Parly Radio

We are now broadcasting on Soundcloud. Do tune in.

All the podcast interviews on the women in Parliament websites and are copyright protected under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copyright belongs to Boni Sones OBE.

Read about the history of our broadcasting »

July 19th 2018


Vicky Ford

Vicky Ford the Conservative MP for Chelmsford: Pankhurst Teas, Proxy Voting, Brexit White Paper, & her Prime Minister Theresa May

Vicky Ford the Conservative MP for Chelmsford, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the House of Commons, this week with others laid a wreath at the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the suffragette movement, to commemorate Pankhurst's birthday, she was born in Manchester on 15th July 1858, and it is also the Centenary year of women and the vote. Vicky has also been attending Pankhurst parties in her constituency, which are also being held throughout the UK. She is part of a movement which is encouraging women from all parties to come forward and stand for parliament with the campaign group #AskHerToStand. Pankhurst was a Conservative politician but her family wanted the celebrations to be cross party.

We also asked Vicky to give an up sum of the weeks' events in Westminster, when the government narrowly got its amendments to the Brexit White Paper through when four Labour MPs voted with it, and her assessment of Theresa May her Prime Minister, only the second woman to ever hold this office of state. Another contentious issue this week has been the error that allowed a Conservative politician to vote when he should have been paired with the liberal democrat MP, Jo Swinson, who is on maternity leave leading to a debate in the Chamber on Proxy Voting which some are asking for and the Mother of the House, Labour politician Harriet Harman, asked May a PMQ about this.

Vicky told us: "We have been having Pankhurst Parties we had a big one in Chelmsford on Sunday. A bit like the Equaliteas. And we laid a wreath in Chelmsford. We have a woman Lord Lieutenant, the Mayor of Chelmsford is a woman, and I am the first woman MP in my constituency. We are running #AskHerToSTand, because women need to be asked a few more times than men to stand."

"In terms of Pairing, I have used it. I was actually paired last night in order to let a member of the opposition who I think was unwell, to make sure their vote was still respected. I think the Proxy voting system would be complicated, particularly if there are local issues like there were with Heathrow. I think the pairing system has a long history, this was a silly error, and we need to make sure the pairing system is strong and robust. Brexit is a very, very difficult negotiation Theresa May is definitely the right person to be leading us through it."

July 12th 2018

Baroness Susan Kramer

Baroness Susan Kramer says why Theresa May's Chequers Brexit Plan, future free trade deals and food standards post Brexit need greater scrutiny

Baroness Susan Kramer the LD Treasury and Economics spokesperson believes Theresa May's Chequers Brexit Plan leaves much to be desired. She also warns that any future free trade deal with countries like America could mean UK consumers will be eating less healthy foods and to a lowering of standards on goods we import and the environment.

She tells "I was frankly stunned by the news of the Chequers Agreement. It seemed extraordinary they had agreed and they seemed to agree that everyone had agreed and then we had the news of the resignations and that seemed to be so much more logically.

"What is life like post Brexit if we do Brexit? I think there is a small possibility that we think all the options are so awful that we pull back. There is real unravelling. What kind of standards do we want for our foods? We want high standards of food safety, we want high quality, and labelling, and to make sure that harmful products like fats and sugars are highlighted and also to make sure animal welfare is key and not abuse of the animals we are going to eat. If we want those standards it is logical that we stay within the EU. The US standards are much, much lower on every one of those fronts."

She also tells us why she agrees with Donald Trump, the American President, that the UK is in chaos at the moment.

Sarah Wollaston MP: A new law on Stalking & supporting Theresa May on her new Brexit Plan

Sarah Wollaston MP

Sarah Wollaston the Conservative MP for Totness has a new Private Members Bill going through Parliament that would allow victims of stalking to get the police to take out stalking protection orders. She hopes that the government will expedite the PMB just like its down with Wera Hobhouse MP's Upskirting Bill to ensure it becomes law sooner rather than later.

Wollaston told that SPOs would ensure women got protection from stalking earlier rather than waiting for a case to be taken through the criminal justice system.

She said: "This is designed to put something in place while the case is being built that sets out very clear restrictions on the stalker things that they can't do, like stopping them pursuing the victim and in some cases setting out a positive requirement that they attend a psychiatric assessment, or take part in a perpetrators programmes designed to stop this crime of obsession and fixation, to try and break the cycle at an earlier stage."

She added: "I would love to see the government expedite this Bill if there is time, we have seen the Upskirting Bill being expedited, and stalking and its dangers means it should also be expedited."

On the new Chequers Brexit Plan which led to seven resignations this week from the government and party, Wollaston said: "This is what pragmatic responses are about and I think she is doing a very good job and we should give her a fair wind to get this through. There is no appetite in the party for a leadership challenge; the Brexiteers are behaving very badly."

Wollaston also chairs the influential Health Select Committee.

June 27th 2018

Maria Miller MP


Voice & Vote Exhibition, Westminster Hall, Women's Place in Parliament

In this special podcast Maria Miller MP, the Chair of the Equalities Select Committee gives listeners her very own tour of the new Voice & Vote Exhibition to be opened this week in Westminster Hall. It takes visitors through the historic moments of women's suffrage and their struggle for the vote from the Grill women used to have to look down on to see the debates going on below on the floor of the House to a large Orange wall that has in white writing the name of every women MP to ever sit in Parliament.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of askes Maria to read from some of the plaques including that of Nancy Astor, the first women to take up her seat, and then to stand beside and look at probably the three most well-known women in Parliament, Barbara Castle, Margaret Thatcher and Shirley Williams who still sits in the Lords today. Maria tells Boni that Margaret Thatcher was the reason she decided to become an MP but that she also looks up to Barbara and Shirley.

Maria said: "These women were amazing individuals who did so much to shape the country. Equality is something that joins parties together, it gets parties to find their common agreement and their common values, and certainly my Committee has no problem in finding common ground in improving the lives of women. "

Lucy Allan MP for Telford

Child Sexual Exploitation - CSE

Lucy Allan MP for Telford talks about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Upskirting, the expansion of Heathrow airport and why she strongly supports Brexit two years on from the UK's referendum in which people narrowly voted to leave.

On CSE Lucy said: "Unless you call something out for what it is, if you pretend it is something else, you are going to get a lot of resentment and nobody wants that."

On Heathrow & Brexit two years on Lucy said: "I voted in favour of a new runway at Heathrow, in the context of Brexit and having passed the Withdrawal Bill we should be thinking about how we expand our horizons to be a more global trading nation."

"I think if we were to have a second referendum there would be a much higher proportion of people voting to leave partly because of the way the EU has behaved in these negotiations."

June 15th 2018

Baroness Ruth Deech

Baroness Ruth Deech - #Brexit "Ping Pong" & the House of Lords

Baroness Ruth Deech, who supported Brexit, tells us why she believes the House of Lords has every right to amend the legislation of the Commons and that the so called "ping pong" process by which amendments pass from one House to the other are good for democracy.

This week the House of Commons considered 15 Lord's Amendments to the Brexit Bill, and overturned them all, but inflicting considerable damage to both the Conservative and Labour parties whose leaders, Theresa May the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn were unable to get their respective front benches to vote with their party line. There was even one Conservative ministerial resignation, Phillip Lee, the Justice Minister before the vote on Wednesday. But May did stem off a threatened rebellion by the Remainer's on one amendment the so called right to give Parliament a "Meaningful" vote on the final Brexit deal but only possibly to row back on that later.

Meanwhile six of Jeremy Corbyn's front bench resigned some in support of the amendment that would allow the UK to remain part of the EEA, and a smaller number who didn't want to vote for it or Labour's fudge on the issue as it would then still have allowed free movement of labour, and uncontrolled immigration. Another contentious area was membership of the Customs Union.

Baroness Deech said:

"I think it is not more chaotic than other times in our National life. When Henry VIII broke from Rome, I expect it was completely chaotic. After all our current system is based on Henry VIII's break from Rome, and I think decisions which we made in the Second World War with Churchill were chaotic. When it is difficult times we do get chaos in parliament, but it is a good chaos it is a debating chaos, a democratic chaos, what the historians will say I don't know but they may say it is our finest hour, I hope so."

"From a woman's point of view the EU and their leaders seem to be very, very, male. This is one of the problems. Mrs May, I think, I don't know her, is taking a conciliatory approach and trying to mediate, and we are faced with a bunch of male authoritarian Eurocrats, saying: "This is the law I am laying down the law to you". This is one of the problems. The EU lacks the attributes that makes some women good at politics."

"I think as a British person our human rights are very protected by our own Supreme Court, our Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention of Human Rights. We are much better off here than we would be if we relied solely on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. When it comes to the independence of the judiciary, the position of women, gay people, children and families we are far better off here than anywhere in Europe."

12th June 2018

Bridget Smith

Bridget Smith, takes over as the new Liberal Democrat Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council

In the May 2018 local elections one result sent shock waves across the whole country. The normally safe Conservative parliamentary seat of South Cambridgeshire returned a Liberal Democrat controlled council with a healthy majority winning 30 of the 45 seats. There were boundary changes and a reduction in the number of seats from 57 but even so the Conservatives were reduced to just 11 seats when previously they had 35. There were also two independents and two labour councillors elected.

Some put the dramatic change down to the 2016 Referendum and Brexit, and the vote to leave the EU, in which 60 per cent of South Cambridgeshire voters wanted to Remain, but there were other factors at play too, such as no proper local plan, controversial housing developments, transportation, the lack of face to face debt advice, and the need for more affordable homes for young people to live in.

The Liberal Democrats, who have a reputation for being good local campaigners, also had a new phone App called Minivan which fed into a phone system called Connect. The app allowed them as they campaigned to know which houses they needed to call on to improve their vote in each ward.

In this interview Cllr Bridget Smith the new leader of South Cambridgeshire talks to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of about the victory.

Bridget said: "By mid-day on Friday it was just a waterfall of yellow votes, they just kept on coming, so we exceeded our expectations. Putting it down to Brexit is far too simplistic. We have had four years of no local plan, and no five year housing land supply, so out of control speculative land development. The performance of the council so far as planning was concerned had been lamentable."

Bridget admitted it was a "clever" campaign and that they were now looking towards the next general election: "I would hope that this would worry the Conservatives and make us a target seat in the next General Election, absolutely. "

6th June 2018

Vicky Ford

Vicky Ford MP for Chelmsford on #Abortion in Northern Ireland

Vicky Ford the MP for Chelmsford speaks about her speech in the recent debate on reforming the abortion laws in Northern Ireland and amending the Offences Against the persons Act of 1861 proposed by the Labour politician Stella Creasey. The Debate was brought forward after a referendum in Southern Ireland where the vote was overwhelmingly in support of abortion reform leaving NI out of step with the rest of the UK.

In that debate there were moving speeches by women MPs from both sides of the House including the Labour MP Jess Phillips and the Conservative MP Heidi Allen, who both told of their own abortions.

Vicky said that as a former Euro MP she had frequently debated Abortion laws in other countries and always voted in favour of a woman's right to chose but also ended by saying the final decisiion should be left for when the NI assembly reconvenes and implored members to take up their seats to meet and take the decision so Britain isn't forced to do it for them. Vicky was born in NI and went to Sunday School there.

Vicky talked to Boni Sones, producer, of the day before the Supreme Court rules whether or not the UK is in contravention of the Human Rights Act on this.

Vicky said: "It is their decision (NI) when to reform the Abortion laws, but it was very clear from a number of speeches in the House that it couldn't go on indefinitely."

Helen Goodman MP supporting Labour's new Brexit Bill Reasoned Amendment

Helen Goodman

Helen Goodman the Labour MP for Bishop Auckland talks about the announcement today that Labour will be putting forward its own reasoned amendment to the Brexit Bill on Tuesday when all 15 Lords amendments will be debated in one day to ensure it does not have to support membership of the European Economic Area. This would have meant the UK would remain part of the Single Market, but would also have to accept all of the four freedoms including the freedom of movement of people.

Helen represents a constituency that voted to leave the EU and as a member of the Shadow Cabinet she fully supports this new amendment and says she will be voting with her leader Jeremy Corbyn on it. She also spoke up in favour of two other of those 15 amendments, including membership of a customs union and the right for MPs to vote on the final agreement.

Helen said: "On the EEA we have put down a reasoned amendment rather than simply supporting the Lord's amendment. My constituents voted to leave. Their primary thought was that they wanted to bring back to the UK control over immigration policy and by staying in the EEA that option is ruled out. The whole point of Brexit is to bring back control and not to give MPs a final say on Brexit would be a betrayal. We know already that businesses are holding back from investments and we see that in the NE, across manufacturing, so this is a real risk of Brexit."

PMQs: Jo Platt MP - Asks the PM if she will help set up a national database of ADHD sufferers

Jo Swinson

Jo Platt, the MP for Leigh and the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on ADHD today asked Theresa May the Prime Minister if she would do more to help people with this condition and in particular help set up a national data base to establish the scale of the problem across health authority areas.

Jo together with her co-chair the Conservative MP Helen Whatley the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent launched this APPG for ADHD at the beginning of the year and has been working with support groups to not only set up a proper database but also to enable more research to be conducted about it and to ensure better integration of services.

Here Jo talks to Boni Sones, Producer of about her PMQ and the Prime Ministers supportive response to it.

Jo said: "I was really pleased by what Theresa May the PM said. She acknowledged the need for the data research and the Nice guidelines, which I would like to come back to her on".

June 1st 2018

Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson MP #EqualPower

NI abortion reform, women in the boardroom, women and rape, local election results, & MPs and maternity and paternity leave

Jo Swinson MP is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat's and the MP for East Dunbartonshire, having regained her seat in the 2017 General Election. She has recently published a book #EqualPower: And How You Can Make It Happen in support of gender equality.

Jo is about to go on maternity leave to have her second child but is likely to still be in Westminster right up to the birth to enable her to vote with her Remain supporting party in crucial divisions on the government's Brexit Bill when it returns to the Commons. The Lords have voted through 15 amendments which the government will be looking to reverse, so every vote will be needed.

In this special podcast Boni Sones, Executive Producer of talks to Jo about the need to amend the Northern Ireland abortion laws in line with the recent Referendum vote in Southern Ireland supporting a women's right to an abortion, and bringing NI into line with the rest of the UK.

They also discuss Jo's Book #EqualPower, a new report on women in the boardroom, Germaine Greer's recent comments on women and rape, the LD's heartening local election results in May, and the need for MPs to be allowed to take maternity and paternity leave. Jo's husband Duncan was also an MP but after losing his seat now works for a charity.

Jo explained that reforming the NI abortion laws, where women can still go to prison for having an abortion, was not an NI Assembly issue but one for Westminster to vote on as it was a human right's issue. She said: "There is support right across parties for this kind of change, and I believe ultimately there will be a majority in the House of Commons to do this". She said she would be working up until the very last moment before her child is born: "I am 37 and a half weeks pregnant, but we may end up with some crucial Brexit votes in the week before my baby is due so we are still waiting to get confirmation of that. There are plans in the offing to get proxy voting for MPs on maternity leave, so that is another thing I am likely to make it into parliament to vote for and speak in that debate too."

May 21st 2018

Nicky Massey & Katie Thornburrow, take up their council seats in Cambridge

Nicky Massey & Katie Thornburrow

Abbey & Trumpington Wards

Two new Cambridge City Councillors will on Thursday attend their first Council meeting. Both were selected on All-Women Shortlists for Labour, and both campaigned on local issues. Nicky Massey led the fight to get 10000 signatures on a petition to keep Sure Start Centres open in the face of national closures and also campaigned on a host of other issues including traffic flows and garden fences that had blown down. While Katie Thornburrow, an architect, spoke up for environmental improvements: more cycle ways; more electric car charging points; the introduction of water fountains to top up bottles to prevent the use of plastics; and affordable food shops.

Both say Brexit has been an issue on the doorsteps as they campaigned in their respective wards (Cambridge voted by over 70 per cent to Remain) and people are fearful and tearful about what will happen to their families once Britain does depart the EU.

They don't think their selection on AWS is an issue and that more women need to take up and fight for seats at a council level to balance the gender ratio in the UK's political parties in #Vote100 year.

Katie, was elected in Trumpington by just two votes winning her seat from the Liberal Democrats after a recount but she hadn't expected to capture the seat this year. Nicky meanwhile got a thumping majority in Abbey a traditional Labour ward, and is already thinking of how to fight for global women's rights within the UN.

They have campaigned all year long in their wards finding out what issues concern local residents and in the weeks and weekends leading up to the local elections they spent many hours every day and evening knocking on doors and speaking to local residents to attract voters to their campaigns and party.

Nicky said: "We knew where the Labour vote was because Abbey was already a Labour ward but we needed to get the Labour vote out and I also wanted to speak to as many people as I could because as soon as you start talking to people and you understand what issues they have got and how you can help them as a Council you can win them over, and sometimes it is just basic information they don't know."

Katie said: "I knew that I needed to take votes off the Greens, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems and also I needed to get a huge percentage of the Labour vote out on the day. I had a great team and a wonderful campaigner in Kelly Green and I thought it would take a year but we did it this year."

May 17th 2018

Councillors Gerri Bird and Carla McQueen

Gerri Bird

Cambridge City Council Local Elections May 2018

Councillor Gerri Bird is well known in East Chesterton where she is a Labour Cambridge City Councillor and now she has also helped Carla McQueen win her seat on the council for Labour in East Chesterton too in the May 2018 City Council Elections. Carla was elected on an All-Women shortlist.

Gerri is a former Mayor of Cambridge and as someone who is in a wheelchair has campaigned on disability issues alongside championing the other concerns in her ward. Next year she is Deputy Mayor of Cambridge and may go on to become Mayor again.

Carla had just popped round to Gerri's house for a meeting about anti-social behaviour and dangerous driving in the area when Boni Sones, Executive Producer of spoke to both of them in this engaging 25 minute documentary.

Gerri told Boni: "I said I wanted to be Deputy Mayor one more time which I am going to do, which is exciting. I just keep going. I am 63 this year and I still have a lot of fight in me. I am going to fight fight, fight. And my main fight is for disable people. Whatever disability you have you can lead an equal life like anybody else."

Carla told Boni: "I felt so welcomed by the whole of the CLP and this sisterhood in the women is something to be celebrated, we work together really strongly, it is really good, yes. I'm all for social inclusion and giving our teenagers here a positive focus. Our roads are in a diabolic state so I will be keeping on at the County about those issues and events to bring the community together. People building self-confidence building all those things."

May 13th 2018

Tessa Jowell

Remembering BaronessTessa Jowell & what she did for us!

We play again a documentary we made in May 2015 in which Tessa Jowell and her Labour Cabinet colleagues talk about their achievements in government for Labour.

Tessa is interviewed by Jackie Ashley. Tessa reflects on women in parliament, and her two biggest achievements #SureStart & #Olympics2012.

Tessa died on Saturday after an heroic struggle with a brain tumour during which she fought for better treatment for cancer patients. The government has now said it will double brain cancer research funding to £40 million a year.

Local Elections 2018

Clare King

May 10th 2018

Clare King Labour Candidate for West Chesterton, Cambridge: Local Elections May 2018

Clare King was selected on an All-women shortlist to be the Labour Candidate for West Chesterton in the Local Elections in Cambridge on May 3rd 2018. She didn't quite get in, losing by just 111 votes, but three of her other female colleagues who were also selected by AWS did win their seats elsewhere in the city.

This wasn't the first time the Cambridge Labour Party had used AWS for the selection of candidates to fight ward seats but it was the first time the rules had been applied so strictly. Clare was not only a candidate in the local elections, she was also in charge of the procedure committee, the Cambridge PLP General Secretary, and press officer for her party. Sitting on the procedure committee she ensured objections to candidates on AWS were dealt with properly and that enough women came forward to stand in one case pausing the process to ensure a woman came forward to stand. The Labour controlled Council currently has 10 out of 26 Labour councillors who are women.

Clare previously held a seat for the LDs but changed party after the LDs went into a coalition government in 2010 with the Conservatives, and although she didn't get elected this time for Labour, living in the ward she one day hopes to represent, she feels she did close the gap with her rival in the LD party and will one day, hopefully take the ward for Labour. Clare is also a member of Momentum, and supports the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and says the significant increase in party membership has helped ensure a more active party at the grass roots including on other equality issues such as race and disability.

Clare told Boni Sones, Executive Producer of that: "On AWS I like to think that we played by the rules and we did it right. As I say I am delighted to say that one of the people we paused (our selection process) for Carla McQueen, is going to be a wonderful councillor and some day I hope she will make a wonderful MP. At the moment I am tired, I am tired from all the canvassing, and everything else I did. Because of my other roles I had to play a major role in supporting people in other Wards as well, I am sort of the go-to person in Cambridge for anybody who has a query about anything. Sometimes it is a bit disconcerting about how much they think Clare will know the answer. I have a reputation to keep up. I need to take a breath. I strongly believe that women make a real difference and as I said on the doorstep having a bolshie women on the Council is no bad thing for anybody. Yes I would love to get on because there are things I would personally like to do on the Cambridge Labour Group but I am happy they share my views. My big achievement was as a community activist to build a school."

May 9th 2018

Catherine Smart

Catherine Smart The Cambridge LD Agent: Local Elections May 2018

Catherine Smart, was the Liberal Democrat Agent for local elections in Cambridge in May 2018. She is a former Cambridge LD Councillor, and well versed in canvassing, door knocking, and writing election literature. But as the agent she also had to take charge of the election literature of others, the expenses of the election, which are tightly regulated, and was there at the Count in the Guild Hall in Cambridge on Thursday May 4th the night of the count, until the early hours of the morning.

Here Catherine talks to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of about her role in this important mid-term local election, which her party staged a recovery in. It had a surprise win taking control of the neighbouring council in South Cambridgeshire although in Cambridge itself Labour kept control and the LD's improved their position by just one seat.

Catherine requested that Antionette Jackson, the CEO of Cambridge City Council and the official Returning Officer for the night, conduct a recount in Trumpington Ward which was a knife edge win for Labour by just four votes, but originally two votes had been put in the wrong pile.

