I’m Not Man Enough to Vote Green

I left a swirling ball of rage – how had I been tricked in to almost voting for them?!

 

A report back from Cardiff Hustings 2015 – What will parties do to help women achieve and prosper in Wales?

On 24th February in a lecture theatre at Cardiff University, Chwarae Teg in association with NUS Wales, invited representatives from some of the main political parties to present their party’s vision for increasing women’s participation should they win the 2015 General Election. WWAWM sent me to be there to experience the discussion; jaw-dropping face-palms and all. Here is what I learnt from good- to bad- to worse….

The representatives (in left to right seating order)

UKIP – Anthony Raybould

Conservatives – Tracey West

Green Party – Chris von Ruhland

Labour Party – Jo Stevens

Plaid Cymru – Martin Pollard

Liberal Democrats – Eluned Parrott.

The highlights

  • The audience was about 70 in number (a reasonable turnout for a talk about women that starts at 6pm on a school night) and had a relatively even mix between genders.
  • Lib dem candidate Eluned Parrott used her 2 minute presentation to discuss specialist software which anonymously analyses a company’s payroll to determine if there is a gender pay gap present. She is for the enforced publication of such data for medium to large companies and would introduce extra free nursery places. When asked a question about the Lord Rennard scandal, the candidate gave a well-rehearsed answer which although did little to absolve the party of fault in their response, at least recognised wrongdoing and promised a change in party policy. Is this enough? Watch this space.
  • Plaid’s candidate Martin was easily the most politically savvy of the evening and was genuinely convincing when talking about his party’s commitment to end zero hour contracts (an idea the UKIP candidate was surprisingly also in favour of), introduction of the living wage, an end to the ‘bedroom tax’ and an extra year of free nursery places. Martin later went on to correct the UKIP candidate when the latter managed to imply that a man who had previously been in a relationship with a woman cannot be guilty of harassing her. It won Martin a well-deserved round of applause from an audience, at this point weary of the increasingly worrisome comments made about women, but too polite to heckle.
  • Labour’s candidate Jo Stevens is a trade union solicitor and gave an excellent account of herself and her party’s policies including the abolition of community- based resolutions by way of an apology in instances where violence in the home as occurred. Jo deftly batted away any criticism of Labour’s dismal election result in 2010 and it was clear to see why she is tipped as a rising star in the party. In fact, it was surprising to learn that she is a first time candidate as she was so en pointe with her retorts to the Coalition candidates’ argument that Labour ‘wasted’ money on welfare. She was believable and convincing in her statements that she is an advocate for social justice and has entered politics in order to improve society. She may well end up convincing disillusioned former Labour supporters in Cardiff to return to the fold.

