The findings of the Mumsnet survey on UK politics are damning but sadly come as no surprise. Ninety per cent of those polled believe the culture in Westminster is sexist. Eighty five per cent do not view the UK parliament as family friendly. Two thirds want more women in top political jobs and three quarters believe Prime Minister’s Question is unprofessional and outdated.
Of course, on a day when our political leaders are grappling with the fall-out resulting from their attempts to try to win over voters by hiring a tabloid journalist who had resigned due to phone-hacking accusation, the survey will not be making front page headlines.
It should do, though. Because if our political leaders spent a little less time engaging in macho posturing and political point-scoring and a little more time listening to the concerns of parents, they might just hit on an election-winning formula.
The electorate is massively disillusioned with mainstream politics. The electorate is also much sharper than politicians give them credit for. Parents are used to people attempting to pull the wool over their eyes. And they look at politicians’ cynical attempts to use spin doctors to ‘manage’ the news and see right through it.
What they want is action not words. Concrete policies to transform our archaic and inherently sexist political system. Not empty promises designed to win the Mumsnet vote.
And let’s be honest here. We are not talking about the need for some tinkering under the bonnet. Not even a reconditioned engine. We need an entirely new vehicle to drive politics forward so that it is fit for purpose in a modern age.
In my novel The Mummyfesto, the main characters Sam, Anna and Jackie decide to set up a new political party and run in the general election because they are fed up with their views and concerns not being represented in parliament and believe a bunch of mums could make a better job of it.
Far-fetched? It couldn’t really happen outside the pages of a novel could it? The establishment are fond of telling us we are being ridiculous when any ideas which challenge the status quo are put forward. But it’s up to us to prove them wrong.
What Sam, Anna and Jackie do is harness the power of women’s voices in social media to get their campaign rolling. And that is something women have been doing a lot of in the real world lately. Whether it’s the No More Page Three campaign, which has forced Rupert Murdoch into an embarrassing admission that it may be very last century, or the campaigns to get a woman on a banknote and mothers’ names on marriage certificates, women are demonstrating that they are out there campaigning and forcing through change. Because in social media there are no rules excluding women, it can be accessed in and around women’s busy lives. And it can make a world of difference.
If we can work together, we can make our voices heard. And make politicians understand that this is not about squeezing an extra woman or two into the system. It’s about the need to scrap the system entirely and create something new, something fitting of this century.
The Lollipop Party in The Mummyfesto call for the Houses of Parliament to be replaced with a network of mini regional parliaments, located in cities across the UK, meaning no one would have to leave their family four days a week to be in London.
This system would allow all MPs to live in the constituency they represent, connecting them with voters and putting an end once-and-for-all to expenses scandals. The regional parliaments would operate in school hours and would be electronically linked. The adversarial system of opposing government benches, which encourage the ya-boo politics so hated by the electorate, would be replaced with members speaking in turn from around the country, thus enabling a more collegiate approach - something women would relish.
The members would do something which women across the country do all the time, sit down and talk through problems in a civil fashion and take immediate action to put things right. As opposed to shouting and screaming the odds at each other in a debating chamber for over-grown public schoolboys, that is. A debating chamber where it’s OK for our Prime Minister to tell a female MP to ‘calm down dear’.
The news for Mr Cameron is that women are not feeling calm right now about their lack of a stake in public life. They are feeling angry and justifiably so. And he may like to know that the ‘traditional male bastion of power’, otherwise known as The Houses of Parliament, is also looking very last century indeed.
All it needs is for the half of the population who aren’t served by the current system to get together and bring it all tumbling down.