Why I’ll Be Marching Against Donald Trump Today By Kelly Grehan

Edward Burke famously said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

In many respects that could be the strapline for the apathetic times we live in where ‘it doesn’t affect me, so I am not bothered’ seems to be the mantra of most people.

I remember the first time I heard someone say they were not signing a petition because the cause did not affect them.  It was about education cuts, affecting the university I attended and I had been explaining what was happening to a lady who had passed by.  She listened for about a minute and then said those fateful words ‘well it doesn’t really affect me’ and off she went.  Aged 19, and having been on the streets protesting at third world debt only weeks before, her words shocked me – not wanting to spare 10 seconds to sign a piece of paper unless it was something that directly impacted on her!

Of course, since then, as an active member of the community and as a political activist, I’ve learnt that apathy and ignorance are the greatest weapons that discrimination, oppression and unfairness have.

Apathy has allowed the government and the wealthy to portray immigrants as the cause of other people’s poverty – rather than low wages paid by multi-million profit corporations. The belief that public servants, rather than bankers greed caused the issues in the UK economy, that young people are some sort of feral generation and that England is the envy of the world; only allows the government to continue to get away with whatever cruel policy they wish to impose on the people.

People often remark that, had they been in nazi Germany they would not have stood by as their neighbours were dragged off to concentration camp.  But I think this is to ignore the nature of how injustice occurs: it does not begin with concentration camps.

Things chip away at the public consciousness – one idea at a time – the nazi’s started with the idea Jews held too many privileges compared to the rest of the German population and were to blame for the mass poverty that accompanied the end of the first world war.

People were only too pleased to blame someone else and gradually accepted more and more laws that stopped Jewish people owning property, owning telephones, sitting on benches and so on!

Drip, drip, drip until it led to gas chambers.

The idea this could not happen again or happen here is at odds with everything we see on a daily basis.

People have accepted a 169% rise in homelessness since 2010 with barely more than a shrug.

People hear that 17% of women’s refuges closed between 2010 and 2014 and council funding for refuges across England dropped from £31.2m in 2010/11 to just £23.9m in 2016/17, with 2 women being murdered by partners every week and do not give it a second thought.

Schools have faced cuts of 8%.

Are most people incensed by this? No.

Conversation in the UK continues to be dominated by outrage at the weather, bin collections and parking spaces.

Would anyone notice if the population were being systematically poisoned against a specific group?

Well I fear it has already happened.  The radio today was full of people welcoming Trump and applauding his anti-immigration rhetoric and expressing a belief that we should not ‘disownersnthe office of American President’ and should remember America was our ally in the Second World War.

Let’s remind ourselves that Trump is a misogynist, a racist, a man who mocks disabled people, brags about sexually assaulting women and presides over a system which separates children from their parents, locks them in cages and leaves them, at ages as young as 1 representing themselves in Court.

It is him that disowners the office he holds.

But let us not forget he also the embodiment of a dangerous global movement that poses a real risk of a return of fascism in the West.

Austria now have a far right government, a similar party are threatening to become the opposition in Germany, Italy have a hard right party in power.

Closer to home we are now seeing a normalisation of racist language that just a few years ago I genuinely thought was about to be consigned to  history.

Last year hate crime rose by almost a third. Britons who came here as children in the 1950s and 1960s recently were treated as criminals, with some even deported in the Windrush Scandal as the government set to bring a ‘hostile environment’ against migrants.

The truth is none of these things affect me.  I’m a middle class, healthy white woman.

To some degree I’m insulated from a lot of the cruelty of the world.  But I never want to look back and say while other humans were the victims of such cruelty I sat back as it wasn’t my problem.

By speaking out we can at least show those affected that there are people on their side, we can stop this rhetoric being normalised and maybe, just maybe we can stop the march of the far right.

Remember, the rise of Trump and the rest of his far right cronies is far from over, and all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.

Enough of the ‘Special Relationship’.  We Have Made Ourselves Complicit in Child Abuse By Kelly Grehan

Desmond Tutu once said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

And what side have we shown ourselves to be on as our great friends, the US, have began openly committing systematic child abuse?

As everyone now knows; last week it emerged that families crossing the Mexican Border are being seperated, with the adults receiving criminal charges and any minors accompanying them, including babies, placed in child detention camps.

The rhetoric around this has been softened, with Trump signing an Executive Order meaning families could be detailed together indefinitely,  but the fate of 2,300 children who had already been seized remains unclear.

United Nations human rights experts said Trump’s policy of detaining children “may amount to torture”.