Catherine told Boni: "In Trumpington Ward there were only six votes separating us and Labour and I asked for a full recount. The Returning Officer said a bundle count which I agreed to, but they found two votes in Labour's pile which it shouldn't be so their lead was down to 4. So I asked for a full recount and they agreed, but it was the same again, a 4 vote lead for Labour so I conceded. The first return was at 2pm but the last one was 4pm, they had two recounts in Trumpington and one Bundle count in Castle and that holds things up obviously, so I got home at 4.30."

Labour now has a majority of 10 on Cambridge City Council - the same as its majority before the election.

The Lib Dems have 14 seats, one more than they had before. Despite losing Trumpington, the party won Market from Labour and Castle from an Independent.

In South Cambridgeshire the Lib Dems more than doubled their number of council seats taking 30 seats in all and ending more than a decade of Tory rule in the district.

April 23rd 2018

Shirley Williams

The case for staying in the EU #Brexit

The LD Peer Baroness Shirley Williams & the former Labour foreign office minister Denis McShane speak to Boni Sones Executive Producer of about #Brexit and the case for staying in the EU. Both were speakers at the recent @TutuFoundation #PeaceSummit2018 @regentsuni in London.

Shirely said: "I think we should be quite willing to say it is not working, and it is better for us to go ahead with the idea of a customs union and come back and think where we go in another sense. ..We accept that you have a single market and a customs union and we then agree to the European Court of Justice as the European Court for all of us that is when we can begin to start building a serious and constructive Europe. So far Europe has delivered no less than 50 years of peace, they have refused to be sucked into wars with one another. The EU has been successful in creating peace with its elder members. We need to think about what we have got rather than take it down and start all over again. ..I am living with the hard realities of life and realising they need changes and new ways of thinking. "

Denis said: "What kind of country do we want. Will people want to have the political leadership to help them think again in whatever form. My next book is called: "From here to BrexEternity", Brexit is going to be for eternity, there are MPs who are as yet unborn who will have to find a way of dealing with the consequences of Brexit unless we find a way of drawing a line under it now."

Thanks to Carole Stone CBE for organising the 3rd International Peace Summit.

April 9th 2018

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Female MPs Part Two #Vote100 Documentary

In this special #Vote100 documentary selects soundbites from interviews we have conducted with women MPs of all political parties about the issues they have championed during 2018.

In Part Two we speak to: Swinson, Hodgson, George, Powell, Miller, Jowell, McKinnell, Throup, Spelman, May.

The interviews were conducted by Boni Sones.

April 6th 2018

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Female MPs #Vote100 Documentary

In this special #Vote 100 documentary selects soundbites from interviews we have conducted with women MPs of all political parties about the issues they have championed during 2018.

We speak to: Spelman, Trevelyan, Onasanya, Onn, Harman, McGovern, Caulfield, Hodgson, Eagle, Malhotra, Onasanya, Spelman, May, Ford, Whately, Cameron, Swinson.

The interviews were conducted by Boni Sones.

Anushka Asthana

March 26th 2018

Dame Caroline Spelman MP

Yezidi Women: Isis Survivors

Dame Caroline Spelman MP hosted an exhibition of art in Westminster Hall today portraying the work of artist Hannah Rose Thomas who has drawn gold leaf portraits of Yezidi women who had escaped ISIS captivity. Working with the Christian Charity, Open Doors, Hannah hopes her exhibition will draw further attention to the plight of Yezidi women.

"These paintings tell the stories of these women and their families and convey their dignity, resilience and unspeakable grief," said Hannah.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of spoke to Dame Spelman, Hannah, and Rosie Winterton MP, who has visited the camps, and Open Doors Head of Advocacy Zoe Smith.

Dame Spelman said: "It's Westminster women standing up for women isn't it, whose voice needs to be heard. I was very struck when I met the Yezidi female survivors, of the terrible atrocities they had suffered, I was shocked by it. I was keen to help Open Doors with this exhibition and their suffering and the fact their situation is not resolved. Hannah's pictures are beguiling and the women are beautiful, and they are victims of terrible war crimes of our day. She would want us to speak up for the Yezidi women to help get their lives back together."

March 21st 2018

Anushka Asthana

Review of the Week: Anushka Asthana Joint Political Editor of the Guardian

Anushka reviews her week in UK politics. She tells Boni Sones, Executive Producer of about the stories she has been covering including, the implementation deal on Brexit, the election of Putin again as President of Russia during the spy poisoning stand-off with the UK , the election of a new General Secretary to lead the Labour Party, upsetting some in the Party, and the further closure of Sure Start Centres around the country, with impending local elections in May 2018. Oh! and she did manage to squeeze in today's fishing protest on the Thames in support of the UK fishing industry, who were none too pleased with the implementation agreement which means that they will have to accept the CFP of the EU and fishing quotas until we finally do Brexit.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Brexit protecting our Fishing PMQ

Anne-Marie Trevelyan the Conservative MP for Berwick upon Tweed speaks to Boni Sones, about her PMQ to the Prime Minister Theresa May MP today on protecting the UK's fishing rights during the Implementation phase of our Brexit negotiations.

Anne-Marie had joined other disgruntled Brexit MPs earlier in the day when they staged a protest on a fishing boat on the Thames outside Westminster throwing haddock overboard.

Anne-Marie told Boni she would be watching the Implementation phase carefully to ensure the rights of those fishing our waters and their fish quotas were protected until we finally Brexit the EU and get the chance to renegotiate the sector deal ourselves outside of the CFP.

#SlingTheMesh PMQ

Fiona Onasanya the Labour MP for Peterborough speaks to Boni Sones about her PMQ to the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP today calling upon her to support and join the #SlingTheMesh campaign to prevent further Mesh implants which can damage women's health. Theresa May said she would be writing to Fiona about her concerns.

Fiona also tells Boni about local authority spending cuts in her constituency, a topic of discussion between her leader Jeremy Corbyn and the PM today, and also about the controversial transitional Brexit deal agreed this week between the EU and the UK. There are concerns in Peterborough about its impact on farming but Fiona welcomed the provisions to give EU nationals the same rights to residency in the interim as before the vote to Brexit.

Melanie Onn MP - Westminster Hall Debate Rejuvenating our Parks

Melanie Onn the MP for Great Grimsby and Labour's Shadow Housing Minister talks to Boni Sones, about today's Westminster Hall Debate on protecting and rejuvenating our parks called by her colleague Chris Leslie MP.

March 15th 2018

Harriet Harman

50 years on and Still NO Equal Pay in #Vote100 year

Economist Vicky says why she thinks women have still not achieved equal pay 50 years this year since those Dagenham women went on strike to demand the same wages as their male counterparts in the Ford car making factory. That strike lead to Barbara Castle's 1970 Equal Pay Act.

In #Vote100 year when women are celebrating 100 years since some women achieved the vote Vicky said that women in boardrooms are making no difference to what women are being paid, but that getting more women into senior executive roles in companies is a better solution and that there should be government imposed quotas for this.

"Where we are lacking is in ensuring that women stay, and continue to contribute and they are treated in a way that allows them to have the same opportunities as the man, to rise through an organisation and not get put off by culture. In my view we need quotas for senior positions. If you change the culture, and allow more flexibility, it benefits and works for all minorities and everyone."

Philip Hammond's Statement to the Commons & Brexit

Economist Vicky Pryce tells Boni Sones, Executive Producer about her reaction to the Chancellor Philip Hammond's March Statement to the Commons this week and his optimism over the performance of the UK economy. The debt maybe reducing by Vicky thinks it could all have happened sooner without the Conservative's austerity policies.

Vicky goes on to tell Boni why she is an optimist on Brexit and why she thinks that in the end after all the fractious debates the UK will be heading towards a "soft brexit" to everybody's advantage.

"I think what we have done is the wrong type of austerity. We have cut capital spending, we have not encouraged investment, either by the public sector or by the private sector as a result as studies show we have lost some 14 per cent of national income. If things had been different we would have been 14 per cent richer right now."

"Whether by another referendum, or through parliament exercising its authority, or by Theresa May being very practical, one way or another I think post Brexit we might end up with a regime that is quite similar to now."

March 6th 2018


Harriet Harman

Harriet Harman, Q & As for #IWD 2018

Harriet Harman MP gives her view on getting more women and BME MPs into Westminster and the barriers they face. She says "mentoring" is fine but "training" is not. She commented: "What are we training them for, to become Winston Churchill in the Darkest Hour!"

She is introduced here by Alison McGovern the Labour MP for Wirral South who chairs the House of Commons Works of Art Committee which hosted the #IWD2018 talk Harriet recently gave to Parliament.


Alison McGovern MP talks about Harriet Harman MP the Mother of the House, and those all too male works of art in Westminster.

Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South was just one year old when her colleague Harriet Harman the Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham was elected to Parliament. Here Alison tells Boni Sones, Executive Producer of why Harriet is an inspiration to other women, and why Westminster needs more female works of art.

Alison Chairs the House of Commons Works of Art Committee which commissioned the fabulous Mary Branson New Dawn artwork which hangs over the St Stephen's entrance and just recently a portrait of the Labour politician Dame Joan Ruddock which now hangs in Portcullis House.

In celebration of International Women's Day 2018: Harriet Harman MP Speaks about her life in politics.

The Mother of the House Harriet Harman the Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham delivered her 2018 International Women's Day speech to a specially convened House of Commons Works of Art Committee audience in Westminster today.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of was there to record it. Thanks to Melanie Unwin of #Vote100 and the House of Commons Curator's Team.

Thanks also to Harriet for being an inspiration to women including her Labour colleague Alison McGovern MP, the Chair of the Works of Art Committee who introduced her. Alison was just one year old when Harriet was first elected to Parliament in 1982. Listen in, Harriet has much to say and it is amusing too.

22nd February 2018

Maria Caulfield MP

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Helping Children with Autism get better care

Maria Caulfield, the Conservative MP for Lewes is campaigning for better care for children with Autism. She is a member of the APPG on Autism which has recently published a report calling on the government to ensure teachers, schools and Local Authorities statement children with autism earlier.

She says if LAs published proper data on the numbers of children with autism in their area it would help to stop them falling through the educational attainment gap and ending up with poor employment prospects and poor mental health.

Maria told Boni Sones, Executive Producer of that she hopes the government will be capable of delivering on the APPG report by the end of 2019.

Maria said: "We have had a very positive response. Our launch of our Autism Report was one of the very first Damian Hinds attended in his first few weeks of being Secretary of State for Education, and he was very positive so my job now is to follow up on that. We are not saying to all of the LAs that they have to capture all of the data by the end of 2019 but to plan for services you have to know what is required and the level. The autistic spectrum is huge some children need a little bit of support some need a huge amount. If you don't know what that level is it is very hard to commission services and to then argue for provision to provide those services."

#Vote 100 - 6th February 2018

Lady Astor

Women Speaking up for Women

The Conservative Women MPs speak about their speeches and debates on the 6th February 2018 as they celebrate 100 years since some women first got the vote.

You will hear Dame Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden, Theresa May the PM, Vicky Ford MP for Chelmsford, Helen Whately MP for Faversham and Mid Kent who speak to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of

We then speak to Angela Eagle MP Wallasey at the Labour women's photocall on College Green, before moving on to talk to Seema Malhotra MP Feltham and Heston and Fiona Onasanya MP for Peterborough in Central Lobby looking at the Acts of Parliament on display for one day only that gave women the vote.

Finally we meet up with Sharon Hodgson MP, Washington and Sunderland West, about her debate in Westminster Hall on Free School Meals and her moving speech in the Chamber last week on her painful experiences after the birth of her stillborn daughter, Lucy which she was not allowed to register and now wants others to be able to do.

February 1st 2018

Emily Wilding Davison being arrested

#Vote100 our Suffragette and Suffragist tour of Parliament

Dr Lisa Cameron the SNP MP for East Kilbride and Jo Swinson the LD MP for East Dunbartonshire and Deputy Leader of her party take us on their suffragette and suffragist tour of the Houses of Commons as women celebrate on February 6th 100 years of women being given the Vote. They are escorted by Boni Sones Executive Producer of as they look at five important tributes to those brave women. The tour begins in Central Lobby as they look at the Grill, then onto a statue, down to the broom cupboard where Emily Wilding Davison hid, and then to the modern artwork New Dawn which hangs over the St Stephen's Entrance before arriving at the scarf Emily Wilding Davison wore on the day she was knocked down by the King's horse at Epsom races.

31st January 2018

Personal Independence Payments Debate

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Westminster Hall 31st January 2018

Sharon Hodgson MP, the Labour Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Public Health Minister, and Ruth George the Labour MP for High Peak and a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee talk to about today's debate in Westminster Hall on the impact of new rules introduced for Personal Independence Payments on constituents.

This week the government said it would review every person receiving PIP after the DWP decided not to challenge a court ruling saying that changes to PIP were unfair. It had limited the support received by people with mental health conditions.

Sharon said: "Some of these people may die before they ever see this resolved".

Ruth said: "This is one change that affects 200000 of the 3 million who have claimed PIPs, but a very small number will benefit from this review. It is great for these people but what we have heard from the Minister today gives us no hope that the government will go away and consider this wasteful and cruel system as a whole."

26th January 2018

This week in Parliament: Maria Miller MP, Lucy Powell MP, Baroness Tessa Jowell

It was a week when Parliament brought to life the humanity of the work of an MP and those in the upper Chamber the Lords. Sexism and charity dinners, a call for criminal justice reform, and the need for better cancer treatments were all major talking points. Here we put into one 30 minute audio podcast our three interviews with those Parliamentarians pushing for change.

You can RT our interviews from or from our twitter account @bonisones2.

Maria Miller MP

The Presidents Club Charity Dinner

Maria Miller the Conservative MP for Basingstoke and Chair of the Equalities Select Committee gives us her reaction to the FT's exclusive report on the President's Club Charity Dinner. The all-male event employed women as hostesses and has led to complaints of sexual harassment against them and with charities refusing to accept donations from the event.

Maria Miller MP said: "It is right the Charity Commission is investigating if they were in breach of the rules. It could also constitute sexual assault. Women don't feel confident in bringing these sorts of claims because of how it might impact their ability to get work in the future."

Lucy Powell MP

#JointEnteprise Debate & JENGbA Gloria Morrison

Lucy Powell the Labour and Co-op MP for Manchester Central called on Parliament to reform the laws on #JointEnterprise. She received widespread support from fellow Labour MPs such as David Lammy, and Stephen Pound. Pound said the law was "nonsensical, cruel, brutal" and that "This law stinks." Conservative MPs too supported reform including Bob Neill and Andrew Mitchell. The debated was watched and supported in the public gallery by the reform group @ JENGbA and its spokesperson Gloria Morrison also talked to us.

Baroness Tessa Jowell

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

The former Labour minister Baroness Tessa Jowell received a standing ovation for her ten minute speech calling for better treatment for brain cancer patients. She herself was diagnosed with a brain tumour earlier in the year. In a power finale to her speech she quoted Seamus Heaney's last words "Don't be afraid" and said "What gives life meaning is not only how it is lived but how it draws to a close"!

Here from the Lord's Press Gallery we recorded and play Baroness Jowell's full moving 10 minute speech.

17th January 2018

Jo Swinson MP AI and Ethics

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Jo Swinson the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire and Deputy Leader of her Party talks about her debate in Westminster Hall today on Artificial Intelligence and Ethics.

Jo said: "There will always be a need for people to look after us into old age, and when we are ill. This is the time to review these care roles because they have been traditionally under-valued and disproportionately done by women. I think that as our humanity becomes more of an appreciated asset because more of the drudge work can be done by machines, then we really need to start to value that human interaction and those interpersonal skills and caring in society."

Maggie Throup MP Junk Food debate

Maggie Throup the Conservative MP for Erewash talks about her debate this week on junk food and its impact on children's health.

Maggie supports the government's moves to clamp down on the sugar content of foods but says advertisements for junk foods should not be shown when children are likely to be watching. She hopes that the presenters of family programmes that children watch will work with her and others to get such ads dropped. She also thinks more home cooking could help solve the problem of childhood obesity which is at an all-time high.

Maggie said: "There is a lot of junk food advertising that is really influencing children and the way they eat. And the obesity epidemic in children and adults is getting worse. There is a huge cost to their health and to society and at the moment junk food advertising is banned on children's programmes and other social media aimed at children, but it is still played out on other family programmes."

Catherine McKinnell MP: Carillion and apprenticeships and childcare vouchers

Catherine McKinnell the Labour MP for Newcastle North talks about her debate this week on the government's introduction of a new system to help parents with the cost of childcare which replaces the previous system of vouchers. Her debate follows a petition that asked the government to think again before making the changes and phasing out vouchers which will cause hardship to some. Catherine also asked Theresa May, the first PMQ on the order paper today about what will happen to apprenticeships now that the construction company Carillion has gone bust.

Catherine said: "I am the co-chair of the APPG on apprenticeships so I have been very concerned about the situation with Carillion. They employ 1,400 apprentices I have met some of them locally but they are now seriously in jeopardy and they are now left hanging not knowing if they will get paid or if they can continue training. The Childcare voucher system has been in place since 2005 there are 780,000 parents currently using it and millions who have benefitted from that support. I wanted the government to recognise not just the importance to families and often women to get support with childcare but also how fundamental it is to our economy and to our productivity."

2nd January 2018

#Vote100 Readings by Elizabeth Crawford

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

In celebration of 2018 and 100 years of women and the vote asked Historian Elizabeth Crawford to read from her book: Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle.

Elizabeth tells us about politics, education, the home and culture of the Garrett family and their campaigning friends.

This special documentary is produced by Boni Sones, who grew up in Sizewell and Leiston, where successive generations of her family worked on the Garretts' Engineering works.

The book:

Enterprising Women tells the story of a group of women around the Garrett family, who in the second half of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth changed the position of women in Britain forever. Pioneering access to education at all levels for women both in academic and vocational subjects as well as training for the professions - medicine, architectural decoration, landscape design - they also involved themselves in politics and the campaign for women's suffrage. You can buy the book here:

13th December 2017

Heidi Allen MP - No Muntineer but she is a Defender of Democracy

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South West Cambridgeshire joined a group of rebels today who attempted to get the government to include a new clause in the Brexit Bill which would allow parliament to vote on the final Brexit deal in good time.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, where she had alongside other rebel Conservative MPs previously been called a "Mutineer" she defended her rebellion by saying she was a defender of democracy.

Here she talks to producer Boni Sones, of about her decision to vote against her government and her plans for 2018.

Heidi said in 2018 she would be campaigning on the issues that concerned her constituents including more on Brexit, the economy and local business, the plight of refugees and their children, the implementation of legislation on modern day slavery, and the roll out of Universal Credit. She also told Boni how Whats App is helping her collude with her colleagues on the Brexit Bill.

She also said that she now supported and admired the Prime Minister Theresa May for pulling off last Friday's Brexit deal with the EU, when the talks had stalled, and that she now hoped she would stay in office.

Finally, she told Boni, she would be asking the Speaker, John Bercow, if he could provide refuge in Parliament for the many homeless people sleeping around Westminster at night.

Heidi said: "We are leaving Westminster at night quite late at the moment and I am so embarrassed to see people sleeping rough outside the tube. I think it is disgraceful and I shall be asking the Speaker, John Bercow, to see what we can do. This amasing building here we have heating we have showers, I would like to see if we can be a refuge at night time."

29th November 2017

What are the real costs of Brexiting the EU?

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

#Brexit Select Committee member Seema Malhotra, the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston talks to Boni Sones of about today's announcement that the UK government will be paying over £40 billion to the EU to Brexit.

Seema has also been championing the need for the Brexit Select to go round the country to find out what people and businesses think about leaving the EU and what real needs are. She also said she found it hard to believe David Davis MP, the Brexit Secretary, when he said information had been left out of a report to the Committee because of a "formatting" problem.

Seema said a transitional deal needed to be ironed out by the end of March 2018 so that Britain can Brexit the EU a year later in March 2019. And she said a deal had to be agreed by October 2018 to give Parliament the time to vote on it and give feedback to the government for further negotiations if necessary and for the EU to consult its members too.

Seema said: "The government hasn't been honest on the question of NI and the border, and the challenges we face. It is not just the cost of the divorce bill either, we have just heard the HMRC are planning for a £200 million extra annual salary bill for staff they have to take on. There is a genuine cost to the government of Brexit and the government will have to make it very clear in terms of whether that extra £350 million a week to the NHS will ever materialise."

Period Poverty Debate Westminster Hall

Layla Moran LD MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and Paula Sheriff the Labour MP for Dewsbury discuss today's Westminster Hall debate on period poverty with Boni Sones Executive Producer of

The Debate was called by Layla Moran, a former teacher, after food banks, charities and schools had spoken about the number of young women who cannot afford to buy sanitary ware. Layla told a story of how embarrassing period problems are to young women as they were to her when she was at school but that how now a younger generation was learning to talk about these things. However she had been distressed to learn of how poverty meant that teachers were having to buy sanitary ware for school children and how some children were not able to go to school because their families can't afford proper sanitary protection once a month. Refugees and asylum seekers are in particular need. She said men need an opportunity to debate this too and she hopes a full debate will be held in the Chamber soon.

Layla said: "I would like to see some new money come to this from the government to give to schools to help provide sanitary ware."
Paula Sheriff is to hold a period poverty day in Westminster on 20th December for all MPs to take part in and bring attention to the issue. She told distressing stories of what young girls are having to resort to doing because they cannot afford sanitary wear. Paula said austerity had reached such a level that families were choosing between food and proper sanitary protection.

Boni also asked Layla about sexism in the Chamber.

SNP Debates the #WASPI Campaign

Mhairi Black the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South talks to Executive Producer of for women, Boni Sones, about today's opposition day debate on the @WASPI_Campaign called by her party the SNP.

The SNP and the other opposition parties, Labour, the LDs, and the DUP easily won the debate with nobody voting against the SNP's motion not even members of the Conservative government's party. But will anything happen to help the millions of women who have had to wait for their pensions following the equalization of the state pension age which began in 1995?

