Hounding women out of Parliament
Frances Perraudin and Simon Murphy
Abusive constituents are chasing female lawmakers out of Parliament, said Frances Perraudin and Simon Murphy. So far, 18 women legislators—including current and former cabinet members—have chosen not to run in next month’s election. They say that the Brexit debate and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s rhetoric have created a toxic and dangerous work environment. One of those leaving, Amber Rudd, who quit her post as secretary of state for work and pensions in September, said Johnson’s use of terms such as “surrender” and “betrayal” over Brexit could incite violence. One opposition Labour Party lawmaker was targeted by a neo-Nazi who planned to kill her; another has seen six people convicted over threats to her family. “Politics has become a hostile environment for women, in which we are harassed, demeaned, and threatened,” said Mandu Reid of the Women’s Equality Party. The ruling Conservative Party’s lurch to the right has also alienated its moderate female members, while anti-Semitism turns off moderate Labour women. Women are leaving the House of Commons far faster than men, typically having “spent a decade less in Parliament than retiring male MPs.” Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative turned Liberal Democrat, said, “Why would you put up with all that abuse, if at the same time you’re unhappy about the direction of travel?” For many women, it’s just not worth it.