COLUMN: 'Westminster? More like Pestminster' - Charlotte Butterick

In My View with Charlotte Butterick, women's and young people's campaigner

By Staff Reporter
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 9:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 9:17 am
Charlotte Butterwick
Charlotte Butterwick

Fifty-six MPs are currently under investigation for 70 incidents of sexual misconduct – a staggering 8.6 per cent of Parliament. One includes a criminal allegation that an MP “bribed a member of staff in return for sexual favours”.

The Netflix drama ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ is depressingly close to the truth; the ‘Bullingdon Club’ mentality has seeped into our corridors of power. The ‘shenanigans’ of ‘the boys’ in Parliament are no laughing matter and raise a deeper, darker issue about the treatment of women everywhere. When MPs act in this way and show such disregard for women, how can they expect the public to behave any better?

Last year, I organised the Halifax vigil for Sarah Everard - the young woman tragically murdered by a policeman in London. Since her death, over 125 more women have been murdered in Britain. On average, around 17 women in West Yorkshire are sexually assaulted every day. In Calderdale this year, attacks against women reached their highest rates ever.

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From the vigil held in Halifax last year

After the vigil, I was contacted by hundreds of women across Calderdale, from all ages and backgrounds sharing their experiences of misogyny, harassment and sexual misconduct. Despite some campaigning since the 50s, little has changed – undoubtedly linked to how normalised misogyny is and how it exists everywhere. Too many times women are left out of jobs, meetings, public roles or institutions. Our voices aren’t heard as often or as loudly as they should.

I was proud to stand with the Calderdale community last year to say ‘no more’ to misogyny and violence against women. The momentum built from this and #MeToo gave us a sense things would be different. We burst the bubble on how women feel; all women are familiar with that hum of fear walking a dark street at night and too many experience catcalling, harassment or intimidation. A clear message emerged that action must focus not on what women can do to keep safe from men, but on how men can stop being dangerous to women. Yet why is this not happening in Parliament? This rank hypocrisy of MPs sets a terrible example.

An MP caught watching porn may be the tip of Westminster’s misogyny iceberg to spark change, but women continue to face barriers and prejudice upon entering politics. Only 32 per cent of MPs, 33 per cent of local councillors and 17 per cent of council leaders are women - making us severely under-represented. It’s slightly better in Calderdale with 43 per cent female councillors, but still not equal.

Giving talks in schools across Calderdale, I get a sense that, aside from the hostilities to women in Parliament, young girls are put off politics altogether through lack of female representation and inspiration. We have some phenomenal women in our region, and we all have a responsibility to tackle misogyny and the toxicity poisoning politics.

It’s time we set better examples for young people in our valley. Let’s start by getting more women into Parliament to clean up the mess and ensure politics is fairer, safer and better for everyone.