This report begins with members of the #WASPI campaign - who watched the debate - speaking about how the changes have affected them.

22nd November 2017


Baroness Susan Kramer

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Baroness Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokes, gives her opinion on the Chancellor Philip Hammond's 2017 Budget.

She speaks to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of about some of Hammond's new measures: The lifting of stamp duty for first time buyers; new plans to free up land to build more homes on; an extra £3 billion to help departments carry the cost of the UK leaving the EU so called, Brexit; the amount of new funds he has given to the NHS; and the concerning news that growth rates for the UK economy have been revised downwards by up to 0.5 per cent for the foreseeable future. On top of that the UK's huge deficit which has given rise to many years of austerity is not likely to be paid off until 2025 and some think significantly longer still.

Susan tells Boni: "The seriously bad news that is going to have repercussions for all of us are that the economic growth forecasts are appalling."


Alison McGovern MP - Where is our Bright new future?

Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South, who sits on the Treasury Select Committee gives her opinion on the Chancellor Philip Hammond's 2017 Budget.

She also speaks to Boni Sones, about some of Hammond's new measures.

Alison tells Boni: "Those that supported Brexit said there would be a bright new future for our Country and it doesn't seem to have materialized yet."

November 15th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

@JoCoxLoneliness campaign - Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP

Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP for Leeds West and Seema Kennedy the Conservative MP for South Ribble, both now co-chair the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission.

Today Rachel Reeves held a Westminster Hall debate on Loneliness in memory of Jo Cox who was murdered in her Batley and Spen Constituency on 16th June 2016. Jo had campaigned to end loneliness and now other MPs are taking on the work that she began and encouraging groups in their constituencies to raise awareness of the issue and to tackle what is a very real health problem for many people old and the young alike.

Here Boni Sones, Executive Producer of talked to Rachel and Seema about the debate, which moved some MPs to tears, and their work in the Commission.

They hope the hashtag #happytochat will encourage others to show kindness and talk to people as part of the @JoCoxLoneliness campaign.

Dr Rupa Huq MP - Buffer Zones and Sexual Harassment in Westminster

Dr Rupa Huq the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton has been successfully campaigning to prevent anti abortion groups and their opponents from staging protests directly outside abortion clinics. She wants local councils to set up so called "buffer zones".

Such protests upset the women going in and although some claim that they have persuaded women not to go ahead with their planned abortions others claim that it just delays the procedure and the women come back on another date to have their operations performed.

But whether the groups are campaigning for or against abortions, Dr Huq wants to see public space protection orders issued by local councils, as they are considering doing in her constituency, to prevent such protests from taking place. She has won the support of the BPAS, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Dr Huq is interviewed by Boni Sones. She also tells Boni about her reaction to the Westminster Sexual Harassment claims and the attempts by all parties, including her own, to introduce new procedures to ensure women and men can report such abuse. She herself, told of how she was once harassed while working in the European Parliament as a young researcher.

14th November 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Baroness Julie Smith of Newnham

Intergenerational Fairness Debate and a new Committee

Does Westminster politics need a new Committee to consider Intergenerational Fairness?

Baroness Julie Smith of Newnham recently led a debate on Intergenerational Fairness and now plans to set up a House of Lords Committee to consider some of the issues she raised including, global warming, housing, migration, education and pensions.

She told the House of Lords: "I want to challenge Her Majesty's Government and your Lordships as well-if your Lordships are willing-to be more ambitious and comprehensive in exploring questions of intergenerational fairness. It is all too easy to look at the immediate question of how today's young people are faring against today's pensioners or against the baby boomers. We perhaps saw it put most explicitly in a recent piece in the Daily Mail by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, who is not in his place. He said that giving tax increases to the old in order to woo the young would be political suicide. That is one of the problems that we face when we think about questions of intergenerational fairness. In a democracy, elected politicians-or those who seek to be elected-inevitably look toward the short-term horizon of the next election. We normally expect that horizon to be four or five years. If we are moving to an electoral horizon that is only two years, then perhaps it will be even more difficult to engage in long-term planning. I am assuming that an election in 2017-so soon after 2015-was an aberration, but nevertheless the fact remains that, if you are seeking election, you are looking to the short term rather than the longer term.

Intergenerational fairness is hugely important; it needs to be thought about and planned for. It can be measured objectively yet it is not. Clearly, this applies only up to a point, as there may be future issues that we cannot predict. In my Cambridge college, however, the finance committee looks at the balance between current expenditure on current students and the endowment along with the prospects for future students. Her Majesty's Government might like to think about that in their long-term cross-departmental planning. Intergenerational fairness is about not just current generations-our children and grandchildren-but generations as yet unborn. It applies to global matters as much as domestic ones."

Here Baroness Smith talks to Boni Sones Executive Producer of about why public policy making needs to be less short term sound bites and more long term planning for all regardless of age.

"We have ended up with politics that is about soundbite rather than having a real depth of analysis behind it and that was probably best exemplified by the EU referendum. Snappy slogans seemed to be effective but if that was about a one off decision if we are thinking about long term policy making it needs to be based on long term thinking and some of it does need to be on a cross party basis. There are going to be issues not just for this parliament but for many parliaments hence, and at the end of the debate my sense was that all the parties seemed to be agreed and I am hoping to press the House authorities to have an ad hoc committee on intergenerational fairness," she said.

Baroness Smith and Boni also discussed party policies at the 2017 general election, the Westminster sexual harassment claims, lowering the voting age to 16, and Brexit.

8th November 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Temporary Accommodation Debate House of Commons

Siobhain McDonagh the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden

"There are over 70,000 families containing 124000 children living in temporary accommodation, after presenting to the Council as homeless, but there is not enough housing to house them properly, " says Siobhain McDonagh the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden.

In a new podcast for Siobhain McDonagh MP tells Boni Sones, Executive Producer, why she led the debate on Temporary Accommodation in the House of Commons yesterday.

Across the Chamber a Conservative MP, Bob Blackman, supported her call for more to be done and praised the passionate way in which she told the story of Britain's urgent housing crisis. He has introduced his own Act of Parliament to address the crisis - the Homelessness Reduction Act. The veteran Labour MP Frank Field, said the situation for many families was worse than the days of the poor laws.

Ms McDonagh said families were often sent miles away from where they lived: "It could be anywhere that the local council can find somewhere to house the family and they pay for it on a nightly basis. The average time for people to stay in temporary accommodation nationally is thought to be 11 months, but in my own constituency it can be 2 or 3 years. In a neighbouring constituency one family has been in temporary accommodation for 19 years. They are staying longer and longer."

She said the standard of temporary accommodation is often very poor: "A lot of the accommodation is not checked before families are placed there, and there are issues of who you are living near or with and it is storing up social problems for the future.

"Only last Friday at my advice surgery a full time nurse became homeless and she was offered accommodation 40 miles away in Luton."

Ms McDonagh then offered to show Members of Parliament a video of one temporary accommodation hostel in her constituency placed on an industrial estate which is causing alarm and fears for the safety of the families and children living there.

"Connect House is a former warehouse converted into over 84 units for homeless families and currently four councils house families there, it's not the worst temporary accommodation I have seen but it is certainly the worst located temporary accommodation I have seen. We brought 30 people from Connect house to watch the debate. They were delighted to feel somebody was listening."

She said homeless charities had supported Bob Blackman's new Act, but that she thought it did not go far enough. And she said the current situation was bad value for tax payers: "Tax payers are paying through the nose to allow families to be in private rented short term accommodation. Since 2010 the increase in the housing benefit bill has been £10 billion and you could buy approximately 188,000 prefabs with that and you would sort your problem. I think there is an increasing awareness across parties and government that we have a crisis in housing, but I would urge them be brave and stand up, you can change things, government has the power to change and I urge the Chancellor to make housing a priority in his budget."

She said she personally was very concerned about some families: "I do wake up in the middle of night thinking about some of these families, and one Mum who was housed miles away with two daughters and a Downs syndrome son caused me great distress.

"I think Parliament can be effective by talking about the problems of concern and I hope our debate gave people a voice and I hope we can use that to bring about change. I shall be trying to get into PMQs and anywhere I can I will continue to fight this and do my best and hope for success."

November 1st 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Maria Eagle MP presents a new Bill for the Tyred campaigne

Maria Eagle, the Labour MP for Garston and Halewood, talks to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of about her new Ten Minute Rule Bill to introduced limits on the age of tyres on buses and coaches; and for connected purposes.

Just over 5 years ago her constituent Michael Molloy lost his life in a coach accident and the Surrey Coroner, Richard Travers found that the crash was caused by a 19 and a half year old tyre that had recently been fitted to the coach.

Michael's mother Frances, came to see Maria at one of her constituency surgeries to ask if she could help make the use of such tyres illegal.

Maria Eagle MP said she found it hard to believe that the use of such an old tyre was legal and is now urging the government to ban the use of tyres over a certain age.

Frances has now launched the Tyred Campaign to ban the fitting of tyres that are more than 10 years old to public service vehicles, she has widespread support including from coach operators and those in the industry.

Maria also talked to Boni about the recent week's allegations of sex abuse and inappropriate conduct by MPs of their staff and one allegation of rape by a Labour activist Bex Bailey by a fellow party worker. Maria said she thought changes to procedures for reporting such allegations would be forthcoming.

Baroness Ros Altmann takes a close look at Intergenerational Fairness and why generations should not be pitted against one-another

Baroness Ros Altmann talks to about the need for policy makers to take a close look at Intergenerational Fairness. The cost of housing for the young, student debt, servicing debt and finding secure jobs are issues many are confronting as they start their adult lives while older people are being "blamed" for having cushy life styles at the expense of the young.

In a recent House of Lords Debate on Intergenerational Fairness led by Baroness Julie Smith, Ros said that she did not think one part of society should be pitted against the other and that to do this was to misunderstand the problems that all generations face in ensuring there is a fairer society for all.

Here Ros talks to Boni about the pressing issues we all face, and how policy makers can start planning for the future better, including looking at issues such as global warming and economic policies post the 2008 crash.

They also discussed the injustice done to the so called #WASPI group of women who had their pension age delayed twice in 1995 and again in 2011 some without any proper notice. As a result of a new petition there will again be a debate on the #WASPI women in parliament soon.

October 16th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Women Released from Prison Westminster Hall Debate

The Labour MP for Ogmore Chris Elmore today asked the government to draw up a new strategy to help women released from prison to safely get back on their feet again. He said they often served their sentences in prisons far from home as there are fewer women's prisons and that there were no women's prisons in Wales.

He said the provision for women who are released from prison was often inadequate which could in turn lead to re offending. He said often women served short sentences for small offences but when they were released they had no money and no home to go to.

He called for a new approach to their rehabilitation and said that in a recent court case a Judge had found the government to be in breach of its equality duties to such women but even so there had been no response from Ministers to provide better care. He hoped a new strategy looking in depth at the needs of women prisoners when they are released would lead to improved post prison care.

"Clearly there are problems for male prisoners too but if you look in a UK context there are no women's prisons in Northern Ireland, there are none in Wales, and it is about distance and the limited services available to women when they are on release. There are more services for male prisoners. More women go back to re-offending and more women are not offered support services when they leave whether that is family breakdown or their tagging services and supportive properties they can go to. The support services are minimal."

Boni Sones, executive producer of asked Chris to tell her why he called today's debate.

Roll out of Universal Credit Opposition Day Debate

Laura Pidcock, the Labour MP for NW Durham today at the weekly Wednesday PMQs asked the Prime Minister Theresa May if the rollout of universal credit was a matter of gross incompetence or calculated cruelty.

She then went into Labour's own opposition day debate on the possibility of delaying the roll out of universal credit until the problems with the six week wait for first payments to be made had been ironed out. Kate Green, the Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston also intervened in the debate. The day before the government had announced it would be ending the charges for phone calls to DWP about the new benefit.

Boni Sones, executive producer of asked Laura and Kate to tell her why they thought the roll out should be stalled when Labour agreed with the principles that underpinned the long awaited reforms which roll six benefits, including in work benefits, into one new payment.

Boni also asked both women MPs about their reaction to the noise in the Chamber while PMQs was taking place.

Conservative MPs were told not to vote on the Labour motion to delay the roll out, but one did vote for it Sarah Wollaston. It was passed by 299 votes to 0 on Wednesday evening.

October 11th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo


Sexism, online abuse and reform of UK Parliament

In this exclusive documentary the team of reporters examine sexism, online abuse and the need to reform the UK Parliament.

The reporters are Jackie Ashley, Boni Sones, Deborah McGurran, and Linda Fairbrother.

The audio is taken from interviews conducted over the past decade. We have spoken to MPs of all parties:
Anne McGurie, Barbara Follett, Gillian Shephard, Pat Glass, Angela Eagle, Theresa May, Caroline Lucas, Jess Phillips, Harriet Harman, Anne Trenaman sketchwriter, Bernard Jenkin, Margot James, Caroline Dineage, Caroline Spelman, Maria Miller, Heidi Allen, Lisa Cameron, Mims Davies, Dawn Butler, Sandy Martin, and Jo Swinson, who co-chairs

Since these interviews were conducted some have stood down as MPs, others have entered the Lords, one is even the UK Prime Minister.

The sexism displayed to women in parliament seems to be as bad as ever, and increasing online abuse, are said to be putting off candidates particularly women from standing as MPs.

Currently the UK parliament has a record number of women MPs following the 2017 General Election, 208 in all or 32 per cent.

October 6th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

2018 #Vote100

Two Suffolk sisters, Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson are celebrated in different ways

The life of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson will be celebrated this weekend in Aldeburgh where she grew up and also in an exhibition at the Long Shop Museum in Leiston which her Uncle ran.

It is 100 years since Elizabeth, Britain's first woman to qualify as a doctor died.

Her sister Millicent Fawcett, who championed votes for women, is also to be honoured next year when she becomes the first woman to have her statue put in Parliament Square where she will stand beside Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of for women talks to historian and author Elizabeth Crawford about the values of enterprise these two sisters have passed down through the generations with societies and institutions still named after them.

The Fawcett Society still campaigns today for women's rights and Elizabeth had a Hospital, the first for women, named after her.

September 2017

Westminster Returns for the Autumn sitting: The Second Reading of the Brexit Bill, the safety of MPs, sexism in the Chamber, & the need for more women in the House

September 14th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Jo Swinson MP for East Dunbartonshire on the Abuse of MPs

Jo Swinson MP for East Dunbartonshire talks to Boni Sones Executive Producer of about today's Debate in the House of Commons on the Abuse levelled at MPs in Elections and on social media.

Jo says that such abuse is often racist and misogynistic but that the level of racism levelled at MPs such as Diana Abbott, the former SNP MP #Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and others is shocking and goes far beyond that received by other MPs. She also supports Harriet Harman's call for proper maternity and paternity leave arrangements for MPs. She is the mother of a young child and her partner is also an MP. Jo thinks the recent Referendums in Scotland and on Brexit has led to an increase in the amount of abuse MPs receive. However she says she received more abuse in 2015 when she lost her seat following Scotland's decision to stay as part of the UK than in 2017 when she won it back.

Jo ends this podcast by encouraging women to come forward to stand as candidates for election particularly when the going gets tough. She says there is more need than ever now to balance a very unbalanced House of Commons particularly in terms of gender and racial equality too.

Sexism in the Chamber - Speaking in the House Sandy Martin MP

John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons told an audience at the Institute for Government he would like to do more to combat sexism in the Chamber similar to that which occurred when the new LD MP Layla Moran got up to speak at PMQs two weeks ago.

Here Boni Sones, Executive Producer of speaks to the new Labour MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin, who says he didn't attend PMQs this week as previously the noise has been so loud that he couldn't hear the questions or the answers and that behaviour in the Chamber does need to improve particularly the sexism directed towards female members of the House. He said the Whips of all the parties should do more to combat it. Women in Parliament Debate Westminster Hall.

September 13th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Mims Davies MP & Dawn Butler MP

Mims Davies the Conservative MP for Eastleigh led a debate in Parliament's Westminster Hall calling for more to be done to encourage women to step forward to stand for Parliament. There are currently a record number of women in parliament, 208 now 32 per cent, but her own party lost seats in the last election and the number of women it had dropped while Labour increased its numbers. There was widespread consensus that the parties could do more to encourage women to stand and Harriet Harman MP called for proper maternity leave arrangements for MPs. There have currently been 17 births to women MPs since 2010 but they rely on the whips to allow them to take leave. Others asked for the party whips to allow pairing of those who cannot attend a vote. Mims emphasised how consensual cross party work is in the Commons while the Shadow Equalities spokes, Dawn Butler MP for Brent, suggested that the Election campaigns should be less vicious in how they are fought so candidates are not put off from stepping forward. She also supported positive discrimination while others spoke against it. The debate was called in the week the government rejected all six of the recommendations of the Equalities Select Committee, chaired by the Conservative Maria Miller MP, to set targets, impose fines, and asking the parties to publish data on women candidates.

In this podcast straight after the debate Boni Sones, Executive Producer of spoke first to Mims Davies MP and then to Dawn Butler MP.

September 5th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

#Fawcett Society Job Share MPs

Should returning officers allow candidates to stand as job share MPs? Why do the rules only allow one person to stand as a candidate in a General Election and what has happened to those who have tried to contest a British Election as job share candidates?

Today the campaigning group that took the name of the suffragette Millicent Fawcett, launched their new report on the need for job share MPs in Westminster. They had enlisted the support of the co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, who has a job share partner, and even the first job share political editor of the Guardian, Heather Stewart who spoke up in favour of getting more diversity in parliament through job shares. They were joined by academics Dr Rosie Campbell, and Professor Sarah Childs, who had conducted research showing that mothers were under-represented as MPs in Westminster. Candidates from the Green Party and Independents who had tried to stand as job share candidates also had their say about the obstacles the system presented. Finally listening intently to the debate was Baroness Anne Jenkin, co-founder of Women2Win.

Here Boni Sones, Executive Producer, of spoke to them all. She once worked for several years in a job share in the BBC as a Senior Producer.

20th July 2017

Latest News

Joining us on our Advisory Board

Our three National Digital Archives are listed here:
Thanks to Dr Paul Seward, Director of the HPT for our new national audio archive and mention:

Our May 2017 article in House Magazine can be read online here:

July 19th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

The last PMQs before the Summer Recess and a question about CSE

Lucy Allan the Conservative MP for Telford asked her own Prime Minister, Theresa May MP if she would look into why offenders jailed for Child Sexual Exploitation were being released so far ahead of their sentences that the victims who had testified against them felt unsafe. She feared it may prevent other victims giving evidence in such CSE trials. Theresa May said Lucy could speak to her ministers about it.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of spoke to Lucy straight after PMQs about her important question, and why she had raised it.

Lucy also gave a positive reaction to May's performance and said she would be supporting the Prime Minister over the coming months, and that the party needed her strong leadership while negotiating a Brexit from the EU and coping with a considerable number of other issues including the Grenfell Tower fire, and the terrorist acts in Manchester and London.

She said the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's third visit to her Constituency in as many months tomorrow did not mean Labour could take Telford at the next General Election, but rather, Telford people like her, were natural Conservatives. She was looking forward to the Summer recess and returning renewed.

Lucy said: "In this case there was left a 5 year term from the date of sentencing and it does from a victims' perspective demean the suffering that has been experienced. I think PMQs went very well today there was a spring in Theresa May's step and the backbenchers were all behind her. It has been a very difficult period and the GE was a huge shock to the parliamentary party, and then there were terrorist incidents and the Grenfell Tower disaster, and responding to all these events, and then having to negotiate Brexit without the mandate she had wanted. The 2015 and 2017 intake is massively supportive of Theresa May. She has finished on a positive note and we will be coming back in September in a very different frame of mind. "

July 19th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Making her maiden speech and standing up for Peterborough

Fiona Onasanya the new Labour MP for Peterborough has created quite an impression in Westminster after making her maiden speech and not only speaking up for the diverse communities within Peterborough but also paying tribute to the Conservative MP she defeated. Homelessness, education and health were issues she raised, and she is determined that as a black woman and one of 119 Labour women she will champion equality issues. Making housing safe following the Grenfell Tower fire and ensuring Peterborough gets a University and that Britain Brexit's the EU are top of her "to do" list.

Here she spoke to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of just after the last PMQs before Parliament goes into recess. There were a few cheers as she pointed to a old portrait of a male dominated Westminster which has now changed out of all recognition with a record 208 women elected to the 2017 Parliament across party.

Fiona said: "The portrait is a picture of parliament in 1987, and if you look at that you can only see six women and everyone is Caucasian. But now you can see the different colours and different colour and backgrounds and now more women. I am proud to be here and feel privileged to serve Peterborough. The 119 Labour women are an inspiration, but we can't sit back, there is more to do and there are cross party groups too."

July 12th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Abuse of MPs debate Westminster Hall

Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire and Dr Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow discuss the abuse MPs of all parties receive, both online and in person.

In a debate today in Westminster Hall, they joined others in speaking about the threats and abuse they have received whilst campaigning and in their work which appears to be worse than previously experienced in past General Election campaigns and parliaments.

Heidi said: "I found myself crying repeatedly with accounts from both sides of the House, particularly with the racist stories, I don't know why I found that so upsetting but I did. I realise how fortunate I have been I have suffered from quite a bit of online abuse, but during the election I was OK."

Lisa said: "I spoke about the disappointment that I had to have this debate, because of the severity and nature of the abuse that candidates describe. I think this is appalling and it is a shame that this is happening in Society and that we are losing good candidates and that people who might want to stand for parliament will be put off in terms of the parliamentary and we will lose good future MPs."

July 12th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Celebrating 50 years of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 #History of Parliament Trust Event Speakers House

Norena Shopland, the LGB historian, and the former project manager of Pride Cymru (one of Cardiff's leading LGBT+ charities), tells Boni Sones, Executive Producer of why the Sexual Offences Act passed in 1967 was just the beginning of the journey to legitimise homosexual relationships between men and women, which had previously been regarded as a criminal act.

