Politics

Women in Politics – Rebecca Harris MP visits the University of Essex

On Friday the 10th March 2017, the University of Essex played host to Rebecca Harris MP, the conservative Member of Parliament for Castle Point. Rebecca came to the university in order give students a one off lecture on the state of women in politics.

The turnout for the event mainly consisted of politics students and members of the universities conservative politics society, who had invited Rebecca to come and give a lecture. It seemed that throughout the lecture Rebecca’s stance of women in politics was encouragement but at the same time avoiding forced participation. In her own words she was against quotas for women saying: “we don’t want to have quotas”. Believing quotas to be somewhat patronising, Rebecca instead believes in the Women2Win system introduced by the conservative party.

Women2Win was started by the now Prime Minister Theresa May and Baroness Jenkin in 2005 and aims to get more women involved with the conservative party. Rebecca stated that there is still “so much work to be done” but that she feels confident about the future of the conservative party, while also challenging the idea that the labour party is progressive with the amount of women in the party saying: “labour have all these women but still no female Prime Ministers. We’ve had two”.

It seemed that Rebecca was keen to challenge the norms of gender in employment and politics as she said: “a man has a child then he’s a man and needs a pay rise, a woman has a child and she isn’t committed to working anymore”. She went on to talk about part time work for women entering parenthood and that we need to start “recognising part time work as having the same value of full time work”.

Harris was also quick to talk about the American election saying that even though Trump is bad “there are much worse regimes” and that for this reason she was “disappointed about the women’s march” that took place in London protesting the result of the US presidential election. Harris also talked about how she condemns the actions of what most “keyboard warriors” subject women in politics to, believing it to be a factor to the lack of women in politics. She made it clear that women may not want to get involved in politics if they’re scared of being attacked online. She gave the example of Jess Phillips; labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, who received over 600 rape threats in one night, saying the people who do it are “nothing more than pathetic”.

The lecture was a good experience to see what an actual MP thinks about the current state of women in politics and it seemed to go down well with the audience. The lecture was an overall success and Rebecca showed her willingness to potentially come back again sometime in the future.

 

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“Cakegate” – A Debate about Feminism and Cupcakes

One bake sale. That’s all it took to stir up enough controversy that even the national news was interested in what happened on the University of Essex campus. The bake sale in question was set up by the University’s feminist society and aimed to raise awareness of the gender pay gap. While men payed £1 for their cupcakes women were charged 82p as women are allegedly paid 82p for every £1 a man makes.

Despite this being a fairly harmless event, some of the university students were outraged by the bake sale. They claim the bake sale violated the 2010 Equality Act and Thus started a ideological micro war between feminists and non-feminists. However, rather than having a pitched battle on campus, the student’s battlefield was social media. The university’s Facebook page for students lit up virtually overnight as feminists defended their decision to charge men more than women and non-feminists used all the “memes” at their disposal.

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Just to take the sheer level of ridiculousness to the next level, some national newspapers began to report on the event. Most notably the Sun and even Russia Today bizarrely.  In order to tackle the issue and put an end to the meme war before it would seemingly kill humor forever, a debate was announce for March 14th to finally let students get stuff of their chests, like marriage counselling, and a panel of the university’s top ideologues was announced. In the red corner, representing feminism, Victoria Gbadebo, President of the debating society, Josef Schumacher, President of the Liberal Democrats, and Urszula Dzudewicz, President of the Human Rights Society. And in the blue corner, representing anti-gender pay gap stance, Jake Painter, UKIP Events Manager, Natasha Brooks, UKIP founder, and Ivan Srbulov, Economic Society Treasurer.

The debate turned in to a real slug fest as arguments were thrown from one side to the other. Supporting the feminist argument Victoria Gbadebo said: “Ignoring the problem is ignoring the issues behind it, we agree it isn’t fair but that’s the whole point, it’s not fair” while Urzula Dzudewicz said: “Women shouldn’t be the only gender caring for children”. Challenging the bake sale, Natasha Brooks said: “The gender pay gap doesn’t exist… not all white men are evil, stop with this rhetoric” and Ivan Srbulov said: “Statistics are important, don’t deny them!”

A vote cast at the end of the debate saw the feminist argument prevail and hopefully this means that we can all go back to being normal humans. This spat seemed to bring out the worst in the fringes of each side with both the militant feminists and the online trolls and while the debate brought up some interesting and relevant points was it worth it.

The Sun’s Article – https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3019131/feminists-group-bake-sale-sparked-a-furious-backlash-after-it-charged-men-more-for-a-cake/

Russia Today’s Article – https://www.rt.com/uk/379759-university-feminist-bake-hate/

An Uphill Battle for Quince?