The sight of children, covered by metallic blankets, crying for their parents, whilst locked in cages is one which haunts me and should haunt any person with any decency at all.  Before anyone starts to make excuses for the US, think, if you heard your neighbours toddler was sleeping in a cage with just a metal blanket would you call the authorities?

I think the answer is yes.  

Sadly, I think the dehumanisation that has been targeted at anyone with the word ‘immigrant’ associated with their life; has meant too many people are apathetic to the plight of these children.

History shows that the first action of governments seeking to abuse and oppress a group of people is to demonise that group so that the public cease to see this group as deserving as the same rights they hold.

On Friday Trump held an event with 14 people whose relatives were killed by immigrants (including in car accidents) saying this was the “human toll of illegal immigration”, repeating his campaign messages linking undocumented immigration to crime.

Of course, this rhetoric is not even vaguely related to fact: studies have repeatedly contradicted the president’s claims: undocumented immigrants are actually less likely to commit serious crimes than US-born people.

Research has also found that cities with sanctuary policies have lower crime rates than comparable municipalities. Considering that there were an estimated 17,250 murders in the United States in 2016, of which 11,000 were committed with firearms; you might think gun control was the best way to reduce the murder rate… But as we all know this simply not of interest to the president or, indeed the majority of American leaders.

The impact of taking children from parents is well known, as are the consequences of institutionalising children: social behavior and interaction, emotional attachments, cognitive performance and language skills are all impacted in the long term – in short children never recover.

Of course, it would be easy to claim that the cruelty of the current US government is solely the responsibility of Trump, and that once he has gone we can resume our friendship and see this period as a blip.

But let us look honestly at the US’ other actions.  

For example, 30 years after the UN passed the Convention of the Rights of The Child (the most comprehensive framework on the rights of children) the US remain one of only three countries yet to ratify it (alongside South Sudan and Somalia).

The US remains the only developed country not to offer paid maternity leave to new mothers. It is the one country in the world that sentences offenders under the age of 18 to life in prison without parole!!

Until 2005 the death penalty could be used in some states for those under 18 when they committed their crime, and 31 states still have the death penalty.  

Earlier this century, I along with countless others spent time protesting against the invasion of Iraq.  The arguments against the war and the horrific consequences are well documented so I won’t reiterate them here.

One reason I voted to remain in the EU was because I felt we would benefit from emulating the values of European countries like Germany and Holland, rather than America: my concerns at the way the UK appeared to be prepared to blindly follow America wherever it went have not been availed.

Currently Theresa May continues to appear desperate to win Trump’s approval. For example as he left the G7 Summit early in order to meet with Kim Jong-Un last week she sought to defend him, saying “We work closely with President Trump, and the UK has a very good relationship with the United States.”

His comments about her were less complimentary, in fact he omitted her from a list of G7 leaders saying “I’d say the level of relationship is a 10. We have a great relationship. Angela [Merkel], and Emmanuel [Macron] and Justin [Trudeau] … I would say the relationship is a 10.”

Having publicly ignored the situation involving the plight of detained families; Theresa May finally spoke out last week when asked for her reaction by SNP leader Ian Blackford.

The Prime Minister told him: ‘I clearly and wholly, unequivocally said that that was wrong.”

Referring to our ‘special relationship she said “… when we disagree with what they [the US] are doing, we say so.”

You know what? If we have friends committing child abuse I don’t think it is enough to mention you disagree then continue enjoying a cup of tea together.  

Taking no action ensures the abuse continues and makes you complicit in the abuse, and the same applies here.

Taking no action makes us complicit.  

We should stop sucking up to the US at every stage.

We are always being told about our wonderful British values, well talk is cheap!

We should be condemning this in the strongest terms.

We should be threatening to walk away from any deals we have with them and we should, immediately be retracting Donald Trump’s invite to the UK next month.

All it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing.

Democracy Denied By Kelly Grehan

On Friday, as on so many other occasions, we saw evidence that our democracy does not function properly.  As is now well known a tory MP, Sir Christopher Chope was, singlehandedly able to stop a bill which would have made taking photographs up womens skirts a crime in its own right from progressing.

According to Gina Martin, a campaigner to bring about this new law, Chope told her shortly afterwards he did not know much about ‘upskirting’ but objected to it ‘on principle that it had not been debated.’

So Parliament’s archaic procedures have allowed one man to prevent progress in protecting women, despite his having no real knowledge on what it was about.