Norena's new book Forbidden Lives is to be published in September. @NorenaShopland

Norena said: "I spend all my life going round saying that the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was a partial move towards equality. It was meant to prevent blackmail, and also men over the age of 21 alone in the house could be legalised but it had odd quirks, so if you agreed to meet outside the house it was illegal. One of the interesting things about the SOA, was that people were complaining about homosexual acts in public places, and prostitution, and the remit was to take it out of public spaces, so it was legal for two men in a house. It was not about the decriminalisation of homosexuality."

July 6th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Women and Equalities debate

Paula Sherriff the Labour MP for Dewsbury and the shadow Equalities spokes talks to Boni Sones executive producer of about today's Equalities Debate in the Chamber and her views on: women and abortion, her question on LGBT rights and challenging the DUP who are now in a supply and confidence agreement to prop up the minority Conservative government; #WASPI women, and yesterday's Westminster Hall Debate where women in their 60s were told by a government minister to take up apprenticeships; and women's access to employment tribunals when they dismissed when pregnant and the high costs of taking such a case and much, much more.

Paula has women and the menopause on her to do list next.

Paula said: "I think a lot of people are very concerned about the deal this government has struck with the DUP and the one billion they appear to have located from the magic money tree. The abhorrent views the DUP hold and today's question was around some of the remarks they have made about homosexuality, and they have said it is vile, abhorrent, obnoxious, and it is important for the government to say it does not subscribe to these views. And the minister Justine Greening MP said she did not subscribe to these views and would join the Pride march this weekend, but I am still concerned that this government has gone into a confidence and supply agreement with a party that holds these views."

June 22nd 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

#Three MPs give their reaction to the #Queens Speech

A general election failed to secure the Conservative government the majority it had hoped for. As a new Conservative government but still with Theresa May as Prime Minister takes over and as Britain begins its Brexit talks Boni Sones, Executive Producer of speaks to a Conservative, Labour, and Green MP about their reaction to last weeks #Queen'sSpeech.

First we hear from Maria Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke, who chaired the Equalities Select Committee on the #Queen'sSpeech proposal to appoint a new Domestic Violence Commissioner and allow alleged rape victims to give evidence remotely rather than face their alleged attackers face to face in Court.

We speak to Angela Rayner, the Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne and her parties Education Spokes about Labour's plans for this new parliament and her reaction to the #Queen'sSpeech.

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party and the MP for Brighton Pavilion, says why the Green's welcome some of the earlier #Queen'sSpeech proposals being dropped but says it still falls far short of the necessary measures to protect the environment particularly as the UK plans to leave the EU and may even boot out some of the environmental legislation already on the books.

June 8th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

#GE 2017 The Political Reporters

In this exclusive 50 minute audio documentary Boni Sones Executive Producer of talks to six members of the Press Gallery about their reporting of #GE2017.

With less than 24 hours to go before the GE on June 8th Boni spoke to each in turn. First you hear from Matt Chorley of The Times and Chairman of the Press Gallery, then Alison Little, of the Daily Express. We later hear from Nigel Nelson of the Mirror and the People and Jessica Elgot of the Guardian. They are followed by Torcuil Crighton of The Record, a Scottish paper, and Jon Vale of the Press Association.

Jessica and Jon are newcomers to the Gallery while Matt, Alison, Nigel, and Torcuil are "old hands" who may have been a bit battle bus and twitter weary but all give compelling first hand accounts of what it is like to report on the campaigns. They recall the gaffs and successes of the #GE2017 which has been one of the most tumultuous ever with Theresa May's Conservatives only just able to scrape a majority in the Commons despite forecasts of a landslide victory and huge poll lead at the beginning.
Journalism, all agree, has never been in ruder health, despite the rise of citizen's journalism and more deadlines than ever to meet.

My thanks to them all. This documentary will go into the National Archives.

June 9th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

#GE2017 Thunderous win 4Daniel Zeichner in Cambridge

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of ventured into Cambridge Guildhall on June 8th 2017 for the second General Election in two years. It was won again with a huge majority by Daniel Zeichner for Labour.

Here Boni captures loud applause and commentary from the press gallery far above the floor of the Guildhall as Daniel arrives at the count, the Mayor of Cambridge announcing the result, the reaction of Daniel and his colleagues to his win, credited to the student vote, and then she speaks to Daniel himself.

There are also interviews with Daniel and a switch voter, Alison Litherland, and Julian Huppert the PPC for the LDs for Cambridge and a LD party worker, Colin Rosenstiel.

8th June 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Women's Rights are Human Rights

On the day UK voters went to the polls to select another government, students at Lucy Cavendish College at the University of Cambridge heard a presentation from Prof Dalia Leinarte, on the "Implementation of Women's Rights". It seemed somehow fitting.

Dalia is Chairperson of the UN Convention on the Eliminator of all Forms of Discrimination against Women Committee otherwise known as CEDAW.

Boni Sones, Executive Producer of sat down to talk to Dalia about women's rights globally, slavery, the targeting of women by Isis, work home life balance, and why the UK itself has been so slow to achieve a gender balanced parliament.

May 24th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Gisela Stuart bows out but she has no regrets

Gisela Stuart, the former MP for Birmingham Edgbaston reflects on her 20 year political career in Parliament and as Chair of Vote Leave.

Gisela was elected in the Labour landslide of 1997, that saw 101 Labour women elected to Parliament and went on to serve as a junior minister in Tony Blair's governments before joining the Select Committees on Foreign Affairs and then Defence.

In her constituency she has campaigned for and succeeded in getting a new hospital and rail station. But she will best be remembered for leading the campaign for Britain to Brexit the EU. She was Chair of Vote Leave and then subsequently Chair of Change Britain.

Here she talks to Boni Sones, Executive Producer of an organisation she has supported and encouraged in Westminster while also being Editor of the weekly publication The House Magazine.

May 2nd 2017

When there's a woman in the room - book coverMy new book When There's a Woman in the Room: Part Two" is published today. See our Books page

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

May 2017

You can listen to our 25 minute audio documentary pulling together key interviews we have done over the past ten years with women in all parties in Westminster and the Commonwealth.

101 Labour Women Photo

May 1st 2017 will be 20 years since 101 Labour women got elected to Parliament following the Labour landslide victory. Their subsequent photo clustered around their Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was ridiculed but we hope that our books and audio podcasts over the past 12 years has helped to write a new #Herstory for them and other women in Parliament.

It's a great listen, and some good career guidance in it too.

April 2017

You can read about our new book "When There's a Woman in the Room - Part Two" and our third National Archive on our books page. It will be published in May 2017. Thanks to the team of journalists and our advisory board MPs for their help. The technology doesn't deliver, the teams do.

Spring 2017


We will be updating this page once a month. Week by week you can also listen to our podcasts on soundcloud and we now distribute them through Twitter with_replies. Do tune in and Retweet. We use # to distribute and retweets, rather than a mass following.

2017 is our 10th year of broadcasting. Thanks to all. You can read about our history and governance lower down this page. Two books, one international award, and the support of the History of Parliament Trust and other national archives the BL and LSE too. Not bad. Thanks to Rich our web manager.

March 15th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Brexiting the EU

In the same week as MPs vote through Theresa May's European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill without the two amendments made by the House of Lords, Maria Caulfield, the Conservative MP for Lewes tells us why as a member of the Brexit Select Committee she wants EU Citizens to have a right to remain in the EU.

Maternity Rights at Work Debate

Sharon Hodgson Labour's Shadow Public Health Spokes and the MP for Washington and Sunderland West brought her maternity rights at work debate to Westminster Hall today.

You can read more about what they said here (PDF).)

March 9th 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

International Women's Day 2017

In this special 25 minute documentary we speak to Lucy Allan the Conservative MP for Telford and Fiona Mactaggart the Labour MP for Slough about their moving International Women's Day Speeches earlier in the House of Commons and about Chancellor Philip Hammond's 8th March Budget.

Lucy spoke movingly about gender based violence crimes and about her great grandmother who as a suffragette was force fed. Fiona spoke powerfully about rape as a weapon of war and the treatment of Yazidi women under the Daesh regimes of oppression and brutality. There were also three special announcements in the budget to help women given that it was held on #IWD2017 but could more have been done?

You can listen here

and read what they said here (PDF).

March 8th 2017

Three Campaigns championed by MPs in Westminster - dress codes, children of alcoholics and #WASPI Northern Ireland

In this 30 minute podcast documentary looking at topical campaigns in Westminster in March 2017, we speak to Helen Jones, the Labour MP for Warrington North who sits on the Commons Petitions Committee about her debate on dress codes and high heels. Then we ask Caroline Flint the Labour MP for Don Valley, who has joined with others to get more help for children of Alcoholics to set out what she wants ministers to do. Caroline has recently spoken about being a child of an alcoholic parent.

We end by talking to five Northern Ireland #WASPI women: Angela, Shirley, Bernadette, Maureen and Marion and the MP Alasdair McDonnell the SD and Labour MP for South Belfast who met the women after they marched on Westminster on #IWD 2017.

You can listen here

and read what they said here (PDF).

February 2017

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Liz Saville-Roberts MP for Plaid Dwyfor Meirionnydd has introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on a Rape Complainants Sexual History that will get its Second Reading on March 24 2017.

We interviewed Liz just after she presented her Bill to the House to the sound of cheers from all parties.

You can read her quotes from our interview here..

Chi Onwurah MP speaks up for the #WASPI campaign and says No to the Brexit Bill

In this special interview we talk to Chi Onwurah Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central about her #WASPI debate in Westminster Hall on 9th February 2017. The night before Chi had just voted against the Brexit Bill in defiance of her own party whip. Chi said: "It really is a matter of inter-generational justice that these #WASPI women are better taken care." On Brexit she added: "This is not a Brexit about the will of the people this is a Tory Brexit and I cannot vote for that."

You can read more key quotes from her podcast here.

Brexiting the EU to be or not to be

In the first part of our special two part documentary for February 2017 we hear from the opposition parties on the second reading of the recent reading of the Brexit Bill to take the UK out of the EU. First Boni Sones talks to the Labour MP Seema Malhotra, then the SNP MP Eilidih Whiteford and finally the LD candidate for Cambridge and former MP Julian Huppert.

Conservative women champion Equality, World Poverty and Human Rights

In part two of our documentary you can hear from three Conservative Women on their fight for equalities, world proverty and human trafficking. We speak to Maria Miller MP Chair of the influential Equalities Select Committee, Caroline Spelman MP a Second Church Estates Commissioner, and Heidi Allen who sits on the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

You can read quotes from these interviews and our web links in this pdf.

January 2017

Heidi Allen MP

Womens Parliamentary Radio Podcast Logo

Helping the victims of Modern Day Slavery get more help in 2017

Heidi Allen the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire and a member of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions discusses her recent question to the Prime Minister Theresa May on helping the victims of modern day slavery to be fast tracked through the benefit system to enable them to access help more easily.

Heidi says that in 2017 proposed changes to the Benefit System will allow dedicated staff at job centres to deal with vulnerable people on a one to one basis and guide them through the system more easily.

Heidi Allen MP hopes that the "sausage machine" mentality of job centres will change, and that more generally people who go to Job Centres will get more personalised help. She says she would love to be put in charge of them. She admits that Britain leaving the EU could result in more people turning to Job Centres for help as the economy slows up.

She also discusses her Conservative values, her work in the year ahead and her bid to become the Mayor of Cambridge as well as an MP. Since the death of Jo Cox, Heidi now has a member of staff accompanying her around her constituency where Boni Sones, Executive Producer of caught up with her at one of her local surgeries.

Key Quote Heidi: "There is a real determination to make the way we deliver benefits more efficient and to deliver them in a better way. Less sausage machine, more good progress, trained work coaches and more compassion in individual treatment... Do I think it is possible to turn the brand and the culture of the job centres round? "Yes" I do, and I wish I was the one delivering it. I would love that job... It's not the government, it's not the system that gets it wrong, it is human beings. It is somebody saying "No" on a computer screen... We need a cultural change. ..We may well see higher volume (in job centres as a result of Brexit), if we do, we must not return to the sausage machine days of old. We have to look after people as individuals, it is possible but it is going to be a huge cultural challenge."

Production Note January 2017 (.pdf)

December 2016

2016 Reviewed and what next for women in 2017 - the MPs championing women Mims Davies MP; Angela Rayner MP; Dr Eilidh Whiteford SNP MP; Chris Bryant MP

"It couldn't be a more interesting time to be in parliament", the Conservative Eastleigh MP Mims Davies tells Boni Sones Executive Producer of Mims is a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on women and took up her seat in parliament in the May 2015 General Election after serving as a local councillor. She starts off our Review of 2016 and look ahead to the parliamentary calendar in 2017. We then speak to another two MPs also elected in 2015 Angela Rayner Labour's Education Spokesperson and the MP for Ashton under-Lyne and to Dr Eilidh Whiteford the SNP MP for Banff and Buchan who has with her colleagues been championing equality issues including her own Domestic Violence Bill. This special 50 minute three part documentary ends with Chris Bryant the Labour MP for the Rhondda talking about his question to the Prime Minister on child funeral costs, something the government may be about to review. Thanks to all our MP supporters.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 20.5MB)

or download the MP3 file (file size: 20.5MB)

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.4MB)

November 2016

Feminists Fight Back Jackie Ashley and Ann Treneman talk about Donald Trump, the 45th President elect of the USA

Jackie Ashley, President of Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge, an all-women's college, sits down with Ann Treneman, the former Lobby Correspondent for the Times and now it's Theatre Critic to discuss the new era of a Donald Trump Presidency for the United States of America. They are interviewed by Boni Sones, Executive Producer of which Jackie Chairs.

Ann was a guest speaker at a Lucy Cavendish College event today.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.8MB)

Economist Vicky Pryce on the Trump Presidency

When Donald Trump takes over as the 45th President of the United States of America in January 2017 all eyes will be watching to see how much of his hate filled rhetoric forms part of his public policy initiatives. Banning abortion for women, constructing a wall with Mexico, banning Muslims, limiting immigration, even if it is vital to the American economy, investing in infrastructure to create jobs and growth, and limiting trade and imports from China are pledges he made to his Republican supporters.

Vicky is a former Deputy Head of the UK Government Economic Service from 2004 to 2007 and joint head from 2007 to 2010, and was the first woman to be appointed to the post of Chief Economic Adviser to the DTI in 2002.

Vicky told Boni Trump would find difficulty banning World trade and creating barriers and that abortion rights were decided by individual states, so in reality his powers were limited even as a President.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9MB)

Fabian women launch a Five Point Charter for BREXIT

Fabian women are asking the government to ensure it protects women's rights in its forthcoming negotiations over BREXIT. In this podcast we spoke to three of the 30 Labour MPs who have already put their names to it, Keir Starmer, the MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Angela Rayner, the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, and Seema Malhotra, the MP for Feltham and Heston, and a member of the BREXIT Select Committee. And then we asked Ivan Bartoletti, the Fabian Women's Chair, to read the charter out to us. You can give your support by using #FWNCharter and @fabianwomen.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.7MB)

Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Equalities Select Committee

Maria Miller is known as a bit of a terrier as Chair of the new Equalities Select Committee. She and her committee members are about to look into how BREXIT and leaving the EU will affect our Equalities Legislation. The Committee has already caused a stir by examining issues such as sex education in schools, transgender equality, maternity rights at work, and the gender pay gap. Other reports are in the pipeline, including looking at the impact of boundary changes on women's representation in parliament. Miller doesn't mind being a thorn in the government's side, in fact she relishes her job and says she should be holding ministers to account.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 12.8MB)

Maria Eagle MP and the benefit system

Maria Eagle, the Labour MP for Garston & Halewood discusses how Concentrix withdrew Working Tax Credits from single parent families by a random database test to see if they were living with a partner. In one case they accused a woman of living with Joseph Cadbury a well known dead Quaker philanthropist who built housing for workers. Now HMRC has ended the Concentrix Contract which will expire in 2017. Maria also talks about food banks, the future of work, a universal basic income, and the decision by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd not to have an inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave and police wrongful arrests by fabricating the evidence in this famous 1984 miners strike protest.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 19.2MB)

20 October 2016

BREXITING the EU puts jobs at risk

Sharon Hodgson MPSharon Hodgson MP for Washington and Sunderland West

The Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, whose constituency of Washington and Sunderland West is home to the Nissan Factory which employs 6,700 people, has been working to ensure that when the UK BREXITS the European Union jobs are not put at risk. She has put a Question to the Prime Minister about it.

Theresa May has already met with Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, who had warned that Nissan could halt investment in its Sunderland plant if the UK imposed EU export tariffs after it leaves. The Sunderland factory makes 10,000 cars a week, and around half a million a year.

After the meeting, Ghosn told reporters he was "confident" the government will continue to ensure the UK remains a competitive place to do business, and May commented that the government was committed to creating and supporting "the right conditions" for the automotive industry to go from strength to strength in the UK. Nissan is still deciding where to build its new Qashqai SUV model, so the stakes are high.

Hodgson told "The meeting with the Prime Minister and Carlos was a very constructive, positive meeting. Carlos has been calling for compensation if we get trade tariffs. A lot of jobs a lot of livelihoods are at stake. 61 per cent voted to Brexit the EU here. I am a big Remain supporter, we are where we are and we have to make the best of it. But none of those people who voted to leave voted to lose their job or to become poorer. I don't believe leaving is the right thing. These jobs at Nissan are vitally important to the NE and the Prime Minister knows that too."

Listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 2.36MB)

14 October 2016

Speaking up for Child Refugees and for Women Against State Pension Age Rises

Heidi Allen MPThe campaigners - Heidi Allen MP

This week features two women MPs, one Conservative, one Labour who have used parliamentary devices to push forward issues they are campaigning on.

Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire has been "nagging" at the government's heels for many months through debates, questions, and high profile visits to the Calais camps to ensure that more child refugees can come to the UK. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has just announced that the government had agreed to verify with the French authorities by the end of this week a list of 387 child refugees with a legal right to come to the UK, working with the campaign group Citizens UK. She added: "We will move quickly within days and remove very quickly those children."

Boni Sones spokes to Heidi in Westminster - listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.33MB)

Kate Green MPThe campaigners #WASPI - Kate Green MP

Kate Green, the Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, was one of an exceptional number of MPs from all parties who handed in a petition from her constituents in protest at the implementation of the 1995 and 2011 Pensions Acts, which increased the age at which women can retire. It was a very moving scene in the House as one by one they lined up to take their petitions to the Speaker John Bercow and put them on the table before him. The Labour MP Barbara Keeley presented the largest number of petitions on behalf of her constituents in Worsley and Eccles South and those of many other MPs.

In some cases just a few months' difference in age can mean three or even four years difference in a woman's retirement age. This change affects 2.5 million women across the UK who now face real financial hardship, and some have to rely on benefits and are being sent on work experience in their 60s rather than receiving their state pensions, which come from the contributions they have themselves made. Poor communication of these changes has been a big problem for the so called #WASPI Women (Women Against State Pension Age Increases) who do not oppose the raising of the state pension age to align it with that of men but they do point out how unfairly this has been done, particularly for women born in 1953 and 1954.

Boni Sones spoke to Kate Green - listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.41MB)

8 September 2016

The PM Theresa May returns from the G20 to face PMQs on Modern Day Slavery and Domestic Violence Refuges

Maggie ThroupMaggie Throup MP and The APPG on Modern Day Slavery

Maggie Throup the Conservative MP for Erewash is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Day Slavery. Following Theresa May's first Prime Minister's Questions after the Summer break on September 7th 2016 Ms Throup asked May if she would help "eradicate" modern day slavery. May acknowledged the problem affected many people here and globally. Ms Throup is hopeful that the New Modern Day Slavery Act 2015, which May supported while in the Home Office, will be making an impact with its two new civil orders. The APPG is soon to publish a new report but Ms Throup said the vote to BREXIT the EU meant we all needed to be more vigilant to ensure international standards are upheld and that people are not enslaved particularly those working in the beauty industry such as nail bars where customers can themselves ask questions.

Listen to Maggie's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.54MB)

Vera BairdVera Baird QC and PCC Northumbria

Saving Domestic Violence Refuges​from closure

Vera Baird, QC, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and PCC for Northumbria, discusses concerns that a soon to be imposed benefit cap will lead to the closure of many Refuges for women fleeing Domestic Violence at home, and an inability for them to find somewhere to go. She says such a policy would be a "disaster" but is hopeful that Theresa May the new Prime Minister of the UK may be about to knock heads together at two different ministerial department's The Home Office and DWP to ensure there is a change of heart. When at the Home Office May introduced a Violence Against Women & Girls Policy and her reply to a PMQ about the issue has raised hopes that help is at hand.

Listen to Vera's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.07MB)

Theresa May

Our Summer Break 2016 is taking a break for the Summer. We will return in the Autumn thanks for all your support and to our web manager Adrian Wright. He's brilliant!

Here are some thanks we have received:-

21 July 2016

Dear Boni,
It's a great listen - well done, you are amazing!
Really enjoyed it too.
All v best,
Jackie Ashley

14th July 2017

"Well done @bonisones2 for keeping such important archives @theresa_may @Women2Win. What a journey since then!"
Baroness Anne Jenkin, Co-Chair Women2Win

"We love Soundcloud and Tweeting your interviews"
Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire

"Excellent interviews, great work thank you", "This is good a must listen for #Waspi", "Brilliant and informative", "It's a great listen", "Excellent and informative", "Fabulous piece on #WASPI", "Brilliant Boni, thank you"
Some twitter responses from @WASPI_Campaign members to our July Documentary following their rally to parliament. @Everywoman6, @MoMonotdaft, @Bugseybeevers, @enajeco, @carol580532

21 July 2016

Theresa MayExclusive

Pure Thatcher or just Theresa May being her own person at her First PMQs as the Second woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Jo Churchill MPIn this special podcast our presenters Jackie Ashley and Deborah McGurran talk to three Conservative Women MPs about Theresa May's First PMQs.