The lowlights

  • UKIP candidate Anthony Raybould largely stumbled through his opening speech but managed to throw in a few crowd pleasers with easy winning platitudes; pointing out that he is ‘for’ equal pay, but against violence and child abuse. How thoroughly modern! During his largely rambling and shambolic speech it was tempting to look off stage and imagine a giant hook wielded by Farage, prepped to yank him off. To give the candidate his due, he later went on to partially redeem himself by stating that he believes in marriage equality and an end to the Welfare Reforms as they leave too many excluded. Look, a ‘kipper with a heart!
  • The Conservative representative Tracey West was suspiciously absent from any of the promotional literature and stated several times throughout the evening that she could not comment on various questions (austerity measures, welfare reforms, childcare) because she ‘was not a member of the party’ when they were introduced. She clearly had not been briefed to toe the party line (she only mentioned Osborne’s soundbyte ‘long term economic plan’ once!) and was by far the least polished of all the candidates. Her inclusion in the evening and indeed as an election candidate (she is standing in the almost unwinnable Blaenau Gwent) felt uncomfortably tokenistic. In a bizarre response to a question about parental leave, Tracey stated that she had ‘difficulty empathising’ with parents because she has no children. One wonders how she would cope with Disability legislation, anti-racism legislation et al. The answer, I suspect would be, ‘not very well’. Tracey finished on an unintentionally comedic moment when she was asked by an audience member why she was standing as a Conservative candidate and she responded by saying she had discussed it with her father and husband who both thought it was a good idea! Sigh.
  • Chris von Ruhland of the Green party had a shocker of an evening to round off a terrible week for the party (I’m referring to THAT radio interview about social housing) and I SO wanted to like him. I don’t have an allegiance to any particular party but I agree with a lot of the Greens’ policies and until this week, genuinely thought that a vote for the Greens might shake up the political landscape. I mean they are so progressive, right? BIG MISTAKE. The candidate Chris began by making an argument for implementing mandatory quotas to ensure 40% of board members and directors are women. This suggestion was roundly rejected by the Liberal Democrat candidate who fired off a list of reasons why she doesn’t think they would work. Personally, I am undecided on quotas but Chris, just sat, mouth agape like a stuffed mullet and was unable to defend his position. Ok, so I know this is hardly ‘Question Time’ but he is a veteran candidate and considering that this was the policy he decided to prioritise and discuss first; I was more than a little taken aback that he had not thought ahead of ANY POSSIBLE RESPONSE to any criticisms that might be levelled at the fairly controversial policy. More crushingly disappointing moments flowed throughout the evening when he veered from one disastrous comment to another, most notably when asked a question about the lack of women MPs, Chris meandered around the issue and ended on a toe-curlingly inappropriate comment about how ‘women talk so much more than men anyway’. To gasps of astonishment from the audience, he then attempted to pacify them by yelling ‘It’s a scientific fact’ to the chorus of jeers. Did I mention this candidate is AN ACTUAL SCIENTIST? He is a Doctor of Biotechnology at Cardiff University. We all know that STEM subjects have historically had a problem with welcoming female participation in the field – it makes you wonder how this is ever going to improve with attitudes that belong in the Jurassic period. Maybe someone should remind Chris that we do not have gender parity in Parliament, the workplace, the media or indeed any other such structure? So actually, it’s clear that women have less of a voice than men. I for one, am tired of hearing middle-aged white men on the left decrying that we don’t listen to middle-aged, white men. Chris did not appear to have any insight in to this at all and as I saw his eyes dart lustfully towards the exit, I can’t have been the only person wondering what he was doing here. Just when he thought his salvation had come, he was then asked a strongly worded question from the audience by a former Green Party hopeful who, despite being an experienced and willing candidate, didn’t ever make it to selection. She felt that she had experienced exclusion at the hands of the male members of the Party and wanted to know if this behaviour had changed. Chris looked dumbfounded at the question and repeated several times that his Party was a very small party and as such didn’t have those ‘kind’ of issues. The audience member persisted and cited several examples about meetings held in public houses in evenings which she was unable to attend due to childcare problems. Again, Chris looked bemused and repeated that he doesn’t think the Greens have a problem with this. Failing to grasp that it’s not always apparent to men that they may be in a privileged position and that, by continuing to ignore this, he was actually denying a woman’s lived experience and her right to question her ill treatment. As the pièce de résistance to his tomfoolery, he ended with another question from the audience (concerning measures parties will take to help end violence against women), by ever-so-helpfully pointing out that some men are abused by female partners. How this was intended to answer the question, I really do not know but I’m sure it was an insightful reminder to all present how men really should be at the centre of everything. Not. I left the lecture theatre a swirling ball of rage, if this is the candidate the Greens voluntary send to discuss women’s issues – what on Earth are the others like?! And how had I been tricked in to almost voting for them? I swiftly came to the conclusion that despite the fact the Greens are led by Natalie Bennett and have a relative gender mix in their Executive body; a vote for them surely only benefits men.

Thank you to the organisers for holding the debate which continued on twitter under #cthustings – it is great to see women on the agenda.

What would you have liked to have been discussed at the Hustings? Let us know in the comments.

by Leanne Teahan

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12 Comments on I’m Not Man Enough to Vote Green

  1. James Lundie // 03/06/2015 at 10:04 am // Reply

    I too was on the verge of voting for the Green Party this May, but have been dissuaded by the performance of their leader in Wales, Pippa Bartolotti, in a talk last week at the Welsh Governance Centre, Cardiff University.

    I’ve completed the ‘Vote for policies’ survey online and know that it is the Green manifesto that most aligns with my views, but I have no confidence that there is a professional party of government ready to deliver these. This speech was so scatter gun and incoherent that I really can’t tell you what it was about; windmills, anti-austerity, anti mono-culture farming, electoral reform, gender parity in public bodies & boardrooms? All topics in which I am interested, and all topics that Pippa successfully managed to convince me that the Greens are not capable of addressing… yet.

    The message was clear that the disenfranchised groups of people that Green Party are meant to want to help, are largely just something they’ve read about. I’m not interested in personality politics, but I do want a capable candidate I can respect and feel confident in. If you want an anti-austerity vote in Wales then Plaid Cymru are the way to go. If you are afraid of the possible outcome of FPTP, vote Labour.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Leanne,
    I am a Green Party prospective candidate in Stockton South and I agree with you, as a Party we need more women to enter the fray, it sounds like you had a hard time of it getting this middle class white man to see things from a feminist perspective, I only hope I am able to do better at the Women in Politics Question Time event I am attending this evening in Newcastle, as a radical feminist I think and hope I can!!!
    I am genuinely sorry that you and the other women there had such a hard time with this candidate and I wanted to let you know that there are those of us who know things need to change and are working on it!!
    It would be great to have more women like you, who know what needs to be done to stand with and help us to change and grow as a party, so please don’t give up on us just yet!!
    Yours in solidarity and sisterhood,
    jacqui