Whilst the upskirting bill got all the headlines yesterday, he and his gang also blocked bills making tyres more than 10 years old on a public hire bus or coach an offence, stopping paid for parking in Hospitals and extending FOI requests to public contractors and Housing Associations – a successful days work for them then.

Chope, who has been awarded a Knighthood for services to Politics, has a long history of sabotaging Private Members’ Bills – sometimes by talking at length, known as filibustering, and other times by shouting his opposition as the bill is called.

Other indefensible political decisions he has made include:

Raising an eleventh-hour objection to the Hillsborough debate taking place because he believed a debate about MPs’ pensions was more important;

Objecting to the second reading of the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill in the House of Commons – causing the Government to use the royal prerogative of mercy instead;

And blocking revenge evictions being made illegal.

Sir Christopher Chope has tried to claim his actions represent some kind of moral crusade against private members bills.  I think this is nonsense.

If he disagrees with private members bills why did he support one attempting to give employers the right to opt out of paying the minimum wage?

It is apparent that Sir Christopher Chope is a vile man, and it is very unfortunate that by representing the safe Tory seat of Christchurch it is unlikely he will ever be held accountable for his voting record, despite experiencing the wrath of his fellow tory MPs on Friday.

But what is surely ridiculous is that all MPs present at the second hearing of a bill are allowed to block the progress of a bill, simply by shouting ‘object’.

This debacle is just the latest of numerous examples of one or two MPs being able to prevent bills that would make life better for ordinary people.

For example in  2015 Labour MP Karen Buck introduced the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill intended to ensure residential rented accommodation would have to be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.  The bill was ‘talked out’ meaning that it was not put to a vote and dropped.  In fairness the proposals were reintroduced in 2016 as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill when 312 tory MPs voted against it and the amendment was defeated.

Then there is that beacon of non-democracy – the House of Lords.  

Now, I’m in favour of a revising chamber, but the House of Lords needs reform.  It  is the largest parliamentary chamber in any democracy, surpassed in size only by China’s National People’s Congress (2987 members).

Following 13 new peers being appointed in May there are now 785 peers, none of whom have been elected by the public – they are there either because of the family into which they are born (92 hereditary peers), or because they have been appointed.

It is therefore another area of our ‘democracy’ ripe for undemocratic processes.  

It also costs £93 million per year, of which £20 million is paid direct to the Lords themselves.  It is also noted that the chamber only seats 500!

Despite half of Britain’s now following no religion, 26 places in the House of Lords are reserved for Church of England Bishops – the UK being the only democratic country in the world to give seats in its legislature to religious representatives as a right.

The presence of the Church of England in the House of Lords entrenches a privileged position for one particular branch of one particular religion.

The House of Lords Appointment Commission was established in 2000, to appoint non political peers, but most of the life peers were appointed by Prime Ministers – so inevitably we end up with career politicians continuing their career – often after being rejected by voters not long before.

Then we have the ridiculous situation of the UK government being propped up by the DUP; a party whose values are so at odds with the majority of UK citizens that it is hard to fathom that they exist at all.

In a ludicrous twist of fate, their measly 10 seats have left them as Kingmaker of the UK Parliament, with power over our democracy not deserved by their voting share.

Further threats to democracy come from the fact the arrangement between the tories and DUP mean that the potential of favouritism towards one Northern Ireland party is sufficient to undermine the government’s insistence that it is impartial and  it appears to introduce a political bias which may breach the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

No one in England, Scotland or Wales voted for the DUP, but yet they now take centre stage in deciding what bill will be successful in the House of Commons in return for Northern Ireland receiving an extra £1 billion over 2 years (So there is a Magic Money Tree).

Then we have the strange situation brought about by privatisation of various industries which mean corporations keep any profit they make, but any losses are bailed out by the taxpayer – who had no say in the decisions that led to the loss in the first place – the railways are a prime example.

The UK is already one of the least regulated economies in the developed world, with little or no scrutiny or democratic debate, the policy-making process has been brought under an unprecedented level of control by private economic interests.

The very essence of democracy is that all decisions should be in the interests of the common good.

Private companies primary purpose is to generate profit for shareholders and this is often in conflict with the common good, so companies, often receiving money from the taxpayer such as those running the railways, care contracts, health contracts, refuse services and countless others often act contrary to the public good.

Up until recently the public were fed the nonsensical line that ‘regulation was bad for democracy’ and those being paid by public money (Serco, Carillion etc) acted pretty much as they liked despite their profits coming from the tax coffers.