Theresa Villiers MPWendy Morton, the MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, Victoria Borwick the MP for Kensington, and Caroline Spelman the MP for Meriden debate Theresa's first appearance in the House as the Second female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MPDressed conservatively in grey, commentators said she resembled Margaret Thatcher - even her voice sounded similar - but as Wendy, Victoria and Caroline explain May has her own style and is very much her own person.

They recall moments when May has encouraged them personally and they say that she stands firmly by the side of other women MPs helping them to get selected and elected to parliament going on to help them when they are in the House.

May is a founder of the Conservative's Women2Win Campaign which she co-chairs with Baroness Anne Jenkin.

At her first PMQs she answered questions from Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs on Honour Killings, the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, and gender based violence.

Key Quotes:

Morton: "She said we were the party that brought two female prime ministers into the House without the need for a shortlist, and then after the exchange with Jeremy Corbyn she just said 'does it remind you of anyone?'""

Borwick: "It was calm, that underneath all the rowdiness, and underneath all the usual Commons chatter she was actually in command of the brief.""

Spelman: "She did say to Tim Farron at the end of her question, 'size does matter', so she is not without humour, she balances the serious with some gentle ribbing, which I think is her hallmark.""

Thanks to Rob Coleman for helping us produce this documentary.

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.2MB)

14 July 2016

Theresa May with HM the QueenTheresa May takes over as the UK's Second woman Prime Minister as David Cameron bows out still willing them all on!

Jo Churchill MPTheresa May MP is Britain's 55th Prime Minister and the second only woman following in the footsteps of that other Conservative Margaret Thatcher. As David Cameron MP bowed out and said farewell at his last PMQ he said he had answered 5,500 Prime Ministers Questions and attended to 92 hours of statements in the House. for women caught up with Jo Churchill the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women and sits on the new Select Committee for women, who thanked Cameron for the work he has done for women over his six year term in office. She also asked him about one of her pet causes women and cancer and compensation for those affected by contaminated blood, an issue he has shown interest in. He said all those infected with hepatitis C and HIV following failings in the 1970s and 1980s, would for the first time receive an annual payment, but some campaigners were not happy with his response.

Theresa Villiers MPBefore Cameron sat down to a standing ovation he told the House he would be "willing them all on" and that "I was the future once". He also gave a reassurance that he did "love" Humphrey the No 10 cat. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, facing a bitter leadership challenge, questioned Cameron on his record on homelessness and affordable housing.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MPWe asked Jo Churchill MP to give us her response to Cameron's last PMQ, and then we asked Baroness Anne Jenkin, co-chair with Theresa May, of Women2Win to tell us what kind of Prime Minister Theresa May MP would make. Later we spoke to the former NI Secretary, Theresa Villiers MP for Chipping Barnet, as she talked to the media outside parliament, and to Dr Sarah Wollaston MP for Totnes, the Chair of the Health Select Committee.

Baroness Anne JenkinListen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.9MB)

July 2016


Women2Win Archive interview with Theresa May Autumn 2007 now the new Prime Minister of Britain (elect)

Copyright Boni Sones OBE

Theresa May, a founder of Women2Win has spearheaded the parties attempts to recruit more women by getting them onto the initially controversial "A" list of candidates, even when she personally received criticism for doing so.

In this exclusive Archive interview, Boni Sones talked to Theresa May on the train as she travelled back from one Liverpool event in November 2007 just before Women2Win's first birthday on November 23rd. Back then the Conservative party had just 17 female MPs and now it has 68.

We congratulate Theresa May today for becoming only the second woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Baroness Anne Jenkin and all the Women2Win team deserve praise too.

This photograph was taken by to celebrate 90 years of women and the vote in 2008. Photographer Kieran Doherty. Copyright Boni Sones.

Listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 3.61MB)


Archives April 2008

Theresa May says PMQs needs reform to appeal to more people

In April 2008 Theresa May MP, then the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, told that she thinks debate in the Chamber is sometimes too confrontational.

She said that she supported her leader, David Cameron, for being robust in Prime Ministers Questions, but that she was disappointed that the then Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, chose to be confrontational in the recent International Women's Day debate.

Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones spoke to her.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 4.29MB)


Archives March 2009

International Women's Day Women and the Recession

Women across party celebrated International Women's Day 09 with a heartfelt debate in the Chamber on Women and the Recession. The debate had been arranged by Labour's Harriet Harman MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party and Vera Baird MP, the Solicitor General. It came a day after women from all parties had been invited to number 11 to discuss how to support women during the recession. Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women spoke of the need to help older women and families and her Facebook campaign "Theresa May for Equal Pay".

And THANKS Theresa for the mention of WP Radio's women MPs photographs in the debate which are to be promoted to schools.

Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones spoke to her.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 1.26MB)


Archives Autumn 2011

Women2Win: Looking Towards 2015 - The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

It was a five year birthday party and a packed celebration of the Conservative Women2Win Campaign that saw a record 49 of their women MPs elected to Parliament in the 2010 General Election. But not content with their numbers the campaign is marching on to get even more Conservative women MP elected in the next General Election probably in 2015. So could the event panellists envisage a gender balanced parliament in the next ten years? Our intrepid reporter Linda Fairbrother talked to the Guest Speaker, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, then she chatted to Helen Grant MP, Priti Patel MP, Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol and Jackie Ashley, Columnist, the Guardian. Thanks to Baroness Jenkin, Director of Women2Win & Co-Founder of Women2Win.

Theresa May Hot Quote: "The Party did do quite a lot, we didn't go all the way to create All-women shortlists, but the creation of the "A" list the "Priority" list, the Open primaries, the all postal Open Primaries too. We have done a lot in the past of course we will have to look at the new scenario and what needs to be done in future as well."

Listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.26MB)

29 June 2016

The Big #@waspi_campaign Rally in Westminster June 29th 2016

It had been planned for months, banners made, cakes baked and labels diligently pinned on stating your date of birth and depicting the &"unjust" escalation over years of women's retirement age.

Tim Loughton MP73 local grass roots branches of the #WASPI campaign and an estimated 2,000 women turned up in Parliament Square to meet with their MPs who joined in their protest. A little later the SNP's Mhairi Black, the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South presented her own Private Member's Bill to parliament calling for action.

Heidi Allen MP"The #WASPI women won't go away, the government should listen and get round the table to start discussions", said former Tory Minister, Tim Loughton the MP for East Worthing and Shoreman who now co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the #WASPI Campaign with Labour's Barbara Keeley the MP for Worsley and Eccles South.

Loughton told us that after five debates in the Commons and 140 Members of Parliament from all parties who have now joined the APPG on #WASPI the numbers didn't add up for the government. He said that when they put down amendments to the new Pensions Bill in Parliament in the Autumn the government faced the prospect of “defeat”.

In this special 30 minute documentary met with the women as they met with their MPs in the corridors of Westminster hot foot from their Rally.

We speak to: Dennis Skinner MP, and his constituents, Pauline, Katharine, and Tricia. We then hear from Tim Loughton MP, then four #WASPI women Carole, Anne, Sheelagh and Wendy.

Outside the committee room where the WASPI co-founders were meeting with Conservative MPs we then spoke to Andrew Bingham MP for High Peak and his constituent, Kathleen. We also talked to Robert Halford MP for Harlow and Valerie, another women impacted by the changes.

We end by asking Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire and a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which has already produced a report on the WASPI campaign and a possible solution, what she thought the best course of action was now.

At the beginning and end of the documentary you hear the voices of WASPI women Valerie Pears and Tricia Clough.

Listen to the documentary:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 21.6MB)

27 June 2016

Exclusive Report

Black Monday in Westminster: Statement, after Statement after Statement...

We talk to Gisela Stuart MP Chair of Vote LEAVE, Seema Malhotra MP who had just left Labour's shadow cabinet, and the LD Business spokes Baroness Burt.

Gisela Stuart MPHistorians will look back at the events in Westminster today as tumultuous! At 8 am the Chancellor George Osborne appeared in public for the first time since Thursday's vote to leave the European Union with a statement that was meant to steady the markets. It worked for a bit and then the pound sank to a record low since 1985. Next came Labour's Deputy Leader Tom Watson, back from Glastonbury, to issue a statement to his own leader Jeremy Corbyn, that he would in all likelihood face a leadership challenge after at least 20 of his shadow cabinet expressed no confidence in him and resigned, issuing scathing statements attached to their individual tweets criticising their leader for not doing enough to pull out Labour's vote in the referendum.

Seema Malhotra MPBy 2.30 pm all took to their seats in the Chamber to listen to the Prime Minister David Cameron issuing his own statement about his resignation as Prime Minister and how a BREXIT from the EU might be handled. Of course Jeremy Corbyn then issued his own statement, including congratulating the Prime Minister for his record in office on gay marriage, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and for his reactions to the tragic shooting ten days ago of Labour's Jo Cox MP.

The day ended with a downgrading of the UK's S&P credit ratings from AAA to just AA. In the evening a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party agreed to hold a vote of no confidence in Mr Corbyn the next day. Meanwhile speculation was rife that leading BREXITEER Boris Johnson MP and lukewarm REMAINER Theresa May MP would be the two contenders for the Conservative throne after the Tory backbench 1922 Committee had met. A new General Election by the end of the year and possibly revoking the five-year Fixed-Term Parliament Act was also being discussed.

In these three exclusive interviews for we speak to the Chair of the Leave camp Gisela Stuart the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, now tipped to be a leading BREXIT negotiator; Seema Malhotra, the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston, who had just resigned as shadow secretary to the Treasury; and Baroness Lorely Burt of Solihull the Liberal Democrat's business spokesperson who actually managed a laugh when we asked her how bad things were?

Gisela: "I am not the government, not even the alternative government. I was Chair of an organisation that campaigned for a LEAVE Vote; a government's responsibility even when it goes into a General Election is to take the manifestos and work out a plan of what the alternatives are. We had a government that called a Referendum at choice and it was so certain it would win that it didn't have to think about what it itself had to do. I am a Labour back-bencher, I am not an alternative government. The Prime Minister put that question to the people. The European Union is a busted flush."

Seema: "I think it is time now to work for a peaceful transition and I believe that is in Jeremy's interests as well. I hope he will have the courage to step down and know he will have the party behind him. It was incredibly difficult it was heart breaking, I feel for Jeremy, but it was the right decision, and he has taken this party as far as he can and we now need a fresh start. Jo Cox is someone I think about every day. The message we should have from Jo's #MoreInCommon is a very powerful one and I want to make the effort and take the time to make coalitions across parties to make change happen."

Baroness Burt: "I just feel really gutted because we know it is going to be an uphill struggle from here on in, but arrangements are being made should the worst happen, and the worst is happening. Osborne sought to reassure the markets today that Britain is still open for business and who knows there maybe opportunities for businesses to benefit in different ways from this result. I would love to see a second referendum, if possible I would certainly do so. My Party is committed to taking us back into the European Union with full membership back. I would counsel business to keep calm."

Listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 20.9MB)

25 June 2016

What Now for Equal Pay and Rights at Work following the LEAVE Vote on BREXIT?

Simon DeakinEqual pay, rights to Maternity Leave and holiday pay are often given as positive outcomes from Britain's membership of the European Union. So what now for Equal Pay following Britain's LEAVE vote in this week's Referendum?

In this special podcast for for women, Simon Deakin, Professor of Law University of Cambridge and Director CBR, says women and families will keep those rights in the short term but the UK government will now be able to draft its own new legislation that can adapt or change these for the better or worse in the future.

Deakin goes on to say Britain does need to belong to a trading block such as the European Economic Area, and that renegotiating 50 new trade deals will be complex and take years. He believes there may be a need for a second referendum and calls for an action plan to be made public.

Listen to the interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 1.51MB)

20 June 2016

Jo Cox#MoreInCommon - Tributes to Jo Cox MP

Jo Cox TributeThe Guardian's political editor Anushka Asthana, The Liberal Democrat Baroness Susan Kramer, and the Conservative Baroness Anne Jenkin pay tribute across party from the Commons and the Lords to Jo Cox the former Labour MP for Batley and Spen, shot and murdered in the UK while carrying out her constituency duties last Thursday in West Yorkshire.

Thanks to all for the interviews at such a sad time in the House of Commons. All our thoughts are with Jo's colleagues on the Labour benches. Our thoughts and our love is with Jo's family.

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 13.6MB)

8 June 2016

150 years later and women's rights are celebrated in Westminster

new art installation in parliamentnew art installation in parliament#NewDawn a new art work for women is unveiled over St Stephen's Entrance

Caroline Noakes MP, Chair House of Commons Works of Art Committee, artist Mary Branson, and Melanie Unwin, Deputy Curator, discuss the launch of the new art installation in parliament to celebrate women's suffrage called New Dawn. It was installed 150 years after the first mass petition to parliament was presented by John Stuart Mill MP calling for women to be given the vote.

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.89MB)

Millicent Fawcett@fawcettsociety ensures Millicent Fawcett's values of equality for women live on forever!

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP; Chair Women and Equalities Select Committee, Maria Miller MP; Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP; and Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett give their views on the legacy of campaigner Millicent Fawcett. Also Caroline Criado-Perez, who is campaigning for a statute of Millicent; Professor June Purvis, Historian, and Sam Smethers, CEO Fawcett. They discuss the achievements and contribution of Millicent Fawcett 150 years after the petition for women's suffrage was first made to Parliament and gender equality today.

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 19.5MB)

25 May 2016

#WASPI women and the APPG fighting to remedy an injustice

APPG WASPI WestminsterMhairi BlackBarbara Keeley and WASPIsThree leading members of the All-Partly Parliamentary Group for the WASPIs - Women Against State Pension Inequality - tell why they are campaigning for new transitional arrangements to help women affected by the injustice of the equalisation of the pension ages for men and women to 67. Speaking up for the WASPIs in this special documentary are the Chair of the APPG Barbara Keeley, the Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, Mhairi Black the SNP MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South, and Caroline Spelman the Conservative MP for Meriden.

Listen to the WASPI women interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.3MB)

The Europe Referendum June 23rd 2016 - why staying IN matters for our economy and world peace

#Intogether and #StrongerIN @iVoteStay

As the arguments to REMAIN or LEAVE in the forthcoming referendum on Britain's membership of Europe on June 23rd get more heated we ask two leading women #Intogether and #StrongerIn proponents to tell us why they are voting to REMAIN.

Shirely Williams and EuropeCaroline Spelman and EuropeBaroness Shirley Williams the LD peer and Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden, both say Britain's economy is stronger in Europe, and that Europe has done much to ensure Peace over many decades. They also agree that the Referendum debate is being dominated by the men which puts off women voters. Baroness Williams says Britain counts for more in Europe and that “people will listen to it”. She also points out that Europe has given women maternity pay and holiday leave.

Baroness Williams says that in Europe we can battle to prevent climate change, and help catch sophisticated criminal elites trading in trafficking. Caroline Spelman MP is about to do a 5 mile run with a sign on her back saying she will speak to anyone about Europe as she runs.

Listen to Baroness Williams' interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.60MB)

Listen to Caroline Spelman's interview on Europe:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 3.15MB)

Proposing the Queen's Speech, what an Honour, Caroline Spelman MP

Caroline Spelman and Queen's SpeechCaroline Spelman, the Conservative MP for Meriden since 1997, and now the Second Church Estates Commissioner was afforded the honour of proposing the Queen's Speech in Parliament. She is a former Secretary of State, with numerous shadow ministerial roles to her name, and a former Chairman of the Conservative Party. Clearly Caroline is no novice at speaking in the Chamber but in this interview we hear how she overcame her nerves on this very special occasion to speak of the friendship and warmth across all parties in Westminster she has received. MPs she says are in Parliament to "make a difference" and that "no-one has had their day as long as they are still serving as an MP." Proposing the Queen's Speech she said was a "one-off opportunity" that she relished.

Listen to Caroline Spelman's interview on the Queen's Speech:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.4MB)

10 May 2016

David Cameron uses PMQs to pledge to do more for child refugees after angry exchanges

Angela Rayner MPHeidi Allen, The Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, has secured a significant victory to get her own government to take more child refugees fleeing war torn Syria after visiting camps in Lesbos and Calais. David Cameron used Prime Minister's Questions to make the announcement, the details of which are still being worked out.

She had worked with MPs in other parties, including Labour's Yvette Cooper, to visit the Calais camps, and she spoke with the LD leader Tim Farron, who had both been lobbying hard for change with angry exchanges across the floor of the House.

Now children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March - when the EU struck its refugee deal with Turkey - will be eligible for resettlement in the UK, but no numbers have been agreed yet.

Some had wanted the UK to take 3,000 and had compared the plight of these children to the Kindertransport when the UK took in 10,000 mainly Jewish children before the outbreak of the Second World War.

We caught up with Heidi just before she went in to vote on her own amendment in the Immigration Bill where she wanted to see refugee children and those still seeking asylum treated on similar terms.

Heidi key quote: "It was Calais where I saw the people living underneath the motorway bridges, there was so little provision and the eerie quietness of the camp in the morning because all the kids had been desperately trying to scramble onto lorries at night. The children had spent a night of hell in sheer desperation. It made me determined to do something. When it is about humanity it doesn't seem political in a way. I am not shy about saying what I think but this doesn't feel like a 'U-turn'. The government was always very welcoming to refugees, and all the way through we were at pains to say "this is fantastic but...". We weren't expecting it and we met with the Minister immediately after PMQs to see how it could become a reality. We will continue to go back to the camps and take the advice of the charities on the ground and work with local authorities to see how to implement this policy as a team."

Listen to Heidi's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.99MB)

May 2016

How one teenage Mum turned her life around and is now an MP helping others

It was one of those debates that united all parties in the House of Commons and also gave rise to one of the most moving personal stories Westminster has heard. When the family rights campaigner Lucy Allen, the Conservative MP for Telford, introduced her debate on Regional Differences in Teenage Pregnancies in Westminster Hall recently it received a ringing endorsement from all who wanted to see a reduction in unwanted births and the resulting deprivations like low self-esteem and low income attainment.

Lucy Allen MP told the Chamber that the good news was that data published by the Office for National Statistics in March showed a steady decline in the average rates of teenage pregnancy in England and Wales, but that England and Wales still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, with extremes in regional variations.

One of those to speak was Angela Rayner the Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, who at 16 was a teenage Mum who had been made to feel so ashamed by her midwife that she gave birth without pain relief, but through the love of her son, took herself back into the classroom to study, and became a home-help and with the help of the Trade Union Movement is now an MP. Her son now a young man is doing well too.

Angela's colleague Sharon Hodgson, Labour's Children's Minister, and the MP for Washington and Sunderland West also spoke of her own Party's teenage pregnancy strategy first introduced in 1997 but which she warned was now under threat from the introduction of more Academies despite the welcome decrease in births.

Angela Rayner MPAngela Rayner MP key quote: "It was my pregnancy that turned my life around. I was deprived, I did have that background, I did suffer in my childhood and it was having Ryan that pulled me from the brink of potentially going down the wrong path because I had a responsibility. I had somebody to love and to take care of and I had a sense of purpose all of a sudden. I am not suggesting that this is right for everyone; because it was incredibly difficult for me as my son had disabilities he had ADHD. I went to parenting course and to the SureStart Centres because I wanted to prove young Mums can succeed and every child should be celebrated. But we can't hide from the key high risk factors as to why women end up like this and we need to invest more. Adult education was fantastic for me, I went back to do a carers course, but a lot of adult education courses are now closing. The interventions of the State helped me and my son."

She continued: "My Midwife asked me when I was in Labour if I had done my GSCEs like her daughter had and she made me feel so upset and worried I didn't ask for any pain relief! I was terrified and in pain and didn't say anything because I did not want them to think I wasn't good enough to have my child. The debate touched my heart, I wanted people to think “don't write them off”, “help them”, don't make assumptions about their lives. We need to learn from young people and listen to them, and stop taking away the public services they vitally need."

Sharon Hodgson MPSharon Hodgson MP key quote: "There are large variations in teenage pregnancies between and within regions. My Local Authority area has reached a 45 per cent reduction but other areas in the NE are only in the early 30s. Thankfully now more and more young Mums do keep their babies but we do need to support them. Angela is the best role model for all young Mums out there. It has been a timely debate since 1997 when Labour introduced the first strategy; the worry is now that strategy isn't in place because the funding that has got us this 51 per cent reduction is no longer there. With the move to Academies there is a real risk to sex and relationship education and a possibility we will see a reversal in that huge gain that we have made, we can celebrate where we have got to, but we have to have our eye on where we want to get to."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.55MB)

18 March 2016

​George Osborne's 2016 March Budget

George OsborneThe Political Editors, the MPs, and the campaigner Jamie Oliver

George Osborne's eighth budget got a mixed reaction from MPs and lobby journalists. No sooner had he sat down on the green benches beside the Prime Minister, David Cameron, than his supporters and opponents either begun to shower praise on him or to re-frame his record as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Heather StewartWithin minutes the Daily Mail headline writers had summed it up: "Osborne stuns MPs by announcing a sugar tax on soft drinks, lifetimes ISAs and plans to turn every school into an academy". BUT it also showed a photograph of Theresa May, the Home Secretary sitting beside Osborne wearing a low cut dress and went on to say: "and gets an eyeful from Theresa May".

Women are used to being the butt of ridicule in politics, particularly when they are in the Chamber, so we hot footed it over to the press Lobby to talk to the newly appointed first female political editors of a national broadsheet,​Heather Stewart, and Anushka Asthana, who job share working for the Guardian. Just as they pinged their copy off to their news desk we stood below the "Burma Road" sign in the corridor of the Lobby and asked them to tell us what their analysis of Osborne's budget showed. The headline on their story was a touch more sober: "George Osborne unveils sugar tax in eighth budget as growth forecast falls."

The next day the government had to do a "U" turn over its controversial cut-back to Independent Living Allowance for disabled people and it led to the resignation of the Secretary of State for Welfare Iain Duncan Smith.

In this special half-hour documentary we first spoke to Heather and Anushka, then we asked three female politicians, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Rupa Huq MP, and Baroness Susan Kramer, to give us their reaction to the budget announcements. We also spoke with Jamie Oliver, who was "over the moon" about the new sugar tax.

