’s College, Oxford, 1998.

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Notes

1 For the evolution of the number of women MPs until 1997, see Martine Spensky (ed.), Les Femmes à la conquête du pouvoir politique : Royaume-Uni, Irlande, Inde, Paris : L’Harmattan, 2001, 36.

2 Judith Squires & Mark Wickham-Jones, “Mainstreaming in Westminster and Whitehall : From Labour’s Ministry for Women to the Women and Equality Unit”, Parliamentary Affairs, vol. 55, n°1, 2002, 59 : <www.pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/55/1/57.full.pdf>, accessed 3 May 2011.

3 Gabriele Griffin (ed.), Feminist Activism in the 1990s, London : Taylor and Francis, 1995, 182.

4 Fiona MacKay, “The State of Women’s Movements in Britain”, in Sandra Grey & Marian Sawer (eds.), Women’s Movements: Flourishing or in Abeyance ?, London : Routledge, 2008, 30.

5 <www.wrc.org.uk/about_us/faqs.aspx>, accessed 12 February 2011. Dorothy McBride Stetson & Amy Mazur (eds.), Comparative State Feminism, London : Sage Publications, 1995, 127. Three main databases list those groups according to their status : DANGO for NGOs (www.dango.bham.ac.uk), the Charity Commission (www.charity-commission.gov.uk) and the Directory of Pressure Groups and Representative Associations (published regularly by CBD Research).

6 For a precise classification of all women’s organisations, see Jane Grant, “The Use and Abuse of Power in the Autonomous Women’s Movement”, in Karen Atkinson, Sarah Oerton & Gill Plain (eds.), Feminisms on the Edge : Politics, Discourses and National Identities, Cardiff : Cardiff Academic Press, 2000 : <www.britishcouncil.org/china-society-publication-lawandgovernance-2002-en.pdf>, accessed 11 March 2011.

7 For definitions of those terms, see Geoffrey Alderman, Pressure Groups and Government in Britain, London : Longman, 1984, 5 ; Wyn Grant, Pressure Groups, Politics and Democracy in Britain, New York : Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995, 3-4 ; Darren Halpin, “NGOs and Democratisation : Assessing Variation in the International Democratic Practices of NGOs”, in Nick Crowson, Matthew Hilton & James MacKay (eds.), NGOs in Contemporary Britain : Non-State Actors in Society and Politics since 1945, London : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 264.

8 For this opposition, see for example Jacqui True, “Gender Specialists and Global Governance”, in Sandra Grey & Marian Sawer (eds.), Women’s Movements : Flourishing or in Abeyance ?, op. cit., 92 ; Alex Warwick & Rosemary Auchmuty, “Women’s Studies as Feminist Activism” in Gabriele Griffin (ed.), Feminist Activism in the 1990s, op. cit., 183. Drude Dahlerup, The New Women’s Movement : Feminism and Political Power in Europe and the USA, London : Sage Publications, 1986, 7-8.

9 The Primrose League and later the Women’s Amalgamated Unionist and Tariff Reform Association, the predecessors of the Conservative Women’s Organisation, “wanted it clearly understood that they were not there to campaign for more women in parliament but simply to advise the party on women’s questions”, G. E. Maguire, Conservative Women : A History of Women and the Conservative Party, 1874-1997, London : Macmillan Press in association with St Anthony’s College, Oxford, 1998, 80.

10 <http://rnp.conservativeassociation.org/about/>, accessed 28 April 2011.

11 Miki Caul Kittilson, Challenging Parties, Changing Parliament: Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe, Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 2006, 73.

12 <gwww.labour.org.uk/the_role_of_a_women_s_forum>, accessed 14 March 2011.

13 Miki Caul Kittilson, Challenging Parties, Changing Parliament : Women and Elected Office in Contemporary Western Europe, op. cit., 78.

14 Joyce Gould, Women’s Organisations in the Labour Party, London : Labour Party Publications, 1982, 1.

15 Roxana Cimpeanu, Questionnaire, 11 April 2011.

16 <www.womenlibdems.org.uk/en/document>, accessed 28 April 2011.

17 <www.women2win.com/support.asp>, accessed 28 April 2011. The group has met with opposition from within the party itself and from some of the party’s most senior women MPs such as Ann Widdecombe.

18 Lisa Young, “Feminizing British Political Parties”, in Sarah Child, Women and British Party Politics : Descriptive, Substantive and Symbolic Representation, London : Routledge, 2008, 34.

