New book on Labour's women MPs
Press release issued: 25 May 2004
A new book by Dr Sarah Childs, Lecturer in Politics at Bristol University, which explores the experiences of Labour's women MPs was launched at the Houses of Parliament today.
A new book by Dr Sarah Childs, Lecturer in Politics at Bristol University, which explores the experiences of Labour’s women MPs was launched at the Houses of Parliament today.
The book, entitled New Labour’s Women MPs: Women Representing Women, draws on in-depth interviews with more than half of the Labour women MPs first elected to the House of Commons in 1997. The book includes a foreword by the Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP.
The 1997 General Election saw a big change in British politics: 120 women were elected to the House of Commons, doubling the number of women MPs overnight. 102 of these MPs were Labour. With their election came feminists’ expectations and male colleagues’ prejudices which, juxtaposed with the media hype, soon fuelled criticism of New Labour’s women MPs.
In Dr Childs’ book, the voices of these women are heard and examined in detail for the first time. The book addresses such questions as how it really feels to be a woman MP in the House of Commons and how women MPs have coped with being told they are wearing the wrong clothes, voting the wrong way, failing to make a difference or even failing women.
Dr Childs reveals fascinating details about these women’s attitudes and opinions, issues they find particularly important and relevant, how they perceive and experience representation, and how they see the relationship between their political presence and the representation of women.
The book also examines their attitudes towards feminism, and explains whether they sought to and were able to feminize the parliamentary agenda and to what extent they were able to effect change. It also considers whether there is any truth in the suggestion that Labour’s women MPs were more loyal to Tony Blair than other members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and, if so, why.
The author also asks whether women consider that their preferred style in politics is less well regarded and effective than the dominant masculinised style, and whether they will be ‘forced’ to act like men in order to act for women. Acknowledging the fact that party and gender identity are crucial, Dr Childs also points out that it might not always be possible for women to act for women, even if they want to.
An insightful and absorbing study, New Labour’s Women MPs: Women Representing Women explains Labour women’s political behaviour and throws new light on feminist conceptions of political representation.
New Labour’s Women MPs: Women Representing Women by Sarah Childs is published by Routledge, May 2004. £70.00 (Hardback), £20.99 (Paperback).
The launch will take place on Tuesday, May 25 at 7 pm in the Jubilee Room, House of Commons, London. Journalists wishing to attend the launch, contact Amna Whiston on tel 020 7 842 2421 or email firstname.lastname@example.org