Anushka AsthanaThe correspondents

Heather Stewart said: "He has missed most of his fiscal targets, so it is hard to say he has been a roaring success as a Chancellor, his record looking at the economic and fiscal forecast is quite mixed."

Anushka Asthana said: "He was trying to sweeten the picture with that sugar tax, to almost cover up that grim economic picture but we are watching all of this through the lens of a leadership battle that we know is to come, and George Osborne has his eye on it. I think he was trying to walk a careful path towards a centrist path as a Conservative Chancellor. He has a difficult EU referendum and has to throw some red meat to the back benches and he did that with policies to help small business, a reduction in corporation tax, trying to help out savers, and freezing fuel duty.

"The impact on disability benefit with a cut back of £1.2 billion is going to hit people who are struggling who needs aids, and it is not just Labour who is going to be worried about it Conservatives are showing a lot of angst too, and so is the Department of Work and Pensions."

The politicians

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed said: "I am very pleased with it, it is a very robust forward thinking programme that includes measures like rolling forward the Academy programme, and the introduction of a sugar levy which is something I have campaigned on for a long time, with a certain amount of ridicule. I think it is really important that a government understands how to look after our children at every level."

Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton said: "I was a bit disappointed by this, it was a bit thin, Osborne is known as a master magician who can pull rabbits out of hats, a lot of these things won't come in until 2020 after which he will long cease to be a Chancellor, it seems to be a lot of smoke and mirrors. For the average person it is not going to massively improve their lives all these things are skewed towards the rich. They are putting the next generation first if they have rich parents who can help them save with these ISAs but it has done nothing for the environment. The sugar tax is something I have lobbied for. Women have borne the brunt of these cuts as it is. Women have borne the brunt of these cuts... as they work in local government which is being cut back."

Baroness Kramer the LD Economy spokesperson said: "This is the sweet and sour budget, the government has missed its targets and Osborne is making us pay for that with 3.5 billion of mystery cuts to come out of public spending. They will be front line, the schools and health service have to put an extra 2 billion into pension funds and that will come out of the front line. He has made some very welcome cuts in business rates but that is coming out of the money that usually goes to local government, people are going to feel that cut. I am delighted with the sugar tax all credit to campaigners because obesity is a blight, but the education budget is being cut, so I only see the sugar tax as a little bit of a token. The ISA saving scheme is a way of changing all of our pensions in future years, so I hope young people put the money first into a pension and only the left-overs into an ISA."

Jamie OliverThe campaigner

Chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver said: "When I woke up this morning, I didn't even think this would happen it is an extraordinary curve ball in my day and on behalf of all the parents and children in Britain I am over the moon. I am so happy, not just because of the sugary drink tax, it is also the hard cash going into primary schools, and it is a precursor to the government releasing the childhood obesity strategy which is the real grunt work. If you are a poor kid in Britain you are four times more likely to be obese, and I told Osborne that, it is about the fact they have done it and now I am excited to see what happens with the strategy."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 25.7MB)

March 2016

International Women's Day Special Broadcast

Baroness FeatherstoneBaroness Featherstone – How Britain's gay marriage laws were changed and the Liberal Democrats fight for equality

"Just believe in yourself and keep pushing forward, keep pushing. Without women pushing forward change won't happen, men don't give away power women have to take it. The level of abuse I was told about internationally is stunning."

In a new book Baroness Featherstone, a former Liberal Democrat MP tells her gripping story of how she as a Minister in the Home Office fought to get MPs of all parties to vote in favour of gay marriage in Britain. Civil ceremonies were already allowed, thanks to the previous Labour government but wanting to put her stamp onto political history, and as part of the first Liberal government of any kind in 70 years, she determined to make society more liberal too. 'Equal Ever After: The fight for same-sex marriage and how Lynne Featherstone made it happen' gives a blow by blow account of how one of the great social changes of modern times came about. This Uber-Liberal junior minister persuaded her Uber-Conservative counterparts in the 2010 coalition government including her own highly conservative Home Secretary, Theresa May, that this was the right moment to allow gay marriage.

At Second Reading Lynne and gay marriage supporters from all sides of the House, Conservative MPs, Labour MPs and the LDs won the vote 366 to 161 and the Bill received Royal Assent five months later on 17th July 2013. But it split and led to bitter battles in Conservative Party Constituency Associations and in all denominations of the Church. Lynne's recriminations to church leaders are heart felt, and she is still waiting for the Prime Minister, David Cameron to thank her for a success he likes to claim as his own, which has not previously been disputed. It was not in any Party manifesto before the General Election. She thanked PinkNews for its tireless campaigning. She failed to get heterosexual couples to be allowed to choose civil partnerships as she said David Cameron would not support this, a further change some are still waiting to happen.

Lynne went on to become a Minister in the Department for International Development and to campaign for gay rights globally and she also led a campaign against Female Genital Mutilation. She is now the LD energy and climate change spokesperson in the Lords.

In this special International Women's Day podcast we asked Lynne to relive some of the moments from her memoir and tell us why she to this day dislikes organised religions.

Key quote International Women's Day: "I was the violence against women champion overseas and women's rights and gay rights are tied up together. Where they oppress and suppress women they do even worse to homosexuals around the World. There are 79 countries where homosexuality is still illegal, and seven or eight still carry the death penalty. Some of the biggest companies in the World are in Africa and elsewhere, and they employ people who are gay so they can help change things."

Key Quote equality: "I was standing on the shoulders of giants and the book is dedicated to all the brave campaigners on the way and I was very proud to go the last mile. I have had so much abuse, but if you are really committed and really dedicated and believe in things you can make a difference you can drive things forward and you can change the World and every politician should really want to do that."

Key Quote religion: "I never understood why they (the churches) were so vitriolic. They used intemperate and homophobic language and they were vicious, I had many public attacks on what I was doing. I couldn't understand why they couldn't have a live and let live attitude. If I was prepared to let them have the right in their own religious organisations not to marry people of the same sex, I didn't understand why they would want to stop people who believed differently to them from living the lives they believe in. It seemed very authoritarian and unnecessary. It is the opposite to what I believe religion to be about because if there is a point for me in religion it is goodness, love and caring about the poor and those fine noble spirited things in life, it is not about hideous homophobia."

Key Quote the Conservative Party: "Theresa had really changed her views, and as my relationship with her developed I admired her greatly, I did not agree with her on anything except violence against women and same-sex marriage but she is someone of principle and she is not overly tribal She is Uber-Conservative and I am Uber-Liberal, but you can work with people. They wanted to get away from that Nasty party tag that Theresa had given them, and in that move half of them moved, so they were split on same-sex marriage. The thing they were really up against was that the polls that were carried out showed that people had moved on, all were in favour except the over 65s. The World had moved on and David Cameron knew that and wanted to be a moderniser, but then he shifted around and now says it was one of his major achievements. He has never said a word to me about same sex marriage, he has never thanked me."

Listen to Baroness Featherstone's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 23.5MB)

'Equal Ever After: The fight for same-sex marriage and how Lynne Featherstone made it happen' is published by Biteback Publishing.

25 February 2016

The Labour Opposition Day Debate and the WASPI Women - just 24 votes in it!

Helen JonesWhat began as an e-petition to government has ended up snowballing into a major national campaign that might in time force Ministers to re-negotiate their changes. This week the Women Against State Pension Increases sat in the public gallery of the Commons to hear a Labour Opposition Day Debate that put Ministers on the back foot, even though it was eventually defeated by just 24 votes. Embarrassingly for the government some of their own Conservative MPs voted with Labour, the SDLP and the SNP who unanimously oppose the government plans. The Conservative Nadine Dorries sided with the Opposition saying she hadn't received a letter telling her about the proposed changes even though the Department for Work and Pensions must surely know where she lives. Other Conservatives spoke up for their constituents too and against the changes.

Helen Jones, the Labour MP for Warrington North, said the government's State Pension changes were based on "wrong information": "These women started work before the Equal Pay Act and other equality changes, so why disadvantage them twice! I can't remember receiving a letter from the DWP, some were not sent a letter at all they have had very little notice of these changes. We need transitional arrangements to mitigate some of these changes. Ministers need to say they got it wrong and want to put it right".

Barbara KeeleyListen to Helen Jones' interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.87MB)

Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said that the WASPI women are a "fantastic group of women": "We lost the debate but we are making progress, a number of Conservative MPs voted with us today. I have constituents suffering real financial hardship. It is so unfair. It is just not true that Europe has said we have to do this. Some countries will not move to equal pensions until 2040. It can be very harsh to move very quickly as we have done in the UK. Hiding behind EU law won't do at all. Where are the jobs for them? Other Countries have bridge pensions we need a range of transitional arrangements, how demeaning to tell them to claim benefits. This campaign is moving the SNP, SDLP and Labour and now some Conservative MPs are voting with us. By 2020 there are going to be one million affected women, their votes will be important to maintain a majority. How demeaning to be told to go to a job centre or to claim ESA when you have 40 years of contribution and you have worked all your life, that is terribly wrong. I will refer it to the Equalities Select Committee."

Listen to Barbara Keeley's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 12.5MB)

Marion and Lynne, co-founders of the WASPI campaign, and WASPI supporters Suzie and Shirley, travelled to watch the debate. They said: "We do agree with equalisation. There are some good proposals put forward to the Select Committee to help. We have done everything we should have done and yet they are expecting us to rely on benefits. We are not sure what today means for us but we will keep on. We want fair transitional arrangements and for the government to open the door to discuss what those arrangements should be. They could open the doors."

Suzie said: "I have worked for 44 years, I am a dance teacher, I have had enough and my knee is giving up. When I do get my pension I will have worked for 50 years non-stop. We are being whipped like work horses until we drop, if we were animals it wouldn't be allowed."

Shirely said: "I will continue the fight, I watched the film Suffragettes and men are still determining women's lives."

Listen to Barbara Keeley's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.0MB)

15 February 2016

A Exclusive Report

The Conservatives 25 year fight for equality - why radical reform is on the agenda in 2016

Bernard Jenkin MP, Caroline Spelman MP, Maria Miller MP, Margot James MP, Caroline Dinenage MP.

Read more about The Conservatives Fight for Equality and what our guests said (.pdf - file size: 316KB)

When the Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin first took up his seat in the House of Commons in 1992, he admits, it was well, "Laddish". As others have commented, it was more like a boys' boarding school. So have times changed that much since, or is there still a case for further reform of the working practices, the late night sittings, the unpredictability of the hours, even electronic voting, and just how radical should the Conservative Party be in fighting for greater representation of women in Westminster? 21 per cent of its MPs are currently women - 68 out of 330.

The Conservatives Women2Win Campaign formed in 2005 by Baroness Anne Jenkin and the Home Secretary Theresa May MP, has ensured more women have been recruited, trained and selected as MPs, but when will equality really have been reached? Would reaching 30 per cent female representation of MPs in the House be enough, or should the Party adopt a more radical approach by enacting legislation that would ensure that by the time of the next General Election, probably in 2020, ALL parties must have equal representation of men and women MPs.

Bernard Jenkin, a self-confessed feminist, thinks so although even some of his female let alone male colleagues may not agree with him that legislative change is the best way forward. Given the boundary changes that are to take place that will lead to 50 fewer MPs sitting in Parliament, 600 in all, this would be a very controversial approach indeed. But Margot James agrees.

In a two part EXCLUSIVE audio documentary debate got together five equality movers and shakers in the Conservative Party: Bernard Jenkin MP, Caroline Spelman MP, Maria Miller MP, Margot James MP, Caroline Dinenage MP to relive some of their historic equality battles, including enacting The Gay Marriage Act in 2013. We also asked them what further reforms they would like to see to progress both women's representation in the Chamber and other pressing equality issues. Maria Miller now chairs the newly formed Equalities Select Committee which recently published a report on transgender issues.

The five MPs have been interviewed by presenters Deborah McGurran and Linda Fairbrother in the order in which they entered the Commons. The producer is Boni Sones and thanks go to Rob Coleman.

In Part One Deborah and Linda talk to Bernard Jenkin MP, Caroline Spelman MP and Maria Miller MP.

In Part Two Deborah and Linda talk to Margot James MP and Caroline Dinenage MP and later they open up the discussion to all on the future of equality in the Party.

We set out below key quotes on the major future reform issues discussed in our documentary:

Bernard Jenkin MP

Bernard Jenkin is the MP for Harwich and North Essex and has been an MP since 1992. He currently chairs the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee. He was Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, and had responsibility for candidates until 7 November 2006.

Jenkin key quote: "We need to start talking about what legislation there should be. There is no Parliament in the World that has created equal representation without some form of positive action across the Board and that should not be a taboo subject."

Caroline Spelman MP

Caroline Spelman is the MP for Meriden in the West Midlands, she was first elected in 1997. She was also Chairman of the Conservative Party. From 2010 to 2012 she was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Within Westminster, she is a Church Estates Commissioner.

Spelman key quote: "We need to extend the experiment on electronic voting for MPs who are too sick to attend or who ae on maternity leave. We need some compassionate leave arrangement to allow both sexes to participate in the life of this Parliament."

Maria Miller MP

Maria Miller has been the MP for Basingstoke since 2005. She is a former Secretary of State for Culture, and now Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.

Miller key quote: "I would like to see a commitment to increasing the number of female MPs on the Conservative benches at the next Election, which will be a challenge given we have a reduction in the number of seats due to boundary changes."

Margot James MP

Margot James has been the MP for Stourbridge since 2010. At the end of 2005, David Cameron appointed Margot to the position of Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for women's issues, a position which she held until 2010. She was an "A" List candidate. She is now Assistant Government Whip with responsibility for Education and Equalities.

James key quote: "I would like to see more women special advisors, and more women around the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, in their core inner circle teams because I think that there is more to Parliament than meets the eye. Some of those backroom changes would be a jolly good thing."

Caroline Dinenage MP

Caroline Dinenage, who is the MP for Gosport, Stubbington, Lee-on-the-Solent and Hill Head, was elected in May 2010. In May 2015, Caroline was appointed to the dual roles of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice and Minister for Women and Equalities at the Department for Education working with Nicky Morgan the Secretary of State.

Dinenage key quote: "Being an MP is not all about tub thumping speeches and the screaming and waving of our bits of paper around in the Commons it is actually about the skill sets that women have in abundance, the ability to empathise and listen and the ability to multi task and get things done."

These historic interviews are now placed in The History of Parliament Trust Archive.

Listen to Part One:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.5MB)

Listen to Part Two:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 18.1MB)

14 January 2016

2016 and two teenagers keep feminist studies on the school curriculum

Dr Rupa Huq

The Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Dr Rupa Huq, successfully used an Adjournment debate in Westminster this week to ensure she held the government to account to keep feminism studies on the school curriculum.

She was prompted by a letter and e-petition from two of her constituents, June Eric-Udorie and Jessy McCabe, both schoolgirls who she referred to in the debate as "gender warriors". She said she was "blessed" to have them in her Constituency. McCabe had previously succeeded in her campaign to have female composers included on an A-level music syllabus.

Nick Gibb, the Minister for schools, cast a solitary figure on the government benches, but he said that he too was committed to keeping feminism on the A level politics course, alongside Liberalism, Conservatism and even Socialism, he jested. Mr Gibb thanked Dr Huq for making some "compelling points" and tabling the debate. He said guidance would be published on who was to be studied but that Simone de Beauvoir, as well as Hannah Arendt and Rosa Luxemburg, were a few names being considered.

Hot quote Dr Huq: "At the tail end of last year the new draft A Level in politics syllabus had removed any reference to feminism. If we don't know about women we only know half the story. Nick Gibb said he was definitely on side and he admitted the government had made serious mistakes on this. They did speak about this climb-down to the media first."

Listen to Rupa's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.59MB)

History of our broadcasting

All 350 interviews with women MPs across party from May 2007 to May 2014 can now be listened to at The Boni Sones OBE and Associates Political Archive at the London School of Economics under copyright protection.

In March 2014 our second book When There's a Woman in the Room was published and it was mentioned favourably in the Chamber. It is a record of the history of our broadcasting over seven years and extracts from our 350 interviews are quoted in it.

In August 2010 the British Library opened a historical audio archive of the 82 interviews of women in politics from our first book on women in politics The New Suffragettes, published in 2005 by Methuen. It was nominated for the Orwell Prize in Journalism.

The House of Commons Works of Art Committee acquired four photographic portraits of women MPs party by party taken by the Reuters photographer Kieran Doherty who took the famous Blair's Babe photograph, which we studio produced in 2009. In 2015 all four portraits featured again in the House of Commons art exhibition of women in politics thanks to Melanie Unwin the Deputy Curator.

From February 2015 to March 2016 we have broadcast on this page of the website. Our documentary interviews over this period on the history of equality in all three parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat are now deposited in the History of Parliament Trust. Thanks to its Director, Dr Paul Seward.

Our history and all those who have assisted us is written up in more detail in our Wikipedia entry. We thank them all.

Thanks to journalists: Jackie Ashley, Linda Fairbrother and Deborah McGurran. Thanks to our MP supporters, who are more recently: Caroline Spelman MP, Gisela Stuart MP, and Baroness Susan Kramer.

From March 2016 we have also moved our broadcasting onto mobile, twitter and Soundcloud. Please follow this link to hear our latest broadcasts.

This Production Note (.pdf) tells you more about our ten year history.

21 December 2015

2016 and Putting Equality First in the New Year: what the parties will be doing for women

Maria Miller MP for Basingstoke (Con), Chair Women and Equalities Select Committee

Maria Miller has taken the reigns of a new Select Committee in Westminster and in 2016 will be ensuring her voice is heard to protect women and those who are disadvantaged in Society. Her Committee has already looked into the pay gap for older women, and the issue of transgender equality. So what will be her priorities for 2016?

Maria told us: "In 2016 we have a huge pile of work that we do need to do, we have to cover a lot of ground very quickly, we will be picking up on the nine protected areas in the Equality Act; women, disabled people, pregnancy, maternity leave and the LGBT community too, so it is a wide spectrum of issues.

"Every single Select Committee Chair, does their job in a different way, I work with a great team of MPs across party, and our reports will be intrinsically interesting. We will bang the table on issues that we raise. I want to look at making parliament more representative of British Society of women and ethnic minority communities and disabled MPs. The reduction in the number of MPs in Parliament is going to make that tougher."

Listen to Maria's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.72MB)

Kate Green MP for Stretford and Urmston (Lab), Shadow Equalities Spokes

Kate Green knows her field of equality extremely well, and recently led an opposition day debate in the House of Commons on women and the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. She has been described as the most knowledgeable person in the Commons on household finances. So what will the Labour Party be doing to advance equality in 2016?

Kate Told us: "The most important thing in the long term is a proper strategy to address low paid female careers like hairdressing and child care so women can go into ITC or Engineering. We need to ensure older women can get grants to go onto further education, this is what Labour would be doing.

"There are most certainly real differences, gender equality is a political issue, we are committed to closing the gender pay gap and to improve the life chances for women. Issues like tax credits, like the new deal, like investment in further education, all of which this government is striping back. There may not be a difference in what we want to see but there is a difference in investing in women's lives. We will continue to fight for equality for women and men and we still have a long way to go."

Listen to Kate's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.73MB)

15 December 2015

Margaret Thatcher's Christie's Sale

So what did they bid for? We talk to Michael Crick, Neil and Jacqueline and Robert

What who wants a second hand handbag or a dispatch box or a misspelt St Francis of Assisi Poem? Quite a lot of very rich people it seems who also live in South Korea or America. This week at Christie's Auction Rooms in St James's in London "old" belongings of the first woman Prime Minister of Britain, Mrs Margaret Thatcher went on sale and with bidders from all over the World prices soon exceeded their asking prices.

Gasps went up and then loud applause after Thatcher's Red Ministerial dispatch box was sold for over £200,000. You are allowed to keep those boxes when you leave office, so long as the seal is broken. You can listen to the five minute 35 second sale of that box, and then we spoke to Channel Four's political correspondent Michael Crick. Neil and Jacqueline, had hoped their £20k might secure it for their family, and another bidder, Robert, had his eye on a couple of the more minor items, a book, and a painting of Ham. Thanks to all for the interviews.

Crick told us: "What really went was the stuff you strongly associate with Thatcher, the dispatch box, the poems, the pearl necklace, the clothes, the handbags, and perhaps if it actually hit somebody it might get a bonus price! There are a lot of rich people around who are admirers of Margaret Thatcher."

Neil and Jacqueline said: "We were slightly out on what the item would go for, the Briefcase was valued at between £3k up to 5k and we could go up to £20k and it went for £200k, so we were a little bit out and I didn't get a chance to lift my paddle. It was good fun."

Robert said: "This is a bit of history, a lot of items have gone for tremendous prices, by huge multiplies of the upper reserve price quoted, and there are clothes, books, and jewellery, emerald rings. The Dispatch box went under the hammer for 200k compared to an asking price of £4k which was a lot compared to the cost of having the whole thing made."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 13.0MB)

9 December 2015

Opposition Day Debate

There is no good health care without equal Mental Health care!

Luciana Berger, the Labour/Co-op MP for Liverpool, Wavertree, and the Shadow Public Health Minister, won all party support this week for her motion to treat mental health with the same priority as physical health but it was eventually after three hours of debate voted against.

She spoke in favour of "parity of esteem between mental and physical health" and during the debate there were a few well-known name checks of people who have spoken up for better care in mental health services, such as David Beckham, Alastair Campbell and the USA President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Berger was critical of the Government's decision not to enshrine the right to psychological therapies in the NHS Constitution; and called on the Government to urgently rectify this systemic inequity in entitlement to treatments, reinstate the annual survey of investment in mental health services and develop and implement in full a new strategy to improve the Government's cross-departmental response to mental health. For the government, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP said progress was being made.

Norman Lamb, the LD MP for North Norfolk, got a few mentions too for his work on mental health. Dr Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow a former mental health care clinician, agreed that the post code lottery of care for mental health needed to end and so did the stigma attached to mental health illness.

