A century after the UK saw its first female member of Parliament, one political party is adopting non-traditional “guerrilla tactics” in its attempts to advance the debate over gender in British politics.
The Women’s Equality Party is embracing its position as a non-partisan “political startup” of 35,000 members ahead of Thursday’s general election and using its small but media-savvy base to pressure more established opponents to adopt its policies. Getting anyone elected this time around is more of an afterthought.
All of its candidates are survivors of sexual abuse and they’re standing only in the seats most recently held by male lawmakers accused of some form of harassment. Four of the five lawmakers targeted have now opted not to stand for re-election, something party leader Mandu Reid counts as a victory even before any ballots are cast.
“Utopia is that the candidates we’re standing are returned to Parliament as our very first elected MPs,” Reid said in an interview. “However, we’re realists in the Women’s Equality Party. This election was never about trying to accumulate votes, this is about exerting influence.”
In an election that’s seen deals between parties as they seek to avoid splitting voters on the key issue of Brexit, WEP —which was founded at London’s Women of the World festival in 2015 —is joining the trend. Last month it stood down its candidate in London’s City and Westminster constituency in favor of Chuka Umunna, a high-profile Liberal Democrat who defected from the main opposition Labour Party. In return Umunna has agreed to back changes to the law that would allow voters to oust members of parliament found guilty of sexual harassment or abuse. WEP put the issue at the forefront of its campaign after as many as 20 British politicians were publicly accused in the last two years.
Umunna would also push measures to support abuse survivors and increase refuge provision.And he’s not the only candidate from a rival party to draw backing from WEP.