It was not long after the election of a record number of women to the House of Commons in 1997 that the backlash began. The criticism was all-encompassing: they wore the wrong clothes, they voted the wrong way and they were concerned with the wrong issues. Above all, they were accused of failing to make difference, to have failed women, and were dismissed by some as ‘Blair’s Babes’.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with more than half of the new Labour women MPs, Sarah Childs reveals how these women actually experienced being MPs, and explores whether they acted for and like women – in their constituencies, in parliament and in government. She presents important insights into theories of women’s political representation, showing that the relationship between women’s descriptive and substantive representation is complicated, that party and gender identities are crucial, that women’s differences must be acknowledged and that it might not always be possible for women representatives to act for women even if they want to.
Including a key section on women’s selection for parliament; whether women MPs act as role models; why it is important that women should be present in politics; as well as exploring in depth the subject of women’s substantive representation, New Labour’s Women MPs is essential reading for all those interested in women and politics, legislative studies, political behaviour and representation.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. Women's Political Representation 3. Women's Numerical Representation 4. Symbolic and Descriptive Representation 5. Substantive Representation 6. Women's Substantive Representation in the Constituency 7. Substantively Representing Women in Parliament 8. The New Labour Women MPs' Loyalty
9. The Women's Minister and the Substantive Representation of Women 10. A Feminized Style of Politics 11. Conclusions 12. Epilogue Appendix . Interview guide
Sarah Childs has an MA from the University of York, and a PhD from Kingston University. She was a lecturer at Middlesex University from 2001 to 2003, and is currently a lecturer in Politics at the University of Bristol.
'Celebrates the way Labour's 102 'Class of 1997' women MPs shifted the political agenda in ways barely recognised in the still testosterone-driven Palace of Westminster. Labour's public face is still male, but history will see how Labour's domestic agenda has been feminised.' - Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
'New Labour's Women MPs shows that the sex of our MPs matters. It reveals - in their own words - how Labour's 1997 women MPs sought to put women's issues and perspectives at the heart of British politics. It is essential reading for all those who want to answer the question of whether women in politics make a difference'
- Katherine Rake, The Fawcett Society