Lamb told us: "It's a complete inequality. Across physical health we have comprehensive maximum waiting times, whatever your condition is, for A & E, cancer, and operations, there are maximum times to be treated. But until April this year, when we introduced the first maximum time standards for mental health, there was nothing at all. This inequality drives where the money goes. physical health always benefits to the disadvantage of mental health, you cannot justify this, it needs to change. I want to build a movement of change, I involved Alastair Campbell and Andrew Mitchell MP and I want to get society to come together to make the case for equality for those who have suffered from mental ill health. We have secured £600 million dedicated funding for mental health. It has to go beyond party politics and go to the citizens of this country."

Dr Cameron told us: "There is a collegiateness across the House in terms of its importance and the need to tackle these issues. I hope progress will continue to be made over the long term. As an MP and mental health clinician I think health and the NHS should be beyond politics, we should agree a long term strategy for health and mental health and make sure it is supported by all parties. I have an adjournment debate on mental health provision for the armed forces and veterans and I am pushing that too with ministers."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.0MB)

2 December 2015

Syria - Will Bombing Stop the War?

When the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn gave his MPs a "free vote" on today's debate on whether or not to take military action in Syria some thought he was showing weak leadership. Others argued exactly the opposite that he was in fact showing strong leadership as someone who had once chaired the "Stop the War" group.

As David Cameron delivered his Prime Minister's speech proposing action against IS Daesh, Labour MPs intervened to criticise him for calling anti-war MPs "terrorist sympathisers". They also questioned whether Cameron was right in saying there are 70,000 Syrian moderates ready to back the UK.

Hot foot from the Chamber we asked two Labour women MPs how they were going to vote, and a lobby journalist who reports regularly on the Middle East if he thought the Prime Minister was winning the argument?

Chi Onwurah the Labour MP for Newcastle Central - voting with your conscience Against

Chi said: "I am voting against air strikes but I want action to stop financing them and cut off the finance that buys the arms to kill us and kill people in Syria. I want action I don't want false air strikes. Nobody really thinks there are 70,000 forces on the ground which David Cameron believes in. I went out door knocking and asked everybody what they thought of air strikes in Syria and I asked my local party too. I am voting against, because this vote has my name on it and the consequences of air strikes is that people will die, so this is an issue I will vote with my conscience on. Making that decision is something that has stopped me sleeping for the last few nights. I did intervene in the Debate to aks a question of my leader."

Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley - Labour should have come to a consensus position

Jess said: "I shall be voting against today, but I found neither of today's front bench speeches in any way convincing. Yes my leader too. It is very difficult to build up a flow in a speech when there are so many interventions, so I go with my heart. Every single person I have spoken to in the last few weeks, door knocking too, I have taken all opinions on board, and my heart makes the decision and I am not satisfied enough of my questions have been answered today by the Prime Minister. I also think it is lamentable that the Labour party couldn't come to a consensus position."

Adel Darwish, Political Editor of World Media and Middle East News, and for 35 years Correspondent in the Middle East - Cameron made two mistakes!

Adel said: "I was asked by some MPs how to vote. I would say there have been two mistakes by Cameron, one is the phrase he used of terrorist sympathises was most unfortunate and inaccurate and the other was his mention of the 70,000 figure of an army on the ground. All the strategic questions have not been answered."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.0MB)

26 November 2015

Will Quince MP and Baroness Susan Kramer give their reaction to Osborne's Autumn Statement

Will Quince MP

While the pundits are still scrutinizing the Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, the headline writers have welcomed his "U" turn over reversing planned tax credit cuts to the working poor. He told the Commons yesterday that he now has £27 billion more to spend than originally forecast in July of this year according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Osborne also mentioned by name the new Member for Colchester who had previously met with him to suggest that revenue received from the much criticised EU imposed VAT on Tampax should be given to women's charities. Osborne said the £15 million a year raised from the Tampon Tax would be given to women's health charities. The first £5 million will be distributed to Eve Appeal, SafeLives and Women's Aid and The Haven. With bids from others. He said they were committed in the longer term to getting the EU rules changed on scrapping VAT on sanitary products.

We asked Will Quince the Conservative MP for Colchester to give us his reaction to the Autumn Statement including his own special mention. He has also campaigned on still birth and grief after his own son died at birth.

Will told us: "The news around the economy was very exciting. I had called on the Chancellor in the debate to mitigate the effect of the tax credit changes so I am delighted that he had taken this measure today, because there are over 5000 tax credit claimants in my constituency. I am also delighted my suggestion on the Tampax Tax money has been given to women's charities, many of us think sanitary products should be zero rated."

Baroness Susan Kramer

We then asked Baroness Susan Kramer, the LD Treasury spokesperson to give us her reaction to the Statement, including new taxes that are to be introduced, changes to the funding of social care and Further Education, and the closure of the women's prison at Holloway as part of a new prison rebuilding programme.

Baroness Kramer said: "He is still cutting £12 billion in Welfare, but he has stopped the cut in tax credits for the working poor. He should have voted with the LDs in the Lords when we moved that amendment. Housing benefit is going to be a serious problem, he is very tough to green industries and renewables, and to further education, which is key to the skills we need. Local government has really been hit taking over the burden of social care. What's happened to the bus network?

"“We are delighted to see the end of Holloway that is a real victory. On the tampon tax, that always needed some kind of reform, it is good that the money is going into some very good charities, and good it is going to the Eve Appeal, I am happy about that. I would put the budget over 5 but not much more than 7, out of ten, there is a lot of missed opportunity. There is still going to be unnecessary suffering because he wants to deliver a surplus for its own sake, but it is not required for economic stability, and not required for economic strength or growth.He could have done a lot better."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.14MB)

19 November 2015

Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail gives the thumbs down to the first International Men's Day Debate

Today Parliamentarian's will have their first International Men's Day Debate in the Commons held in Westminster Hall. The high rates of male suicide will be discussed and other issues such as the need for more research into male cancers, and boy's under performance in education may also come to the fore. But do such debates really help push forward change and do men need their own debate? The Labour MP Jess Phillips received Twitter abuse when she said every day in Westminster was a men's day. The debate was proposed by Philip Davies MP.

We asked the Daily Mail columnist, Quentin Letts to tell us what he thought. Not surprisingly he had an opinion and he questioned whether special days were the best way of instigating change, even for those of his own sex.

Quentin said: "I am all a quiver. Does one have to be for or against things? It is disgraceful that Jess Phillips got abuse on Twitter. Issues have to wriggle their way up stream like salmon and they have to get noticed on the basis of urgency and merit, and just having one day of the year, means people can have an excuse for neglecting it the rest of the year. They are created by PR companies. I have to confess I haven't sat through an International Women's day Debate, I am such a coward; imagine the abuse I would get!"

Listen to Quentin's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.54MB)

19 November 2015

The Kids' Cookery School

Why teaching children to cook should be back on the curriculum again big time!

The Kids' Cookery School came to Westminster this week to show MPs and Peers how they have been improving the cookery skills and eating habits of children, some with special needs and disabilities. So while the speeches were being made, the children wore aprons, and rolled out pastry.

Here we speak to: The Conservative Peer Baroness Anne Jenkin; Rebecca Widdoson, Marketing Director, Brita; Victoria Prentis MP for Banbury, and Fiona Hamilton-Fairley, CEO Kids' Cookery School.

Victoria said: "I helped teach at one of these Kids' Cookery Schools in my own home town of Bicester and the kids picked up lots of information about nutrition while they were having fun learning how to cook bread roles. The main message is to eat a moderate amount of everything, but sugar is something we need to focus on more. I want to promote cookery in schools."

Baroness Jenkin, a member of the All-Party Group on Poverty and Food Hunger, said: "Cookery skills and food waste are a massive issue; we are going to be the first generation whose children are going to die ahead of us because we haven't brought them up with these traditional skills. I would personally support a sugar tax or anything that is going to grip this issue. We have got to take it seriously it is going to bankrupt our NHS."

Rebecca said: "We do a lot on the ground with Kids' Cookery School. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Children can make a real difference. Sugary drinks are convenient, but we are trying to give people alternatives and choices around drinks."

Fiona said: "When my son went to school I watched them rip out the kitchens and put in the computers. We are a small charity, we try and see as many children as possible, we try and see special needs and children excluded, we teach everybody to cook from scratch, and our chefs are highly trained. Please put cooking back on the curriculum in a fun exciting way. Our pop up kitchens is the solution for many schools."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.49MB)

11 November 2015

Jo Cox MP - Another PMQs, but how do you get noticed?

Why devolving powers to make abortion laws to Scotland could signal a change

When the Prime Minister, David Cameron, stands up on his feet to answer questions from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Wednesdays, a number of other MPs will get to their feet too to try and catch the eye of the Speaker, John Bercow, but just how do you do that?

Jo Cox the new Labour MP for Batley and Spen says she often gets to her feet and sometimes she is "called" and on others she has to sit down again, but it is at least a "good parliamentary workout"!

We asked Jo to tell us the tricks of getting noticed at PMQs, and why she wants David Cameron to raise the issues of the killing of three of her constituents in riots in Gujarat with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, this week when he visits. Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time. Jo, like other Labour women, also wants to raise the issue of devolving to the Scottish Parliament, laws on abortion. She fears that: "This Scottish boundary change might lead to a change in the legislation. I haven't heard of any consultation with women's groups, and I don't want to see a change in the law so that women in Scotland have different rights to women in England".

But she says: "At PMQs it's incredibly disappointing if you don't get called, but it is fair. I wanted to ask an urgent question on behalf of my constituents on the killings, but I didn't get called. It is an effective way of catching the Speaker's eye, and it's also a good workout, you get up and down about 15 times."

Listen to Jo's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.62MB)

Jess Phillips MP - Coming off Twitter, or just cooling it after you get abuse?

Another Labour MP, Jess Phillips, Birmingham, Yardley, shares Jo's concern over devolution and abortion rights. She told us: "What I want to see is a genuine consultation with some women's groups on the devolution of abortion, and that has never happened even though it was recommended. We need to commit to some kind of consultation."

Jess received a lot of abuse on Twitter recently when she opposed suggestions for an International Men's Day debate in the Commons. Jess told us: "I received a lot of abuse, and a small minority of it was around raping me and hanging my children. About 90 per cent of it was angry and loud and from male rights activists from around the World. It was like 100 updates a second, and I felt like being harassed by a horrible angry crowd. But for every one message of abuse there were ten of solidarity from across the World.

"We just had a photo-call in the Commons where men and women parliamentarians came out in support of stopping this kind of thing. I won't let people push me off Twitter, I am not a victim. I won't let them stop me yet but I might cool it a bit, it is massively time consuming and I have a job to do."

Listen to Jess' interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.34MB)

31 October 2015

The Jack Lewy Debate

We asked Cambridge University politics student, Jack Lewy, to debate this week's issues in Parliament with a group of his friends. He quickly assembled, Jack, Carl, Ellie and Will, to talk about Jess Phillips MP and the Twitter abuse she got after opposing a suggestion for an International Men's Day debate. Jack and his friends then discussed the other week's burning issues, including lifting all VAT on tampons, and the Lords throwing out the Chancellor, George Osborn's tax credit changes. Structural misogyny, new media versus old, soundbites or serious policy making, and the under representation of women in Westminster were all hot topics with our panel of students.

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 14.1MB)

30 October 2015

The parliamentary radio team pinned their IAWRT award to the press gallery notice board. Our "Throwing in the Towel" audio documentary of how the Labour women changed Westminster was reported on by: Jackie Ashley, Linda Fairbrother, Deborah McGurran and Boni Sones. These ten interviews are now in The History of Parliament Trust Archives. Thanks to Dr Paul Seaward its Director.

click on the photos to magnify

21 October 2015

The Women's Equality Party Policy Launch – Much done much to do!

"Austerity has a female face, things are falling very heavily on women", so says Dr Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender at the University of Bristol, in our new podcast on the Women's Equality Party Policy launch in London on Tuesday.

WE flagship policies include: a 50/50 Parliament by 2025, equal pay, universal childcare and gender equality lessons for all children from the age of four as well as more male primary school teachers.

We asked Dr Childs to narrate the launch and the speech of its leader Sophie Walker, a former Reuters journalist, as it was happening at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. We than hot footed it over to the Press Gallery to ask Lindsay Watling, Westminster correspondent for the Press and Journal in Scotland to give us her reaction to the launch event.

Lindsay told us: "I think there is space for a different kind of politics, a kinder politics, and there has been a lot of talk from Sandy (Toksvig) and Catherine (Mayer) co-founders, of moving away from the usual animosity and looking at the policy issues and dealing with them and I think that is really important. It will be hard to make change, they will have their work cut out because the Commons is male dominated. There is room for this place to evolve."

Dr Childs said: "Until all the parties really grapple with quotas nothing will really happen with Westminster politics. I think what we are seeing is a sense where the WE are presenting some very bold statistics, they have very clear messages, and they are almost saying to the other parties: &"why can't you agree with us?" It is a very robust challenge to the other parties, it is very clever."

You can find out more about WE and Sophie's speech here:

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 14.6MB)

14 October 2015

Chloe Smith MP takes the Keeping Abreast Portrait Exhibition to Westminster to break taboos!

Chloe Smith, the Conservative MP for Norwich North championed the need for women to have greater awareness of how to access breast reconstructive surgery when she opened the Keeping Abreast Portrait Exhibition in Westminster this week.

Fifty remarkable renaissances style "bared breasts" portraits were on display, to stimulate debate about the need for elective or post op reconstructive surgery if you have a breast cancer BRCA gene link or actual cancer diagnosis. One showed a mother and her daughter, who was now deceased, another showed a mother holding her ten week old baby. All are smiling.

Chloe Smith MP said: "What this exhibition does powerfully is to show that you are not alone if you are in this situation. You can't be alone with 50 portraits with kindly, friendly, smiling faces saying look at us it's OK we are proud to be here. They are a good Norfolk-based charity, and many of the women here are from Norfolk."

Julia Holland the photographer said: "To me it was about the best portrait I could possibly take of that woman. We would have a long chat, and we got to the place where that woman looked at her breast and we achieved this. One described her breast cancer journey as having a silver lining; that is a very strong, powerful and emotional description. This exhibition is trying to break taboos."

Anna Beckingham, Trustee and co-founder of Keeping Abreast who has her own portrait in the exhibition said: "All women who have a mastectomy should discuss this type of surgery, but that may not happen in every hospital in line with the guidelines. You are very much at the control of the doctors and surgeons and you should have all these options discussed. Raising awareness of this is something we want to do."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.0MB)

12 October 2015

Why Parliament's modern day suffragettes need more support!

As the Suffragettes movie goes on general release today all of us at would like to raise a banner and salute the modern day suffragettes of Westminster.

While we still don't have a gender based parliament, or Cabinet, we do have women MPs past and present from all parties who have fought over many years for greater equality for women.

Over the past ten years women's has campaigned for greater recognition of modern day political progress for women and the MPs across party who have made that happen. We have conducted around 400 interviews with women MPs and they are now in two historic political archives at the London School of Economics and the British Library. We have also written two books on women's political progress and public policy making. Our four portraits of women MPs taken by Kieran Doherty, formerly of Reuters, were recently displayed at the photographic exhibition in Westminster celebrating women's political progress.

Our team of women MPs and journalists have ensured that historians of the future will have a record of what women have achieved today. I would like to thank all the MPs across party who have sat on our advisory board, and the women journalists who have helped conduct these interviews, particularly Jackie Ashley, Linda Fairbrother, and Deborah McGurran. Thanks also go to our supporters Anastasia de Waal and our webmaster Adrian Wright.

Women MPs who have supported us include: Gisela Stuart, Barbara Keeley, Baroness Susan Kramer, Eleanor Laing, Penny Mordaunt, Caroline Spelman. Former MPs Esther McVey, Jo Swinson, and now Baroness Lynne Featherstone. Thanks to them all. Our wiki link will tell you about our history.

October 2015

We have just won an amasing 'Honour' from the International Association of Women in Radio & Television for the documentary we made in March 2015 on the Labour Women MPs leaving Westminster. Other awards went to Bangladesh, Chile, Kenya, Norway, Australia.

Here are some recent and past links to our work since 2005. All content is copyrighted to Boni Sones OBE:

Blogs: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Millicent Fawcett: Fawcett Society Blog, January 2015.

Guardian Article March 2015: The Labour women who changed the face of Westminster.

Print journalism: East Anglian Daily Times, April 2015.

Audio Archive: LSE Boni Sones OBE and Associates political archive of women MP interviews, May 2014.

Book: When There's a Woman in the Room: Women MPs Shaping Public Policy, May 2014.

House of Commons debate: Our mention by Esther McVey MP in the House of Commons debate on women and the global economy, June 2012: "Boni is a visionary. She set up that project in Parliament, but she is seeking to make global links to tell stories across the world."

Audio archive: Our British Library Archive of 82 women MPs interviews across party, launched September 2010.

Portraits: Our four portraits of women MPs in the Parliamentary Archives October 2008: The Day the Carlton Club Accepted Women, 90 years after women got the vote.

Book: Women in Parliament: The New Suffragettes, October 2005.

Guardian Article: Belittled Women by Jackie Ashley, August 2005 2012015.

Listen to 'Two Sisters':

or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.5MB)

29 September 2015

The Labour Fringe Meetings

It's all go! Jess Phillips MP and Lucy Powell MP

Motherhood, childcare, DV and children, and a new push on Sure Start

Jess Phillips elected to Parliament in May 2015 as the new Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, is making quite a name for herself. Gone are the days when you had to wait a few years to get onto a committee or into a shadow ministerial role. In no time at all Jess has become a Shadow Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Education Minister, and is also a member of the new Women and Equalities Select Committee and is also sitting on a Bill's Committee and on the Welfare and Work Committee Bill too. Phew! If that wasn't enough she is also a mother of two boys, and has her work cut out juggling her home and career. Oh and she had a tricky birth with her second son who was a rather large baby!

Never a woman to be daunted, it seems, she told a Progress Fringe Meeting at the Labour Party Conference 2015 in Brighton, on 'The politics of motherhood: How does public policy shape families and can it do better?' that she drew on her personal experiences and that of others to inform and improve policy makings.

Jess told us: "We have to make sure that any public policies we draft are about understanding what modern families are about. Families are not just a mum and dad and two children. That is rubbish, we now have to talk about blended families. The government's two child policy is forgetting what today's families are like. The government is taking us backwards.

"I definitely draw on my own personal experiences to make public policy, and the thousands of families I have worked with over the years. Public policy can be catastrophic for people or save their lives. In any policy around motherhood, I know there is not enough wrap around childcare, and breakfast clubs, and I know how it affects me as a mother, so that does help inform me. On disabled policy, if there were more disabled MPs, we would have better disability policies. I will use my personal experiences and scream up for all the Mums in the World. I would like to see 0 to 5 fully funded child-care, and it does come down to economics. We need to invest in our future through childcare and investing in better outcomes for the Treasury."

As a former head of a domestic and sexual violence organisation, she is currently an expert on domestic and sexual violence services too and she is going to use that knowledge to try and change the way people think: She told another fringe event: "Children are the hidden victims of domestic violence. There is no psychological or supportive care for children, it doesn't exist."

On life as an MP Jess says: "Westminster is full of 25 year old men called Will, Tom and Ben. It definitely still needs reforming, until we have 50/50 women it won't change. It is an old boys club. It is not somewhere women would feel comfortable. The late hours don't affect me as I don't go home to my family but stay over. I don't know why we don't just work 9 to 5 like everybody else. I think we should move Parliament to Birmingham. The building is the way we keep to the old traditions and we could modernise it."

Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, and the Shadow Education Minister, said: "We are going to hold the government to account on its promises where it is falling short on these, so that the extra provision is met. We are going to make sure the funding is there so we can continue to see increases in quality in child-care. The Sure Start models is absolutely the right one and we need to see how we can renew that missions for early intervention, and multi agency community based approach and rebuild those family hubs for the future."

Listen to Jess and Lucy's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.0MB)

21 September 2015

PMQs gets a Jeremy Corbyn makeover but what lies ahead on the Reform agenda in Parliament?

The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out to reform PMQs on a Wednesday when he is supposed to hold the Prime Minister David Cameron to account for his actions. Last week, he at least began the process of change, with questions that were submitted by Labour supporters called Gail, Marie, Steven and Angela, on housing, tax credit cuts and mental health. It may have sounded more like a local radio phone-in but there was a remarkable degree of acceptance that the weekly noisy exchanges at the Dispatch Box needed to change and that this "experiment" had been worthwhile even if it cannot be maintained in the future when Parliament resumes after the Party conferences.

Here we asked three parliamentarians from the Conservative's, Labour and the Greens how they would reform Westminster in the future. Their suggestions include further reform to PMQs to allow more supplementary questions; moving parliament to the North of the Country while repairs are undertaken; reforming the way amendments are put down to Bills and voted on; the opening up of Bill Committees and reforming the timetabling of amendments; further reforms to the hours.

First we spoke to Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2010, who came in with a reforming zeal, publishing her own paper on: 'The Case for Parliamentary Reform' soon after in November 2010. She is still a reformer and backs Corbyn's attempts to change the culture of Westminster with renewed enthusiasm.

Caroline told us: "I think Corbyn's suggestions are a breath of fresh air. They are entirely sensible we absolutely need to overhaul the way that PMQs works. I know that many of my colleagues don't even go because it is such an excoriating experience. It is so childish, it is so pointless. I think the idea of crowd sourcing more of the questions is a good idea, I have done that myself in advance of PMQs, I put it out on Twitter, and the public could also be putting their questions to the PM. I would also like to see supplementary questions allowed, the PM often brushes off questions, if you were allowed a supplementary, with fewer questions, you just might have more light on the subject."

Caroline also supports the SNP in clapping in debates, not braying as MPs do now, and comments on how present they are: "Their presence here is all to the good". "I think we should move out to the North of the Country to demonstrate that we are not just a metropolitan elite in London. The Commons makes a wonderful museum but is an inadequate place to do serious politics.

"When people come here they go native and lose their reforming zeal. I have been struck by the number of new intake who do think it's crazy, who have come in from high powered business or public sector jobs. Westminster is such a wasteful pointless way of doing it. I hope Heidi will persuade people to change."

