Job Share MPs – A Realistic Proposal? By Anya Sizer

If we have learnt anything over the last few years (in this post referendum era) it must be that our political structures urgently need review. We need change in how we represent the people of the UK and indeed in who should be representing us.

Small signs of these changes have begun to crop up: from professor Sarah Child’s “Good Parliament” report, to the introduction of Proxy voting and Stella Creasey’s call for a Locum MP to cover her maternity leave.

It is within this context that yours truly, (CotL member Anya Sizer) and my Labour party colleague Charlotte Carson, have launched a campaign to allow MPs to be able to job share.


Just like many Labour Party policies, this is in some ways a radical concept but in others an obvious move. Allowing for a more diverse group of people to be able to represent us within the chamber, whilst making parliament truly democratic and fit for purpose.

The idea for me personally grew out of my experiences in politics over the last few years.

Let me explain. I have worked for three different MPs and received incredible training from both Labour Women’s Network and Fabian Women’s Network and I would really love to stand as a Labour candidate.

However, the reality of my life is I am a mother of three, one of whom is adopted with significant additional needs. Whilst I have the capability, skills and the drive to represent my constituency, that just doesn’t match my availability, especially when you consider the 50+ hours a week that many MPs put in.

A throw away comment to a colleague that “what I would really love is a job share” soon led to a journey of discoveries…


Much work has already been done on this issue: from John McDonnel’s 2012 private members bill to the Fawcett societies “Open House” report and even a court case on behalf of the Green Party.

Reassuringly, these people had already come to the same conclusions we had; job sharing the role would increase the diversity of citizens eligible to be an MP, it would help alleviate some of the enormous pressures individual MP’s are under and ultimately it could mean even more scope to better serve their constituencies.


#JobShareMP Charlotte Carson, Sadiq Khan Mayor of London and Anya Sizer, Member of Christians on the LeftThe main arguments against the idea fall into two categories:

Firstly, the practicalities.Many people wonder how the role would or could be divided. For example, would one person mainly focus on constituency casework and another one on parliamentary work?

For myself and prospective “running partner” Charlotte, the way we would divide the role would be to follow a one-week-on one-week-off model, in order that both partners would undertake all aspects of an MP’s schedule. There are valid alternatives such as 3 days each a week, or working different hours more flexibly, but the underlying intention should always be to equally split all responsibilities.

The other practical major obstacle to overcome is the issue of voting intentions in parliament and what to do should there be disagreements within the partnership.

Charlotte and I have tested this personally by looking at several months of actual votes and issues from the commons, secretly assessing how we would individually vote and then sharing the results with each other. I am pleased to share that every single voting decision we made would have been the same.

However, there would of course need to be a formal mechanism for when this breaks down. Should this happen, the partners would simply defer (as MPs already do) to the party whips’ decision and party line on the matter. There may be times when one or other would have to compromise on issues, however this is an experience MPs face already on a daily basis and not a valid argument against the idea of a job share.

 

The second main argument against a job share is that the public perception of a Member of Parliament is that of a sole representative of an area and the face of a constituency.

The Fawcett society investigated this as an issue via a public survey. They found that once the positive arguments had been shared around increasing diversity and allowing for greater representation, that nearly half of all people agreed it would be a good idea.

For us, some of the campaign will have to be about helping the public to understand the merits of job sharing the role. Many people will need a change of mindset and help with understanding this culture shift. Perhaps this is also a case of needing to demonstrate in a practical way what this would look like, something we are both keen to do.


#JobShareMPIn August 2019, we officially launched the #JobShareMP campaign with a round table in Westminster and representatives attended from the Green Party, the Women’s Equality Party, Labour Women’s Network, The Fabian Society and chaired by Rosie Duffield MP. We are really keen that Labour lead the way on this and it was fantastic to have Rosie at the event.

Since then we have launched our campaign page on Facebook (click here and follow us to keep up with updates) we have spoken to dozens of MPs and we have written to Jennie Formby and applied to stand as candidates.