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  3. Chris von Ruhland // 03/06/2015 at 11:41 pm // Reply

    I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to Leanne’s criticisms of my performance at the hustings organised by Chwarae Teg and will do so in the order in which they are made.
    The implementation of a mandatory, minimum 40% quota of women on the boards of major companies is Green Party policy. Women currently ‘enjoy’ only about 15% representation. The purpose is to work towards gender balance at the highest level with a view to providing more female role models. Each candidate was allowed to address the question and there was no provision for further debate between them, presumably due to time constraints.
    Regarding (the lack?) of women MPs (there are currently 148 out of 650) I pointed out that 100% of our MPs are women, that the leader of both the England and Wales Green Party and Wales Green Party are women and that our first two MEPs were women. When requesting members to stand as candidates in elections, if no women are forthcoming in any particular constituency, we make a specific request for women to put themselves forward.
    Regarding the alleged comment “women talk so much more than men anyway”, this was not what I actually said. The proposition that I wanted to explore was that institutions may be organisationally sexist, in that their structures have evolved to reflect male working practices and hierarchies, since they have traditionally been the preserve of men and that this may represent an additional barrier to the achievement of gender equality in the workplace (along with the more obvious ones; insufficient diverse role models, lack of flexible work times and child care). That differences appear to exist between men and women (apart from the obvious anatomical ones) has led to much controversy and it has been suggested that these result primarily from social stereotyping. My suggestion that women talk more than men was based on information from a senior lecturer in psychology, who, I assumed, know something about the subject. If it is incorrect, I withdraw the remark unreservedly. The point I was attempting (rather badly) to make was that if such differences exist, they may be the cause of misunderstandings between men and women, but also may complement one another, and an understanding of them may be helpful.
    Middle aged white men on the left? While I am undoubtedly middle aged, white (pinky-brown, actually) and male, this, like my nationality and a host of other traits, is an accident of birth for which I make no apology. As to my political affiliations, I have never been left or right wing; these are, in my opinion, outdated anthropocentric political philosophies that are incapable of addressing the necessity of ecological sustainability. Social justice is an essential prerequisite for this, but will not, alone, lead to it. I invite you to think outside the (left-right) line.
    The former ‘Green Party hopeful’ was expelled from the Green Party for, amongst other things, her disruptive behaviour at local party meetings that made them impossible to conduct. I chose not to reveal this to the people at the hustings as I felt that it was inappropriate to the proceedings. If you care to attend one of our meetings, and you are welcome to do so, you can take note of the many women who are there and the civilised way in which we treat each other. Meetings are held in the evenings, usually at community centres, and may well not be ideal for some members. While meetings in pubs have occurred in the past, these have been side rooms and were chosen because they were free; an important consideration for organisations with limited funds.
    On the issue of violence against women, I observed that this was an issue of respect and that it had to addressed at the earliest possible age. I was taught that ‘you don’t hit girls’. My comment about violence against men was simply a corollary to this. You shouldn’t hit anybody.
    I was not as prepared as I could, or indeed should have been; something for which I kicked myself repeatedly in the days that followed and for which I apologise to all concerned.

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  4. Anne Greagsby // 03/07/2015 at 11:30 pm // Reply

    As the ‘Green Party hopeful’ described by Leanne, I was bullied in Von Ruhland’s Cardiff branch when I challenged gender bias in their Welsh Assembly election list and campaign. I complained at the male chairman misusing his position to abuse me (insult and shout me down), yet von Ruhland claimed at the hustings to know of no male harassment/abuse in the Green Party.

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  5. Leanne Teahan // 03/08/2015 at 3:54 pm // Reply

    Thank you all for your comments.

    @James, I too competed the ‘vote for policies test’ and came out mostly Green. Interesting to see your comments re the talk at the Welsh Gov Centre and I’ll have to look in to that more.

    @Jacqui. Great to hear from you and I look forward to learning more about the realities of standing as a female and feminist political candidat!

    @Chris. Thank you for taking the time to respond.
    I do find some elements of your response a little problematic though and think they merit discussio.
    You state’ ‘alleged’ comment about women talking more than men. You then move on to admit that you DID in fact say it and your justification is that you know an academic who believes the same. The truth of the matter is actually far more nuanced; for each paper which alleges differences between the sexes,there is another paper which denies their existence and cites societal expectations and pressure as the source for differences in female and male behaviour. If anyone is interested in exploring this area further then I would recommend’ Delusions of Gender’ as a great introduction to the subject.
    Moreover, I did not have to research you to know you are a scientist; it was mentioned in your opening biography at the Hustings. I then found it immensely troubling to hear you say something so contentious was a ‘scientific fact’ with such finality when faced with the audience’s evident disquiet. This came across very much as a desire to stifle debate. Women find it difficult enough to enter STEM fields primarily due to this attitude.