Caroline is continuing to push for the reform of the way amendments are put down on Bills: "I have literally seen colleagues pushed into the relevant lobby, even when they don't want to vote that way, and they get pushed in. I wanted to bring in explanatory statements to amendments, and we lost that vote, it is voluntary now, but the whips were against it.

"Many reforms have been cross-party such as changing the sitting hours on a Tuesday which meant we finished at 7pm not 10 pm. There have been small steps forward we have a reforming Speaker, who is open to proposals, and now the Chairs of the Select Committees are elected by the whole House. I would like to see the opening up of the Bill Committees, they are stuffed full of "yes" people who aren't going to rock the boat and that is the next thing we need to reform. We spend 250 hours in queuing up to vote in a four year parliament, if we had electronic voting we would be able to put more amendments to Bills. It is time wasting."

Listen to Caroline's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 11.0MB)

Heidi Allen, the newly elected Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, set out to reform Westminster from her first week as an new MP in May 2015. Coming from a business background Heidi still finds Westminster a bit of a maze.

Heidi told us: "Having run my own business, good decisions are made when we do things well, and I think we need to do more and talk a bit less. It's the value for money that you get in this building, I see waste everywhere. I am the only MP not to do a Maiden Speech, and I am not going to. I would much rather have proper debate and it hasn't mattered much. I seem to do well in the ballot for asking questions such as the Syrian refuge crisis. I was concerned how we can help with that, so I seek the answers to the questions that need answering from the people who can give it to me.

"In terms of reform, I find the voting peculiar. How can you possibly be making quality decisions at one O'clock in the morning as we did last week. Whether the refurb of the building will allow that kind of change I don't know. You make consensus by listening, and we don't do that, we just talk. I have met some really fun people in the SNP, I want to get on with people who want to do stuff and I don't care about the colour of your rosette."

Listen to Heidi's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.4MB)

The Labour MP Helen Goodman, who has represented the Durham seat of Bishop Auckland since 2005 and is the Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform gave us her reaction to her new Leader's first PMQs and said it had: "less gamesmanship"! Helen, has also been a junior minister in Works and Pensions when Labour was in government, so knows what it is like to be asked questions about public policy and be put under scrutiny.

Helen told us: "I thought PMQs was effective, using questions from the public, made it authentic and it boxed off the Prime Minister's sneering at questions, so I thought it was rather clever. There is not adequate health care for those with mental health problems and it was good to raise it. I have got used to the panto aspect of PMQs, you get used to it, but a calmer approach will come across more clearly to the public.

"There is a big reform I would like to see at the Report Stage of a Bill, where it is almost impossible for the opposition to have something debated, but the government can get things onto the statute book without having any debate at all because the timetabling is too short. It was a successful first PMQs for Jeremy Corbyn, not as much gamesmanship which I think is good."

Listen to Helen's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 4.59MB)

Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn for giving an interview to us when he came to Cambridge for his pre-election rally: When asked about appointments to his shadow cabinet, Mr Corby confidently told us: "Women will get half the appointments, it will be gender based." He did fulfil his promise but why did he not appoint one woman to the most senior ministerial positions. Who wants to be the supporting act?

16 July 2015

Women MPs of Achievement

The "Nudge" approach to achieving change for women

Often in politics it is the "nudge" approach to public policy making that pushes change forward. This week two women MPs of different parties tell us of how they have been helping women achieve change.

Dr Therese Coffey MP - Getting there! More Women in the Boardroom

Therese Coffey, the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal has worked with other women in her party to push forward more women in the Boardrooms of the Top FTSE 100 Companies. The 25 per cent target for women's representation has now been met, although they mainly sit as Non-Executive Directors.

Therese told us: "Getting the pipeline of Executive Directors of women is going to take a lot longer. You can't just leap there. What is useful about having more women Non-Ex Directors is that the evidence shows how a more diverse management is good for company performance. In the Conservative Women's Forum we took to this idea very early on. I am so pleased our reports got the full backing of the government and I will continue to push this forward with my good friends."

Therese also has something to say about how daughters help male Directors push change forward and how she "dared" to ask for equal pay herself.

Listen to Therese's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.52MB)

Fiona Mactaggart MP - How lunch and a chat can pave the way for change! The work of the WPLP!

Fiona Mactaggart the Labour MP for Slough, gave us a special exclusive interview as she stepped down as Chair of the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party, a group that meets over lunch and sandwiches every other week. You may not have heard of it, but it has been responsible for putting many issues for women onto the agenda, and succeeding at getting the support of men in their party, and others across party too.

From Domestic Violence to Human Trafficking, to Equal Pay, to prostitution, rape and stalking laws, and even that Harriet Harman Pink Bus the WPLP has confronted and fought for change for women.

As Fiona told us: "I think that we as women have made a real difference, and I think that women in other parties envy us. A lot of Conservative women and Liberal women wish they had Women-only shortlists because they know how slow the change is. We have 99 women MPs (was 101), but the proportion of Labour MPs who are women is increasing enormously, we are close to half. I think that when women and men are equally represented in Parliament, then we can be confident of the future of Britain's democracy and frankly not until then."

Fiona also had a confession to make: "I have to confess I was responsible for the pinkness of the Women's Election bus and it got us onto the front pages of the papers. If we had had a white bus no-one would have known. You have to be prepared to be controversial. Feminism means that you have to be willing to stick your head above the parapet and have it slapped down. And "Yes" it is great to have sisters who say don't worry about it you will be fine."

And she added: "My top personal change for women, was when I was a Home Office Minister I asked Jean Corston to do research on Women in the Justice system and she transformed the lives of women in jail. It came from the wonderful moment you have power when you are a Minister."

Listen to Fiona's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 12.2MB)

27 June 2015

Ann Treneman - Sketch Writer, The Times champions a new word "Splitism"!

She has a birds-eye view of the weekly sword fight between the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the leader of the opposition (acting) Harriet Harman and all the other debates that take place in the Chamber.

Ann Treneman, the Sketch Writer for The Times can be found sitting in the front row of the Press Gallery - often referred to as the Fourth Estate of Government - watching, and diligently making notes of what is said, and importantly, the expressions on the faces of those who make the "said" remarks. She pokes fun at politicians and often describes them as "naught schoolboys" who need a good telling off.

When our executive Producer Boni Sones spoke to Ann minutes before this Wednesday's PMQ, her Sketch had just poked fun at Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, for his suggestions to improve our Courts. "However" - a word Gove does not like - did enter our podcast but Ann spoke about much more including:

How the SNP are doing a good job and are "very vibrant and subtle" but are still "finding their feet"; how sitting in the Gallery is so much better than "Twitter"; how "a lot of good is done in the Chamber" when politicians debate serious issues; how the representation of women in Parliament has "changed out of all recognition"; how Harriet is "the best of the lot"; and how "frightening" being a sketch writer is because "you don't know what is going to happen"!

"However", our best quote of the podcast is: "All humour has a serious side. The reporting of Westminster has gone down and down. We used to have Gallery Reporters who wrote about Debates and we don't have any of that anymore. Almost all of the political stories come out of Downing Street, or what I call 'Splitism' - someone who has disagreed with someone over something small. I think, slightly pompously, Sketch Writers are telling it a bit more like it is. With Twitter you are onto a loser, (I love to do Twitter), it is a lot of people going berserk. They are vibrant and opinionated, and everyone has a major view on PMQs but it is usually nothing to do with what happened in PMQs."

No doubt Michael Gove would have something to say about Ann's use of English and the word "Splitism"! Hopefully, he may in due course, tell us on Twitter. "However"......

Listen to Ann's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.61MB)

19 June 2015

David Lammy MP for Tottenham is hoping to become Labour's candidate to become the Mayor of London. On Wednesday he put a PMQ to the Chancellor George Osborn, standing in for David Cameron the Prime Minister, drawing attention to the significant increase in sexual violence towards women.

Afterwards he stopped to talk to us about why he asked the Prime Minister this question, and how if he becomes Mayor of London, he will take action to prevent such crimes.

"I asked the Chancellor why rape in London over the last ten years is up by 68 per cent, and sexual crime over the past year is up by 35 per cent, that is a staggering increase. And I asked about funding for the police and for more sensitivity towards the victims and the organisations that support them. I have a great platform over the next three months to make this an issue in the Mayoral contest, and to ensure this becomes a bigger issue in the future."

Listen to David's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 4.18MB)

15 June 2015

Is PMQs too rowdy and does David Cameron, the PM, ever answer a question?

Naz Shah MP – Diversity Matters!

Women MPs have their task cut-out to transform the processes of Westminster. This week the acting leader of the opposition, Harriet Harman, accused David Cameron, the PM, of "gloating" to much applause. The new Labour MP, Naz Shah, Bradford West, who fought a particularly hard campaign to win her seat against her abrasive opponent, George Galloway, of the Respect Party, told Mr Cameron that he didn't answer her PMQ adequately. Next week Naz will be giving her Maiden Speech in the House. Here Naz tells us what she thought of all those animal noises and the Prime Ministers style:

"He didn't really answer the question, Bradford has been neglected for many years but even so it was very important for my Constituents to get a PMQ. Diversity matters, I think the Parties do need more diversity, whether it is the EdStone debate or anything else, diversity is worth its weight in gold because it brings different opinions to the table."

Listen to Naz's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.04MB)

Pat Glass MP - Is PMQs Not PMQs?

We also asked another outspoken critic of PMQs, or as she calls it "Not PMQs", Pat Glass, the Labour MP for North West Durham what difference reforming this weekly Wednesday ritual would make. Pat told us she often spoke about it to young people:

"It is incredible bad for politics. Which young girl looking at that would think 'that is what I would like to do?'. I have never seen this level of sexism, it is 50 years behind the rest of the Country. It is appalling what goes on in that Chamber, and some of it is infantile. Working class women, women with an accent and the younger women get some really bad behaviour in the House and it is particularly unacceptable. I say to young girls this will not change until we get 50 per cent of the MPs in parliament to be women."

Listen to Pat's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.76MB)

116 MPs have become "Arthritis Champions" in the new 2015 Parliament.

We spoke to the CEO of Arthritis Research UK, Dr Liam O'Toole, about how MPs of all Parties are helping to push forward the new campaign to encourage more people to be "Arthritis Champions". The Charities manifesto sets out to "Prevent, Transform, and Cure", and it was sent to all PPCs in the run up to the Election:

There are now 116 Arthritis Champion MPs in Parliament and going forward the charities 'Ask' is for more personalised care for the individual. Who knows soon they might even get a PMQ asked by one of their champions on their behalf and even the first parliamentary debate on Arthritis. Surprisingly there has never been one.

Dr O'Toole said: "We were blown away with the response."

Listen to Liam's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.15MB)

4 June 2015

Heidi Allen MP - her first "intervention" in the Chamber and doing politics differently!

Heidi Allen, the new Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire took her own Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and Labour's Andy Burnham the Shadow Health Secretary to task for sounding too adversarial in Tuesday's Health debate. Without even the normal protocol of her first speech in the Chamber being her Maiden Speech, which has now been relaxed, she got to her feet and "intervened" on the "pair" telling them that they should be more positive about the National Health Secretary and its new CEO Simon Stevens.

Heidi said: "Let's let Simon Stevens get on with it and help him deliver his five year plan. They sounded like Meerkats - and Wildlife at One - I was so angry, I couldn't sit on my hands any longer I had to get up on my feet and say something. I had a good seat and caught Any Burnham's eye, I only had to Meerkat for four or five times."

Listen to Heidi's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 10.1MB)

28 May 2015

The Class of 2015 and reaction to the Queen's Speech

We asked three leading members of the opposition parties to give us their reaction to the Conservative government's planned new legislative programme contained in this week's Queen's Speech.

Measures include an EU Referendum Bill, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Bills, a new Bill of Rights to replace the European Human Rights Act, and free childcare of up to 30 hours a week for three and four-year-olds with two working parents. There was mention of 26 proposed new Bills covering many areas of life from housing to energy security, to health and social care, abusive substances and more devolution to towns and cities.

We gave three leading women MPs - Seema Malholtra, Shadow Home Office Minister for Labour, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh for the SNP and Baroness Julie Smith for the Liberal Democrat's five minutes each to outline their opposition parties views on the Speech. We will soon be asking Conservative Minister's how they plan to implement the proposals.

Seema: "Cameron is good at talking the rhetoric but he is covering up what is going to happen to those who are struggling. He is playing with fire in dividing up the Nation. We need unity not division."

Tasmina: "As a mother of four we should have maximum childcare available to all. Women fall way short of representation in the House of Commons, the SNP do well, but we do need equality. I am very proud of being a Scottish Asian woman MP."

Baroness Julie Smith: "I was expecting more to be in the Speech. The idea of fairness was not in it, which it would have been if the LDs were still in government. The Conservative's themselves are split on the new Bill of Rights and they appear to be back-peddling on it already."

Listen to the interviews:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 15.1MB)

27 May 2015

The class of 2015 and their Maiden Speeches

The wheels of Westminster politics are moving seamlessly into another five year fixed term Parliament. Of the 187 women MPs now elected, 81 are new but two have been MPs before so in all there will be 79 official Maiden Speeches which could begin shortly after the Queen has delivered her Speech today. (For the men there will be 98).

Maiden Speeches are a defining moment for MPs, particularly women who get more criticism for their voice skills. Convention has it that they speak about their constituencies and the issues they care about most, rather than draw swords with their opponents. As they stand in the Chamber, they will be required to speak from memory not notes but as our Executive Producer, Boni Sones has been finding out, your friends might lend you a helping hand. Here we asked six women MPs what issues they would be championing and the advice they had been given for their Maiden Speeches.

Conservative - Seema Kennedy, South Ribble: Small businesses, farming, defence and rights for older people - "The Commons Library have been very helpful and sent us two of my predecessors Maiden Speeches."

or download the MP3 file (file size: 1.97MB)

Labour - Colleen Fletcher, Coventry: Domestic Violence and FGM – "I'm the first woman MP for my constituency so maybe women's issues, communities and housing."

Labour - Karin Smyth, Bristol South: Decent apprenticeships, housing, the NHS and social care – "I have read Dawn's Primarolo's speech, mine will mention job opportunities, youth unemployment, education and access to work. All Bristol's four MPs are now women."

or download the MP3 file (file size: 6.31MB)

Labour - Kate Osamor, Edmonton: Health – "We've been told to salute and remember our predecessor!"

or download the MP3 file (file size: 3.28MB)

SNP - Anne McLaughlin, Glasgow North East: Welfare benefits, unemployment, suicides, drug addiction, alcohol addiction - "I'm going to talk about the incredible voluntary work that goes on in my constituency. I'm looking forward to learning to speak note less too."

or download the MP3 file (file size: 8.03MB)

SNP - Michelle Thomson, Edinburgh West: Small business growth, getting liquidity into the economy - "I represent people who are affluent and also those who are struggling. I chose to affirm rather than take the Oath to the Queen."

or download the MP3 file (file size: 5.49MB)

18 May 2015

The new Girls on the Block and their Maiden Speeches 2015

So they are unpacking their bags and getting used to life as a Westminster MP. But just what issues will women across party talk about in their Maiden Speeches when Parliament resumes this week.

Here we talk to Catherine West who bucked the national swing to the Conservative's by winning an 11000 majority for Labour over the Liberal Democrats to take the seat of Hornsey and Wood Green from Lynne Featherstone. Catherine has won a national award for her leadership of the London council of Islington, and she knows the issues she will be campaigning on in Westminster including better public services and the London Living Wage of £9.15 an hour. Her Maiden Speech may even mention those contract workers cleaning government buildings who are not paid the minimum wage of £6.50. Catherine talks to Boni Sones, our Executive producer.

or download the MP3 file (file size: 7.34MB)

The UK jumped up 20 places to 39th in the world for women's representation (it was 59th) after the May 2015 General Election. There are now a record number of women MPs in Westminster - 187 (up from 148) representing 28 per cent of all MPs. Labour has 100 (44 per cent); Cons 64 (19.4 per cent); Lib Dems 0 (was 7); and The Scottish Nationalist Party 18 (out of 57) and this includes the youngest MP since the 17th Century, Mhairi Black who is 20. The Greens have 1 (100 per cent) Caroline Lucas. Women are well represented in leadership positions. Nicola Sturgeon leads the SNP; Leanne Wood leads Plaid Cymru; Natalie Bennett leads The Green Party; and Harriet Harman is Labour's acting leader; while Suzanne Evans is deputy leader for UKIP.

March 2015

Throwing in the Towel - How Labour women MPs fought to change Westminster politics

On 30 March 2015, when Parliament concludes, ten Labour women MPs will be "throwing in the towel". Together they have served a remarkable 200 years in Westminster. The list includes two former Secretaries of State, Tessa Jowell and Hazel Blears, and five former ministers or junior ministers; Anne McGuire, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, Glenda Jackson and Joan Ruddock, as well as former parliamentary private secretary Sian James and committee chair Joan Walley. Their colleague Linda Riordan, another committee stalwart, is also now standing down.

Together they have put major new government laws on the statute book, on everything from equality to education, the environment and civil partnerships. Even the 2012 Olympics might not have come to London, but for the more than ten years that Tessa Jowell spent pushing for it.

To mark their achievements the History of Parliament Trust joined with Women's Parliamentary Radio to recorded 'Tribute' interviews with eight of them, which will be placed in the Trust's archives.

In Part One we talk to Dame Joan Ruddock, Tessa Jowell and Hazel Blears. They are interviewed by Jackie Ashley and Deborah Mcgurran.

In Part Two we hear from Joan Walley, Dawn Primarolo, Anne McGuire, Meg Munn and Sian James. They are interviewed by Boni Sones, Linda Fairbrother and Deborah Mcgurran.

Listen to Part One:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 9.22MB)

Listen to Part Two:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 14.5MB)

Our two books charting women's modern political progress. 'Women in Parliament: The New Suffragettes' was published in 2005 and nominated for the Orwell Prize in Journalism. 'When There's a Woman in the Room - Women MPs Shaping Public Policy' was published in May 2014 and won accolades in the House.

You can read Boni's earlier 2005 article in the Guardian on how Belittled women MPs of all parties felt by the media coverage of them, including Mo Mowlam, Vera Baird, Harriet Harman, Theresa May and Caroline Spelman.

Our Tribute interview: February 2015

'Cutting greenhouse gases and monitoring our environmental targets in 2015'

Joan Walley MP Stoke-on-Trent, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee

Joan Walley, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee who has represented Stoke-on-Trent North, since 1987 calls herself a "behind the scenes below the radar" MP. This interview is to mark her considerable achievements in Parliament over 28 years on the environment. She steps down in May 2015.

In 2015 two important environmental conferences will be held one in Paris to agree carbon budgets and another in NY looking at the Sustainable Development Goals.

Labour's 2008 Climate Change Act established the world's first legally binding climate change targets. It commits the UK government to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent (from a 1990 baseline) by 2050.

Joan Hot Quote: "We are world leaders in respect of carbon budgets. I was involved in helping to lobby for that with others and NGOs, pushing it onto the statute book and then once there making sure it is implemented at every level.

"It is important to have a Committee like ours looking at policy in detail not just the rhetoric. If you look at the 15 or so reports we have done on air quality, on food policy on subsidy, on green finance on international development a whole string of reports on the arctic, you can really see that we are drilling down.

"Over the next parliament there is a huge amount of work that needs doing within the Cabinet office and the Office of National Statistics as to how we work to make a reality of the Sustainable Development Goals which I hope will be agreed in New York in 2015 which will apply as much to developing countries as it will to developed countries."

Listen to Joan's interview:

or download the MP3 file (file size: 16.1MB)

The Boni Sones OBE and Associates Archives

The 'Boni Sones and Associates' Archive opens at the LSE on 8th September 2014. These links will take you there.

This database of significant interviews can now be accessed by permission only. Please email: for more information.

These two websites are now an important historic archive. In all we conducted approximately 350 interviews with women Politicians in the UK Parliament and in Parliaments all over the World from March 2007 to March 2014 ending with the International Women's Day Debate 2014 on the contribution of women to the economy.

A new book written by Boni Sones OBE tells the story of our seven years of broadcasting: 'When There's a Woman in the Room - Women MPs Shaping Public Policy', first published in March 2014.

You can now read about our 350 audio interviews, the journalists who conducted them, and the MPs who supported us, together with an MP "Hot Quote" beside each report in this new book. There are international interviews too with women parliamentarians in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Boni has looked at: Childcare and Parenting; Women's Representation in public life; Equal pay and low pay; Women in the Boardrooms; Violence against women, DV, Stalking, Prostitution, Forced Marriage, FGM; Women in Government and the Shadow Cabinets; The men supporting women; Campaigning women of the past; International issues and parliaments; Campaigning in the Constituency; Speaking in the Chamber and Westminster Hall; Campaigning in Parliamentary Groups; Web links, blogs, and press articles.

The British Library and now The Bodleian Library Oxford University, The Cambridge University Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales and Trinity College Dublin have all requested a copy of the book. The National People's History Museum in Manchester, have said they liked it. Here is what the History of Parliament Society have said:

"Dear Boni,

Just picked up your book - many thanks for sending it, and congratulations on completing it and getting it out. It's a good read and a great stimulus to us - our own oral history project is now under way and will eventually be a complement to yours.

Best wishes
Dr Paul Seaward, Director, History of Parliament Society."

Five Star Review on Amazon:

"This book follows Sones's previous examination and analysis of women in Westminster, which provided a fascinating insight into the progress - and lack of - made in addressing the gender imbalance in Parliament. When There's a Woman in the Room takes us on the next leg of the journey, looking into the impact and views of women in Westminster on the key public policy issues of the day. Using these issues as a lense through which to gauge the role of female parliamentarians works really well, providing a revealing account of the ways in which the UK has and hasn't changed in terms of both gender equality and in relation to a backdrop of economic downturn and public expenditure cuts. Generally an interesting read, but especially valuable for those interested in women's role in 21st century British politics."