By George Ware

With the sudden snap election announcement from Theresa May, many Labour seats have been thrown in to question. However, one aspect not considered by most is the potential of Conservative MP’s losing their seats. While the probability of a total Conservative landslide in the election is high and seemingly increasing every second Jeremy Corbyn is in charge, there are bound to be some casualties of this Conservative confidence. However, is Will Quince, the conservative MP for Colchester, one of those MP’s that could potentially lose their seat.

According to some anonymous contacts, there will be some local concentration on Will Quince’s constituency this election. While the MP’s surrounding the 34 year old MP’s Colchester constituency seemingly safe, Bernard Jenkin’s 15,174 (31.3%) vote majority springs to mind, Quince only acquired his seat in the 2015 election. Securing the seat from the Liberal Democrat stalwart Sir Bob Russell, Will Quince only holds a 5,575 (11.5%) majority. Given the fact that Russell, 71, has announced his intentions to stand in Colchester and that the EU Referendum has left the nation polarized with a potential Lib Dem resurgence, there are some that are concerned for the safety of Quince’s position in parliament.

One of the key talking points of this election is the EU Referendum. Already labeled as the “Brexit Election” by some, it’s clear to see that the result of the referendum is going to have an effect on the result of the election. Quince supported leave in the referendum as did his constituency by 53.6% and if the allegiances to remain and leave are as simple and tribal as some would have you believe then Quince is going to get 53.6% of the vote but that’s probably not going to be the case. While in the last election Quince received 38.9% of the vote, it’s hard to predict whether his vote share will increase or fall. While Quince has done some solid work like guaranteeing a further £1Million worth of NHS A&E funding in Colchester, there are likely to be some who would feel prepared to return to Sir Bob Russell who held the seat since is creation in May 1997.

However, despite Sir Bob Russell’s previous popularity, I do think that it will be Will Quince that comes out on top. Quince holds a seat in what is considered to be a Conservative stronghold in the UK. It is unlikely that the Conservative party would be willing to see a newly acquired seat in their territory fall to the Liberal Democrats. That would be make the Conservatives look week in the face of an election that was partly called to demonstrate Conservative dominance. It’s likely that the Conservatives would pool resources from the surrounding safe seats to ensure that Quince retains. Combine the resources, Brexit support, and general support for the Conservative party and I see Will Quince retaining his seat in parliament.

The Movement of the People

By George Ware

The Essex University art gallery is currently playing host to the Movement of the People art exhibition from September 29th to December 10th displaying art of many mediums created by Syrian artists.

The Movement of the People is all about to the conflict in Syria, dedicating pieces of art to those who have died in the conflict as well as sending a strong political message. The exhibition has been split in to three parts. While the first may have already passed, part two lasts until November 26th and the third opens on the 1st December and closes on the 10th of the same month. The event’s brochure describes it an event that “brings together work by internationally renowned artists and street activists to focus on the war in Syria and the effect of conflict on a shifting, often displaced, population”.

From what I saw, the main target of the artist’s activism was Assad’s regime in Syria. In the form of posters and paintings, Assad was depicted as a murder and a butcher. One such poster showed a silhouette of Assad, clutching a butcher’s cleaver behind his back, while a long line of children look up, expectantly. It’s certainly a striking poster and it sets the tone for everything else to come. The artists want to send a message to the anyone that will listen that the situation in Syria at the moment is dire. On one side, President Assad is persecuting the population, on the other ISIS is carving up territory and preaching hate. I think that the art in this exhibition does a good job in expressing these issues. All of the art on display garners a response from those who look at it, whether that be of shock, awe or respect and admiration. The art is extremely clear in that, whomever looks at it, knows what the artist is trying to convey.

One of the most surprising pieces was that of a recorded puppet show series called “Top Goon”. This takes a much more satirical view of President Assad. One of the curators told me that the best way to damage the regime in Syria would be to simply “make fun of it”. The ability to take a serious topic like Syria and turn it in to a comedy full of political satire, I imagine, would take some serious doing, especially when you consider the danger. After all, the reason these views are being expressed through art is not just to create a rousing feeling among many people but also because if they were to go out on to the streets and protest there would be consequences if you were caught. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Ali Ferzat, a political cartoonist, who had his fingers broken for drawing cartoons damaging to the Assad regime. The artwork is certainly well made and entertaining but it is also very sobering.

From my experience at the art gallery, I can confirm that it was an eye-opening experience and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know what happens in Syria. The art is great and it’s definitely worth your time.