We are keen to keep building momentum for the campaign and to get the message out. We are also preparing (if required) to launch a second legal battle to allow for a change in the law.

Ultimately, we want to see the House of Commons as a place that truly represents the people it seeks to serve, fit for purpose, reformed and modernised. We believe that alongside other changes this could be exactly what is needed after the political difficulties of the last few years.

Sharing the role of an MP may well be just the change that politics currently needs.


Please do share the campaign page, use our hashtag on social channels and just as importantly, share the idea with your friends. You can also message Anya on Twitter here.

#JobShareMP

References

Please note that this blog is also published on Christians On The Left

Why Labour Must Prevent A Future ‘Hippo Out Of The Hat’ Situation By Ikechukwu Onyeadi

I have been a member of the Labour party for long enough. Even when the party was hit by a wave of mass-decampings, especially amongst the younger members, I stayed.

I stayed because I know I am a socialist through and through.

I stayed because I had faith that a true socialist would someday come along and present a platform radical enough to warrant a chance with the disenchanted electorate.

Over the years I have watched Labour slowly turn away from what it is; a movement for workers. It suddenly became so engrossed in infiltrating traditional Tory regions that it forgot to properly represent workers.

Of course, Education and wealth are universal aspirations, but when we have Labour politicians that come from Oxbridge-educated, very wealthy, ‘never-worked-ever’, Reese-Mogg type backgrounds; preaching socialism, then the white van, traditional working-class Labour voter cannot help but view them with suspicion.

When Ed Miliband came up with those brilliant, brilliant policies in the run up to the 2015 General Election, voters simply did not trust him in his £1000 suits. I remember one of the numerous polls held in 2014, summarised by Peter Kellner and published in the Guardian by Mathew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo on July 7, 2014, pointing out that although polls showed that The Labour Party was on course to win the 2015 General Election; the major obstacle to that happening was Ed Miliband himself. His image as a ‘posh boy’ just failed to convince anyone, including traditional Labour voters.

The subsequent wipe out of the Labour Party in Scotland and the Tory party’s 328-seat majority win, one that was brilliantly described by Boris Johnson as David Cameron “pulling the most colossal rabbit out of the hat” served to buttress the point made by the pollster.

For Tory Politicians, it seems that the ‘posher’ one is, the more likely they are to advance politically.

For Labour, the electorate seem as though they would like a ‘no-bullshitting’, regular but very ‘street saavy Joe’ that one is highly likely to run into at the local chippy in Swancombe every Friday evening.

That is why, for the Labour party, image should be everything.  

To digress a little from the central discussion here, in the past the Labour Party have used positive inclusion techniques to encourage people from underrepresented backgrounds such as women and ethnic minorities to stand as Labour candidates. Perhaps this approach could be used to encourage today’s disenchanted youth to run for office, thereby injecting more charisma and vigour into the whole electoral debate. If one looked around Labour CLPs in the Southeast these days, they are chuck-full of people who were teenagers when Elizabeth was crowned Queen and who-no matter how hard they try, simply do not understand the world as it is today.

It would perhaps be wiser that those who will decide our future have sound knowledge on Technology in this country and the role of Artificial Intelligence in the future of our species. An idea of who Bixby is would be a great start!

What Jeremy Corbyn brought to The Labour party is nothing short of the breath of fresh air that this country has so badly yearned for since the heartless conservative Government took an axe to social service funds and benefits.

His policies so far seem to be coming straight from the mouths of regular people who go to work every day and go through all the challenges of living in today’s cash-strapped Britain. His policy on nationalising the rail network is direly needed to control the unreliability we have come to expect from the rail network.

His insistence that austerity is just a fiscal choice and not necessity is very economically sound.

A perfect scenario would be to imagine that banks imposed daily withdrawal caps of £200 on its customers because it simply refuses to borrow money to do business, although that option is readily available to it.

