It was truly humbling to kick off this week by being recognised as one of the 100 most influential women in Westminster as part of the House Magazine’s inaugural Women in Westminster list. I’m proud to be part of the first ever Parliamentary Labour Party where we have a majority of women, with 51 per cent of Labour MPs now being women. It’s important to note though that while the women on this list are truly inspirational, there are hundreds of other amazing women who I work alongside every single day. I don’t do this job for recognition like this, but particularly when MPs and people in public life face so much vile abuse online, it’s such a lovely way to be reminded of why it’s so important we continue to push to improve women’s representation. We still have a long way to go, though. When we look at Parliament as a whole, only 34 per cent of MPs are women. And when we start to unpack this further, and look at the gender representation of people who work behind the scenes in Westminster, it’s clear that our politics is still very heavily male dominated. This is also a problem that we continue to see in other industries, underlining why it’s so important that we lead from the front on this. You can read about the full list of women recognised here.
On Tuesday, I met with my co-chair and the Secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Wellbeing, and Aesthetics, to discuss the sorts of issues we’ll be exploring in the coming weeks – a key one of these being “ageing without apology”. We know that men are rarely criticised for showing signs of ageing. Indeed, some “silver foxes” can even be flattered by it! Yet too many women are supposed to defy both time and gravity to remain youthfully beautiful. It’s time we accepted that smooth, alabaster skin does become wrinkled over time (hopefully from the many laughs and smiles we share with friends!), that the effects of having children do not do wonders for our waistlines, and that our hair does indeed go grey too. We should celebrate women’s beauty at all stages of life and refuse to submit to the concept that beauty is only defined by youth.
It was back onto the front bench on Wednesday in my role as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities to tackle the UK Government on period poverty. Schools, prisons, and hospitals now provide free sanitary products for women and girls – a very welcome development, however women and girls who are fleeing domestic violence can struggle to access them. Women’s Aid have recently highlighted that almost half of the survivors living in refuges up and down the country do not have the money to pay for such products. I want to see the provision given to those in schools, prisons, and hospitals being extended to those forced to flee from their homes so that they are allowed this shred of dignity at such a difficult time of their lives and are not left at risk of infection from improvised sanitary products. Swansea Takes on Period Poverty has set up a series of collection points where women who have no access to products can get hold of them for free and where people can drop off donations – and they also distribute to our local Women’s Aid. For more information on donation and collection points, please see Swansea Council’s website here.
I was pleased to meet with Citizens Advice in Parliament this week. Citizens Advice have been an invaluable resource for communities right across the UK for over 80 years now, giving people the confidence they need to tackle the problems that they face. They develop campaigns from the evidence collected through helping people – and they helped a staggering 2.7 million people last year! They are currently calling for the bailiff industry to be independently regulated, for Universal Credit to be changed to ensure that payments are received on time, and for local authorities to commit to a fair and effective debt collection to help support people struggling to make payments and prevent them falling deeper into debt. If you need support from Citizens Advice, you can find your nearest centre here with their contact details.
There was some big news in the gambling industry towards the end of the week as online betting firm Betway was fined a record £11.6 million for accepting money, some of which was stolen, from “VIP” high-rollers. Many of these people had exhibited signs of having a gambling addiction. By allowing these gamblers to continue handing over money unchallenged, Betway have been found to have failed in its obligations to prevent problem gambling. While this is welcome news, it just goes to show that big gambling bosses can do practically anything without having their licence revoked. The industry is morally bankrupt, and the fact that Betway has got away with just a fine, shows how complicit the Gambling Commission are in allowing the industry to continue as it is. It’s simply not fit for purpose. We need firm action to be taken on companies that are failing in their duty to protect people from gambling addiction and from the devastation this causes to their families.
As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01792 462054.
I hope you all have a lovely weekend!