Labour’s Stella Creasy is launching a project to fund mothers who want to get involved in politics, after describing her “heartbreak” at the way the party has responded to her calls for proper maternity cover for MPs.
Creasy, who gave birth to her second child four weeks ago, said many in the Labour movement were frustrated at the way women of childbearing age are treated in politics.
She is launching a campaign called VoteMama UK to help support parents in politics, modelled on the VoteMama movement in the US.
The MP for Walthamstow in London has been engaged in a battle with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to get a locum paid near to her own salary rate to cover her constituency casework. The law prevents a locum from being able to cover the parliamentary work of MPs on parental leave.
Creasy said she did not feel sufficiently supported by Labour, including other women in her party, in her campaign for maternity rights for MPs, which she believes would encourage more women of childbearing age to enter politics.
“I have been heartbroken by the way in which my party has responded to calls for maternity cover for MPs, and sadly from talking to many in our movement I am not alone in feeling frustrated,” she said.
“It’s not rocket science why so few women of childbearing age go into politics or stay in it. That isn’t going to change unless we act to tackle the deterrents to running that start before you even stand for office as well as those which persist long after.”
She said Labour needed to “admit it has a blindspot when it comes to mums” and called on it to “be the first political party here in the UK to learn from the approach taken by our American counterparts and the success of VoteMama in breaking down barriers for parents to politics”.
The VoteMama UK campaign aims to help fund and mentor new parents who want to get into politics.
The American version of the campaign has endorsed, funded and mentored nearly 250 mums running at levels ranging from school board to Senate. It provides direct contributions to the campaigns of supported candidates and has campaigned to pass legislation at the state level to expand a Federal Election Commission ruling that all state and local candidates should be able to use their campaign funds for childcare.
Creasy said it was not illegal in the UK to use campaign funds to fund childcare but she was not aware of anyone who had done this. She said if there was enough interest in VoteMama UK then the group would directly fund candidates, helping them to cover the cost of childcare. She said it would also support changing the way selections are run to make it easier for parents to participate.
In an interview with the Guardian’s Saturday magazine, Creasy spoke about her frustration with her battle for maternity cover. “I know that some have suggested that this is ‘golden skirt feminism’ – an elite asking for special privileges – but actually for me it’s about the message that we send, that our politics should be open to everybody at all stages of their lives from whatever background,” she said.