Mr Corbyn thus presents as the perfect candidate, with the perfect credentials and the perfect image. The young love him, the old women think he is adorable and his policies agree with any true socialist that believes in a more even system of wealth “redistribution”. His policies also agree with most people in this country who have seen their quality of life deteriorate steeply since the conservatives came into power in 2010 and desperately want something different.

However, we risk another ‘Tory Rabbit’, nay, a ‘Hippo’ this time because Theresa May does not enjoy even half the support that David Cameron did during his premiership, being pulled out of the next General Election Hat!

The reason for my prediction is The Labour Party’s stance, or lack of, on door-step issues. On Brexit. We know we will vote with The Government to make Brexit a reality, according to the wishes of the majority of The British Electorate during the referendum, but we have no clear red lines.

In the negotiations following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, British politicians should band together and present one front, just like the EU 27 is doing. The different opinions and the UK politicians who preach even greater doom than Michel Barnier, create the cracks that The EU is now exploiting.

It is right for Jeremy to whip the Parliamentary Labour Party into supporting The Government on Brexit.

Perhaps this delay on defining a stance on the single market has helped The EU with establishing both the ammunition and the high ground. It is however encouraging that Jeremy seems now to be clear on his stance with leaving the Single Market, despite criticism from Pro- European Labour MPs.

On Immigration, Labour has no clear policies either. The concerns on the doorstep that uncontrolled Immigration suppresses wages, is changing the dynamics in many cities and is pushing the NHS to breaking point, are all very valid and very evidence-based.

The fact that a European National living in Britain can bring their non-EU family members to join them in Britain with no requirements other than exercising treaty rights but British citizens looking to bring their family members to join them in Britain are subjected to requirements on earnings is simply ridiculous, no matter what one’s political affiliations are.

In addition to Jeremy Corbyn, what the Labour Party needs is re-orientation for its Politicians. We desperately need to move with the times. No matter what one’s principles are, we need to become a winning party again.

Jeremy can have all the best policies but if the Tories are willing to get their hands ‘dirty’ by discussing and addressing the real issues on the doorsteps, whilst Labour continues to abstain from these discussions; they will pull every animal species in London Zoo out of all foreseeable General Election Hats.

I suggest that the re-orientation start from ward level.

Let us try something radical.

Let us-only for one season try to use positive inclusion techniques to council seats to encourage under 40s, especially women under 25.

In doing so we would invariably draw a lot of young people into politics and they will supply fresh ideas to deal with the issues facing us right now.

My young neighbours in my street worry about the fact that the last time anyone saw a street cleaner around our street was 9 months ago! They are grateful for the playground that Tan Dhesi fought for many years ago but are now particularly worried for their children’s safety since some juvenile delinquents have decided to use the playground as a racetrack for their noisy Motorbikes.

They wonder if our Labour Councillors even care as no one ever sees them at the doorstep. They never write their constituents to update them on what they are fighting for and usually make important decisions without consulting everyone in their wards. If we want to win, we must change.

National Labour has labelled Gravesham an “unwinnable” seat or something along those lines but I see this borough as very winnable.

We are not able to win because the reality is that outside London, when people are given the opportunity to choose between a Labour party that is stuck on principles that do not reflect the challenges faced by ordinary citizens in today’s Britain, they will vote a Tory. That is because the Tories have managed to stick The Labour party with several tags including that of “The Borrowing” party and so far, we have had the weakest comebacks.

I am no stranger to criticising our policies within The Labour Party and those of the Government for that matter but the essence of criticism is to point out that improvements are required and not a demonstration of disloyalty.

Above all, I want The Labour party to get back to its winning ways with Gravesham as its Crown Jewel.

To do that we must support Jeremy Corbyn.

We must change our strategies.

We must become more radical.

We must represent workers and

We must encourage Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers from a wider range of candidates with young and vibrant British workers who live in today’s reality and not an elite within the party who all own their own homes and have sizable savings which their children will inherit.

By Ikechukwu Onyeadi

** All views are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of The Avenger