19 <www.labourwomensnetwork.org.uk/LabourWomenMPsHistoric.html>, accessed 28 April 2011.

20 <http://lead4women.wordpress.com>, accessed 28 April 2011.

21 Roxana Cimpeanu, Questionnaire, 11 April 2011.

22 Hugh Butcher, Patricia Collis, Andrew Glen & Patrick Sills, Community Groups in Action : Case Studies and Analysis, London : Routledge, 1980, 154.

23 It was created in 1944 by an independent MP, Stephen King Hall, and has 1,650 members : Virginia Gibbons, Questionnaire, 19 January 2011.

24 It was created in 2007 from the merger of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network : <www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/>, accessed 28 April 2011.

25 NGO founded in 1884 by Liberal MP Sir John Lubbock. “First-Past-the-Post lets down female candidates with the huge advantages it hands to incumbents, and by affording so few opportunities to break into national politics. It lets down women voters and constituents by limiting their choices and fostering a negative, aggressive political culture.” <http://electoral-reform.org.uk/article.php?id=35>, accessed 10 March 2011.

26 Created in 2003, it has a blog and is present on Facebook and Yahoo: <www.thinkingwomen.blogspot.com/2003_11_09_archive.html>, accessed 10 March 2011.

27 It was founded in 2002 as an academic research centre, based in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy in Queen’s University Belfast : <www.qub.ac.uk/cawp/research.html>, accessed 12 March 2011.

28 It was created in 2005 as an independent think tank and research centre, School of Public Policy, University College, London : <www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/>, accessed 10 March 2011.

29 It was created in 1866 under the name of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies by Millicent Garrett Fawcett to win the vote for women. According to Sally Campbell, the Society has around 9,000 supporters, 3,200 of whom subscribe as members with a monthly donation, Questionnaire, 17 February 2011.

30 Lisa Young, “Feminizing British Political Parties”, in Sarah Child, Women and British Party Politics : Descriptive, Substantive and Symbolic Representation, op. cit., 44. Joni Lovenduski (ed.), State Feminism and Political Representation, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2005, 234.

31 Set up by Nan Sloane in 2006 : <www.cfwd.org.uk/about>, accessed 12 March 2011.

32 Created in 2009, it is a small group without membership but with a database of contacts of 300 women and up to 1,000 hits a month on its website : Caroline Watson, co-founder of Progressive Women, Questionnaire, 24 January 2011.

33 Launched in 2005 : <www.fabianwomen.co.uk/about>, accessed 11 March 2011.

34 Created in 1993 by Barbara Follett, it is modeled after its American counterpart. The name is an acronym of Early Money Is Like Yeast : <www.emilyslist.org.uk/index.html>, accessed 9 March 2011.

35 Sandra Grey & Marian Sawer (eds.), Women’s Movements : Flourishing or in Abeyance ?, op. cit., xv.

36 For a complete description of all the tactics used by women’s movements, see Ann Phillipps, Feminism and Politics, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998, 176-178.

37 The others are the “campaign strategy” and the “coercive strategy”, Hugh Butcher, Patricia Collis, Andrew Glen & Patrick Sills, Community Groups in Action : Case Studies and Analysis, op. cit., 146-147. For a complete list of the different ways pressure groups can use Parliament, see Wyn Grant, Pressure Groups, Politics and Democracy in Britain, op. cit., 83.

38 Yvonne Gilligan, Questionnaire, 21 January 2011.

39 <www.qub.ac.uk/cawp>, accessed 12 March 2011. Yvonne Galligan, Questionnaire, 21 January 2011.

40 <www.cfwd.org.uk/about>, accessed 12 March 2011.

41 For example, Women at the Top 2005 : Changing Numbers, Changing Politics ?, Sarah Child, Joni Lovenduski & Rosie Campbell, 2005 : <www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blogs/publications/archive/2007/10/01/Women-at-the-Top-2005.aspx>, accessed 3 May 2011.

42 <www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blogs/Parliament_and_Government/>, accessed 10 March 2011. <www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/?page_id=913>, accessed 9 March 2011.

43 <www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/publications/unit-publications/60.pdf>, <www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/publications/unit-publications/79.pdf>, accessed 11 March 2011.

44 <www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1207>, accessed 14 March 2011.

45 <www.number10.gov.uk/Page22337>, accessed 3 February 2010.

46 Only five Speakers’ Conferences have taken place since the beginning of the 20th century, all of them dealing with elections : <www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/principal/speaker/speakers-conference>, accessed 12 May 2011.