    I’m a little perplexed at your opposition to the traditional delineation along left to right lines. Perhaps you’d like to expand further?

    After researching the Cardiff Branch of the Green Party (after your comment) I note the group’s Facebook photo which at a quick glance shows about 10% female membership. I invite you to consider why you think there are not greater numbers of women in your branch. I have today been advised to look at your political Facebook page and was aghast to see the article I have written above being attributed by someone as being authored by your ‘political opponents using unedifying tactics’. This is totally disingenuous. I openly state in the article above that I am not affiliated to any political party (nor is the magazine I write for) and further, I was considering voting Green in 2015. Out of respect for your campaign, I have not commented on this allegation on the page but would appreciate if you clarified matters for your supporters.

    I disagree. I do not believe violence against women to be an issue of respect. It is an issue of power. You should be aware that silencing debate by pointing out the’ plight’ of men is a common tactic of men’s rights activists and people who do not view violence against women at endemic proportions to be an issue. If you agree that violence against women is an issue, I implore you not to mention violence against men in the next breath.

    With respect, I am confident that you are an expert in your chosen field, but I (not being an expert) would not turn up at one of your lectures/debates wholly unprepared. I rather suspect that if I did, you would feel that such a complacent attitude did not not show your subject the requisite attention it deserves. That is how I felt you treated the subjects which I am passionate about and knowledgeable in.

    I do appreciate your apology and invite you to respond to my comment. It is only by opening dialogue that as a society we will drive change and progress.

    Happy International Women’s Day to all readers.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Max Wallis // 03/09/2015 at 1:52 pm // Reply

    It was I who posed the ‘Lord Renard’ question along the lines: “are the candidates content with their party’s actions when men abuse their positions with regard to women? Don’t deny it happens in all parties, not only the LibDems’ Lord Reynard and the SWP’s ex-leader”.

    Eluned Parrott answered strongly that she knew one of the women involved with Lord Reynard; the party had changed their rules to now require proof on the balance of probabilities, not ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ as in criminal convictions. Jo Stevens denied that Labour had any problems (despite Lord Prescott). Chris von Ruhland similarly denied any problems, despite he and I knowing of a particular complaint against Cardiff Green Party’s chair(man).​

    There’s a tendency to interpret the question in sexual terms – I conceived it as a wider male chauvinism issue, underlying various aspects of gender bias.

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  7. Pippa Bartolotti ‘leader’ of wales region of green party of Eng & Wales doesn’t understand a feminist perspective… Her “greatest fear is that putting gender before the needs of the environment may be counter productive.,..question of priorities. GP policy will stay the same for a while, but CO2 in the atmosphere will not.”

    June 2012

    Hi Anne,

    Too much for a tweet really. The long version is that the GP has not made the gains we need to make if we are going to make a difference. We can’t wait another 35 years for the next MP, and the environmental issues are coming to a head.

    Therefore it is my belief that we need the very best we can get, regardless of gender. The GP has done a fantastic job of empowering women, and whilst it may be that we have further to go, my greatest fear is that putting gender before the needs of the environment may be counter productive.

    I’m not that crazy about the candidates so far – not even that enamoured with me. It’s a question of priorities. If we are reaching the climactic tipping point we have to decide what is best. I just want the best.

    In actuality, GP policy will stay the same for a while, but CO2 in the atmosphere will not.

    I hope that helps, and Anne, I really value you keeping me on my toes.

    Pippa

    Like

  8. As a woman I am fed up repeating men are also abused at roughly the same figures women are and the equality issue is not one of gender but poverty, the difference in physical violence the poor are subjected to compared to the wealthy is the real divide.

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    • Did you mean to make this comment on this article or perhaps one of the more recent ones dealing directly with IPV? In any event, you should check out the new article I mention which includes sources and statistics and perhaps provide some of your own to support any claims you make.

      The new article is avout austerity; it goes without saying that such measures afflict the poor as opposed to the prosperous.

      Like

      • Must havew been a previous article, sources and statistics of what? If men who are victims of domestic abuse by women are disregarded and purposely ignored by police or even arrested as can happen where do you get statistics for them? If police were blinkers and crime statistics are used it skews the figures. For example it would be hard to get figures for mothers’ who sexually abuse their daughters not because it does not happen or is not prevalent in society but simply because society does not recognise it. Statistics reflect what society believes not facts.

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