Where will this all end, who will draw a line in the sand to protect the principles of democracy: ‘for the people, of the people, by the people.’

So all in all, our democracy needs some amendment as power spreads further and further away from the people, undermining the very principle of it.

Women’s Contributions In History is Under Represented… Even In Stone Statues By Kelly Grehan

Today Millicent Fawcett made history as her statue joined the 11 others already at Parliament Square and she became the first woman to feature there.

That it has taken 100 years since some women got the vote for her to be included perhaps, speaks volumes about the contempt women’s roles in history are viewed with.

Millicent Fawcett was a British feminist, intellectual, political and union leader, and writer.

She is primarily known for her work as a campaigner for women to have the vote, having led the nonviolent suffrage organisation, the NUWSS from 1890-1919, and therefore played a key role in gaining women the vote.

She also engaged in other political activities such as supporting worker rights and overcoming laws which were based on a dual morality for men and women.

Parliament Square is not the only place where women have been overlooked for commemoration.  

Research by feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez revealed; of the 925 statues listed in the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association database, only 158 are of a woman as a lone standing statue.

Included in this figure are numerous statues of Queen Victoria and numerous nameless sculptures, typically rendered as naked, curvaceous and reclining.

Criado-Perez commented that if you are a woman “ your best chance of becoming a statue is to be a mythical or allegorical figure, a famous virgin, royal or nude.”

The need for female representation was recognised as long ago as 1952 when a correspondent wrote to the Times about women being neglected in statues and memorials. The piece was entitled : “A Man’s World Even in Stone”.

Sadly there does not seem to have been a great deal of progress in the intervening years.  

It is not that women’s roles in history were minor, it is that they have not been celebrated enough to become common knowledge.

Many key women have not been recognised in stone… here are just a few;

Virginia Woolf,

Matchgirl strike leaders Mary Driscoll and Sarah Chapman (who’s pauper’s grave is at risk being moulded over),

Suffragettes including; Jessie Kenney, Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst (there is a plaque for the latter on the statue of their mother),

Family planning pioneer Marie Stopes,

Social reformer Octavia Hill,

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson –  the first woman to train to be a Doctor (the rules at the time designed to keep woman from doing so),

Rosalind Franklin – whose x-ray work eventually led to the discovery of the DNA double helix and

The first British astronaut Helen Sharman.

Hard to believe that none of these women have a statue to commemorate them isn’t it?

A campaign for a statue of  Mary Wollstonecraft to be put on Newington Green  has been started.

Wollstonecraft was the author of the 1792 text  “Vindication of the Rights of Women” which was the first book in English arguing for the equality of women and men.

She is also notable as an early human rights advocate, educational pioneer, icon of social mobility, key Enlightenment philosopher, first female war correspondent and mother of Mary Shelley – let us hope this campaign proves successful.

You may ask why this matters, well in my view it matters because history matters.

Much of our cultural identity comes from the people and events we choose to celebrate.

Could a reason why women make up only 32% of the MPs in the House of Commons and local authority councillors be because we are socialised from birth into expecting those in such roles to be men?

I think one reason I have always been so drawn to the stories of the suffragettes is that learning about them  is the only time at school I that I can recall learning about females in history who were not Queens!

Another question is does the nature of many of the male statues being war related lead to a culture where we celebrate achievements in battle high above those in say medicine, or education?

I would say the evidence that we do this is all around us.

So let us celebrate our new statue of Millicent Fawcett, but let the real celebration be when the number of statues of women matches that of men and the number of women inside Parliament does the same.

Donate to the Mary Wollstonecraft statue here https://www.maryonthegreen.org/project.shtml

Petition to save Sarah Chapman’s grave is here https://www.change.org/p/minister-of-justice-save-sarah-chapman-s-grave-a-leader-of-the-1888-matchgirls-strike-trade-union-heroine?recruiter=109957635&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

Petition for 50:50 parlaiment here: https://www.change.org/p/50-50-want-to-build-an-inclusive-modern-and-gender-balanced-parliament-it-would-lead-to-more-responsive-and-informed-decision-making-so-everyone-would-benefit-50-50-are-asking-those-in-power-for-solutions-and-taking-action-join-us-5050parliament

Information of some statues that are of women in London http://www.secret-london.co.uk/Women_2.html

UK: There Is No Profit In Peace By Kelly Grehan

On 15th February 2003 I was one of the 3 million people who marched through the streets of London, one of 600 cities that held protests around the world at what was then, the imminent bombing of Iraq.