47 For Dorothy McBride, in several countries “the most striking consequence of twenty five years of women’s movement activism has been the array of institutional arrangements inside democratic states devoted to women’s policy questions. Such a widespread change in institutions has the potential of turning the state into an activist on behalf of feminist goals, embedding gender issues in national policy agendas and giving advocates for the advancement of women permanent access to arenas of power”, Dorothy McBride Stetson, Comparative State Feminism, op. cit., 1.

48 Judith Squires & Mark Wickham-Jones, “Mainstreaming in Westminster and Whitehall : From Labour’s Ministry for Women to the Women and Equality Unit”, op. cit., 82.

49 Ibid., 59.

50 <www.equalities.gov.uk/about_geo.aspx>, accessed 31 March 2011.

51 <www.fabianwomen.co.uk/about/>, accessed 11 March 2011.

52 <www.cfwd.org.uk/about>, accessed 12 March 2011.

53 Roxana Cimpeanu, Questionnaire, 11 April 2011.

54 50 % of the places are reserved for women, ibid.

55 Set up in 2004 : <www.qub.ac.uk/cawp>, accessed 12 March 2011.

56 Launched at the Labour Movement’s International Women’s Day Conference on 5 March 2011, it is being tested in 2011 : <www.fabianwomen.co.uk/fabian-women-mentoring-scheme>, accessed 11 March 2011.

57 Joni Lovenduski (ed.), State Feminism and Political Representation, op. cit., 234. For the different uses of the media by pressure groups, see Wyn Grant, Pressure Groups, Politics and Democracy in Britain, op. cit., 86.

58 Britain has never had a women’s party, the only example of a party focused on women’s interests is the Women’s Coalition in Northern Ireland. Founded in 1996, it gained two seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 but lost them in 2003. It was officially dissolved in May 2006.

59 Sally Campbell, Questionnaire, 17 February 2011.

60 Yvonne Gilligan, Questionnaire, 21 January 2011.

61 <www.cfwd.org.uk/news/18/61/Speaker-s-Conference-accepts-CFWD-recommendations>, accessed 12 March 2011.

62 <www.women2win.com/support.asp>, accessed 12 May 2011.

63 Roxana Cimpeanu, Questionnaire, 11 April 2011.

64 To be registered as a charity, organisations should be independent from political parties and have public benefit as a priority. The Society “do[es] not take a line” even if it “judge[s] the methods used by the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to be successful examples” : Virginia Gibbons, Questionnaire, 19 January 2011.

65 Ibid.

66 <www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blogs/press_releases/archive/2008/06/30/2008-women-and-the-vote-30-june-2008.aspx>, accessed 10 March 2011.

67 Joni Lovenduski (ed.), State Feminism and Political Representation, op. cit., 4.

68 Fiona MacKay, “The State of Women’s movements in Britain”, in Sandra Grey & Marian Sawer (eds.), Women’s Movements : Flourishing or in Abeyance ?, op. cit., 22.

69 <www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1032>, accessed 14 March 2011.

70 <www.votefordemocracy.org.uk/themes.php?t=5>, accessed 9 March 2011.

71 Drude Dahlerup, The New Women’s Movement : Feminism and Political Power in Europe and the USA, op. cit., 16.

72 Referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) held on 5th May 2011 ; Against : 67.9 %, For : 32.1 %.

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Karine Rivière-De Franco, « Campaigns for a Better Representation of Women in the British Parliament : a 21st-Century Issue ? », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XII-n°8 | 2014, mis en ligne le 20 janvier 2015, consulté le 24 juin 2017. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/7080 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.7080

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Karine Rivière-De Franco

Université d’Orléans, France. Karine Rivière-De Franco is a senior lecturer in British civilisation at the University of Orléans (France). She researches on election campaigns, political communication, the media, women and politics, and lobbies. She is the author of La communication électorale en Grande-Bretagne de M. Thatcher à T. Blair (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2008), and co-edited Stratégies et campagnes électorales en Grande-Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2009) and Image et communication politique : La Grande-Bretagne depuis 1980 (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2007). Her most recent articles include « La Coalition Conservateurs/Libéraux-Démocrates : une nouvelle donne pour les femmes britanniques ? », Observatoire de la société britannique, 2012 ; « La presse et les femmes politiques lors de la campagne électorale 2010 », Revue française de civilisation britannique, 2011 ; « John Major ou le paradoxe de la communication politique », Observatoire de la société britannique, 2009.

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