The 2019 general election saw more women run for (and win)seats in the House of Commons than ever before. However the level of abuse those women received was also higher than ever, and affected them disproportionately compared with men. Sofia Collignon explains what we can learn from the data about the experience of female candidates.
After parliament voted in November 2019 to trigger an election – which took place in December – a record number of women presented themselves for office, as 37% of candidates were female. This is an improvement of eight percentage points over the number of women standing just two years earlier, in 2017 (29%). Perhaps more relevant is that a record number of female candidates actually went on to become MPs (220), comprising 34% of the total number of members of the House of Commons (+5%) and making up a majority of both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs. The increase in the number of women standing for office and winning a seat is undeniable progress for the representation of women in the UK. But this positive scenario becomes more pessimistic if the violence experienced by women in politics is considered.
Drawing on data from the Representative Audit of Britain (RAB) survey of 2019 candidates, this blog post summarises the degree to which women and men candidates suffered harassment and intimidation while campaigning for the 2019 general election in the UK and the nature of the abuse they experienced. It shows that women are distinctly affected by abuse, harassment and intimidation in two ways: the frequency of the abuse and the motivation behind it.
The frequency of abuse
The analysis of RAB 2019 responses indicates that 49% of candidates reported that they suffered some form of abuse, harassment or intimidation while campaigning. This is an increase of 11 percentage points compared with 2017. The proportion is significantly higher for women (61%) than men (44%). It is particularly worrying to notice that, despite multiple initiatives, the findings of a 2017 inquiry by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) and frequent media coverage, harassment against women increased by 16 percentage points, almost twice the increase observed among men (see Figure 1). Not only were more women standing for office, but they were also reporting more acts of intimidation, threats, physical and psychological violence.
The 2019 general election is now complete, but there is still plenty to say about the campaign, the rules that governed it, and the new parliament it has produced. Luke Moore summarises the contributions at our final seminar of 2019, where Unit staff were joined by other experts to dicuss the lessons of the election.
On Monday 16 December the Constitution United hosted an event entitled Election Replay with the Experts, at which four leading political scientists, including the Director and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit, looked back on the 2019 general election. The issues discussed included polling, women’s representation, the rules of the electoral game, and the effect of the election on the new parliament. The event was chaired by Unit Research Associate Lisa James.
Ben Lauderdale – polling
Ben Lauderdale, Professor of Political Science at UCL, started the evening by discussing the performance of polling at the election. During the election campaign Lauderdale had been involved in producing the much-discussed ‘MRP’ (multilevel regression and post-stratification) polling used to predict constituency results. His central message was that after two general elections — in 2015 and 2017 — in which some of the polls proved to be significantly out of step with the results, polling for the 2019 election is largely a non-story, as most pollsters were on target in their predictions. Further, the accuracy of the polls meant that the media was (in retrospect and in Lauderdale’s view) discussing the right topics during the election campaign. The most important of these was the prospect of a Conservative majority, but also the specific demographic and geographic weaknesses of the 2017 Labour coalition. While the terminology was a bit reductive and silly, it was not wrong to have focused on the vulnerability of Labour’s ‘red wall’ and Conservative appeals to ‘Workington man’. Continue reading →
In December 2013, Mexico’s Congress approved amendments to articles 25, 27and 28 of its constitution, ending the national oil company’s 53-year monopoly over the country’s hydrocarbons. The company, PEMEX, is now permitted to associate with the private sector in the extraction and refinement of oil, and private companies are able to participate in the production and commercialisation of electric energy. The controversial reforms were framed by ideological discussions, misunderstandings and public concerns about the future of the country. The PRD (the Mexican left) fought hard to block the changes, even blocking access to the Legislative chamber to prevent members of Congress from discussing the reform. Despite the controversy, a coalition composed of PRI and PAN MPs was able to change the articles, which were previously considered to be “untouchable”.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has maintained that the amendments will continue the national ownership of hydrocarbons, while allowing the company to seek alternative sources of national and international funding that it desperately needs to continue operating. Nevertheless, the public fears that it is a step backwards and a clear indication that the PRI (the hegemonic party that governed the country for more than 70 years) has returned to the presidency with the same privatisation style that characterised the years leading up to the transition to democracy, a strategy that resulted in a major economic crisis in 1994. So what do these reforms mean in real terms for the country? Why are they so controversial?
In March 1938, President Lazaro Cardenas gave a radio speech announcing Mexico’s oil reserves were to be nationalised, seizing it from the hands of international companies. The move was welcome in a country still suffering from the aftermath of a civil war and struggling to consolidate its governmental institutions. Numerous demonstrations supporting the initiative took place and people donated what they could to “pay the oil rescue”. However, Mexico didn’t have enough money to indemnify the international companies and the expropriation generated strong international pressure to boycott nationalisation. It wasn’t until 1947 that the debt was finally paid.