You might think that such a big, and a global show of feeling would have at least slowed down the march towards the invasion, but days later, on March 19th, George Bush announced:

“On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign…..My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

His words could not have turned out to be more ironic: the invasion, turned into an occupation.

No thought was given to what came next.  

Credible estimates of Iraq War casualties range from 150,000 to 460,000.  Iraq’s armed factions still remain locked in a struggle with the forces of the Islamic State.

This morning we woke up to the news Britain, France and the US had launched air strikes on Syria, or as Donald Trump put it:

The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”

To quote Jeremy Corbyn “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace.”

This action occurred despite Reports saying UN Inspectors were in Damascus last night to carry out inspection of Douma today.

The UK could have enabled the inspection and not joined the US & France launch strikes in Syria.

The BBC are reporting that Theresa May pushed for an early strike “to avoid having to get parliamentary consent”.

This while we lecture other countries on democracy!

The Syrian conflict began seven years ago as a peaceful uprising against the president, but has now turned into a full-scale civil war.

Many groups and countries are involved and perhaps unsurprisingly the jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda have flourished.

The US, UK, France and other Western countries have provided varying degrees of support for what they consider “moderate” rebels.  A global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory from the jihadists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 353,900 people (up to March 2018).

This includes 106,000 civilians.   1.5 million people have been left with permanent disabilities, including 86,000 who have lost limbs.

At least 6.1 million Syrians are internally displaced, while another 5.6 million have fled abroad.

The figures do not include 56,900 people who it said were missing and presumed dead. The group also estimated 100,000 deaths had not been documented.

Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where 92% of them now live, have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.

As the 6th richest economy, you might have expected the UK to play a role in aiding the civilalians, but the truth is this country is incentivised to pursue conflict for profit.

But as I wrote a few months back Britain is the worlds second biggest arms exporter.(https://theavengeruk.com/2017/09/13/blood-on-our-hands-london-hosts-worlds-biggest-arms-fair-by-kelly-grehan/).

In July 2014 the then Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed to Parliament that the UK had indeed exported chemicals that “were likely to have been diverted for use in the Syrian programme”.

This morning David Cameron said  “I firmly support the military action taken in Syria. The barbaric & intolerable use of chemical weapons should never go unchecked.”

Yet, 10 months after the Syrian uprising David Cameron granted chemical export licences to British firms so they could supply chemical weapons to Syria!!

Here is an idea for you David, maybe we could prevent chemical weapons attacks by NOT SELLING CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

Maybe Britain has redeemed itself with its’ efforts to secure safety for those who have left Syria?

In 2016, Lord Dubs sponsored an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain amidst the European migrant crisis. Originally rejected by the House of Commons, the amendment was eventually accepted by the government following a second vote in favour by the Lords.

In February 2017, the Home Office abandoned the scheme after accepting just 350 out of the planned 3,000 child refugees.

To quote David Lammy MP “We have today found ourselves in the morally untenable position of bombing Syria without Parliament voting at the same time as refusing to take in child refugees who are fleeing the bombing in Syria. As a society we must reflect hard on how we have ended up in this situation.”

Inspiration Follows Inspiration By Kelly Grehan

I was 11 when my Primary School teacher said something that has never left me.

Talking about the suffrage movement she said “I hope none of you, but especially the girls, ever forget what others gave up so you would have the right to vote.”

This was the beginning of a love affair with the suffragettes and feminism for me.  

So I have been surprised that some of my fellow pupils from that class in 1990 have gone on to be apolitical and others opposed to feminism.

My experience has always been that to mention women and equality is to be met with a accusations of men bashing and to point out the subjectification of women in the media is to be accused of jealousy.

So, despite being a very vocal person I had not always fought as hard as I could on women’s issues.

Over the last six months, however,  I feel as if I have found my voice as a feminist.

This has coincided with a few things: firstly Kent’s new Labour MP Rosie Duffield has been instrumental in raising the profile of Kent’s Labour women, and very quickly we have formed a network, or what could be called a ‘sisterhood.’

It sounds corny, but it’s true, I feel supported by my Labour sisters, that we are all routing for each other.

I have also started blogging (https://theavengeruk.com/) and increasingly write about my lived experiences and those of my friends, and so by default these are often experiences that could be deemed women’s issues.

This has brought me into contact with a whole new network of women.

I have got involved with 50:50 Parliament, having met the founder Frances, at an event and it has brought back memories of all the reasons I became enchanted by the suffragettes 28 years ago.

Following on from this, myself and my friend Kate this week ran  Women’s Event at Dartford Labour, the first in our time as party members.

I spoke with one veteran member of the party who said her heart leapt with joy’ when she saw the invite because at last the issue is gaining attention.

Armed with the stories about the disparity between men and women at every level of government in the UK we made the case for 50:50 representation.

With our new network of Labour Party women we were able to find four amazingly motivational speakers, who represented the diversity of women in terms of backgrounds (the videos can be found here (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKTFQzBXXEWXQwebXL76jNQ).

Hearing them led to other members telling their stories.

These stories are about lived experiences, and of course, women’s lived experiences are different to those of men, and both need representing.  

What the event confirmed is this:

Hearing women tell their stories inspires other women to tell their stories.

When woman speak up it inspires other women to speak up and so it stands to reason that more women standing will lead to even more women standing for election.

For me this is just the beginning of speaking out for 50:50 Parliament and I cannot wait to see where else it takes me and to all the fabulous women I will meet on the way.

A Review Of The ‘Inspiring Kent Labour Women Event’- 10th March 2018 By Kelly Grehan

Spurred on by International Women’s Day on Thursday a group of us from Dartford CLP headed down to Canterbury for this event.

Since becoming Kent’s only Labour MP last June, Rosie Duffield has become the pride of the Labour Party movement throughout Kent, with all of us feeling that she is ‘our Rosie’ .

The fact she worked in ‘ordinary, but important’ jobs such as a Teaching Assistant and for charities and juggled this with being a single mother has certainly been inspiring for the rank and file female Labour members.

Ive written before about how in my experience women often play down their skills and experiences and do not realise the value they could add to their communities as councillors https://theavengeruk.com/2018/02/28/a-womans-place-is-on-the-ballot-by-kelly-grehan/ ; so it was interesting to hear Rosie say that not so long ago she felt that standing as an MP was not a realistic option for her and that talking to a fabulous woman called Frances Scott from 50:50 Parliament had made the difference in her outlook.

Frances explained that she launched the 50:50 Parliament campaign which campaigns for gender equality at Westminster with the aim to inspire, encourage and support women in being elected to Westminster and is asking Parliament and all the political parties to work on solutions.

It is very exciting to know that this is exactly what encouraged Rosie.

Women are 51% of the population so it is indefensible that women make up just 32% of our MPs.

Frances spoke about how men can represent women (and vice versa) but are more likely to do a good job when there are women around.

All people use their experiences to understand the world, so it is no surprise that issues which primarily concerning women such as maternity, childcare, the wage gap and domestic abuse have not been priority issues within a male dominated parliament.

Men and women have different experiences – it is not that one is superior to the other – they are just different and all people benefit from those different experiences being valued.

Laura Cashman is Programme Director for Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. She made the point that woman and men vote in the same proportions – yet the false narrative that ‘women are not interested in politics’ persists.

The idea that women cannot be good mothers and good politicians is a myth. Just look at the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern who is currently pregnant, and closer to home, in France last year; Senator Larissa Walters addressed the chamber whilst breastfeeding her baby.

Yet woman are sidelined in arguments, for example in the Brexit debate only 16% of media appearances to discuss the issue were women!

Given a choice of seminars I opted (after some deliberation it must be said) for Confidence In Campaigning; led by an inspiring woman called Fiona Crawford.

Like many Labour party activists Fiona came to prominence after feeling compelled to campaign on issues she felt strongly about such as racism and the ‘Save Broadstairs High Street’ campaign. This spurred her on to other campaigning.

Other women told of their campaigning experiences, with the message being that campaigning is so varied that there is something everyone can excel at – whether it be door knocking, designing leaflets, making displays and numerous other things.

Hearing women talk with passion about their champion of various causes was so motivating, and a reminder of how much woman have to offer.

What I am increasingly learning is that ‘inspired women’ inspire other women.

As women, we need to get better at telling others what we have achieved and what we value about them.

#AskHerToStand was a campaign championed by 50:50 Parliament.

The power of the movement was bought home to me speaking to one of the members of my group, Sarah Crook, attending her first political event.

Sarah commented “50 : 50 really struck a chord with me. It has seriously made me think about standing. I cannot believe in 2018 it’s still a 2:1 ratio of men to women in Parliament. Frances was so impassioned – she made me want to campaign for the movement”

I ask all women (and men) to join https://5050parliament.co.uk/ and ask friends to think about standing for parliament, council and all other public offices.

Together we can make a difference.

Kelly Grehan is a member of Dartford Labour Party and co founder and writer for The Avenger.