Clare Moody

MEP for the South West and Gibraltar

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I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on the proud political traditions of my home city of Plymouth. Plymouth is a city with a proud, diverse and radical political history. It is the city of Michael Foot, of David Owen, and of Lady Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take her seat in 1919.

Recently, I caught up with former MP Linda Gilroy who opened my eyes to an under appreciated figure in Plymouth’s political history. Lucy Middleton MP was MP for Plymouth Sutton from 1945 to 1951.

Born in 1894 to parents with rural working-class origins Lucy trained to be teacher at Bristol University and worked in Westcountry schools for 10 years. In 1936 she became candidate for Plymouth Sutton. At that time, a Labour victory seemed unlikely as Nancy Astor had been the seat’s sitting Conservative MP for 17 years. But there was not to be an election until the 1945 landslide when Plymouth Sutton returned a Labour MP for the first time in its history.

The rebuilding of Plymouth in the post-war period and the provision of housing were Lucy’s main political priorities. For six years running she was elected to chair a parliamentary party committee to work on the concerns of blitzed areas. Lucy was active in international politics, and was a member of the executive committee of the British Section of the Inter-Parliamentary Union representing it at various conferences in Western Europe. She prepared a report assessing international provision of social welfare and legal protection for women and children. She was re-elected at the 1950 General Election but when another was held in October 1951, and John Jacob Astor, Nancy’s son, again stood as Conservative candidate, Lucy was defeated by 710 votes.

In 1952 Plymouth Sutton Labour Party voted unanimously to select her as their prospective parliamentary candidate. In her campaigning she contrasted Jakie Astor’s patrician background with her own humble origins. She said “Those who had rank, wealth and privilege would do right to vote for him, for he came from that class.  But I am far better able to represent those who work by hand and brain, and I make that same claim for my party.”  

But the results of the 1955 election were deeply disappointing for Lucy and the Labour Party locally and nationally. In the 1956 selection process the party short-listed but did not select Lucy thus ending her twenty years of service with Labour in Plymouth.

In a January 1955 speech she made to the Plymouth Sutton Labour Women’s Section she said “We are not yet completely emancipated economically and professionally… When this party (the Labour Party) started women did not have the vote and counted for nothing in the life of the nation… In those days the nation cared nothing for maternal mortality, for unnecessary deaths amongst the infant population… for housewives who were condemned to spend their lives in hovels.”

Lucy remained active in politics as a member of Wimbledon Party and other labour movement organisations. She was a director and foundation chair of War on Want.  She became vice-president of the Trade Union, Labour and Cooperative Democratic History Society and edited the 1977 book ‘Women and the Labour Movement.’ In October 1983, ill-health compelled Lucy to go into hospital and she died on 20th November 1983 aged nearly 90.

In her two decades in Plymouth Lucy made a significant contribution to the Labour Party. At a pivotal point in the city’s history her work as an MP on war damage was important not only to Plymouth but to other heavily bombed British communities. Lucy’s strong practical passion to build peace and stability shone through her international work over a period of six decades. 

Thank you to former Plymouth Sutton and Devonport MP Linda Gilroy for her help and ongoing research into Lucy Middleton and the political history of Plymouth.

Guest post: Charlotte Holloway on Lucy Middleton MP

I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on the proud political traditions of my home city of Plymouth. Plymouth is a city with a proud, diverse and radical political history. It...

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This week is the centenary of the first granting of votes to British women. I hope this week everyone finds the time to reflect, even if just for 30 seconds, on 100 years of women’s suffrage. There have been many great articles written and this centenary is an important reminder of our shared history.

As the newly appointed PPC candidate for Labour in Gloucester I feel incredibly privileged to be one of so few women (relative to men) that have the opportunity to run for Parliament in this country. I feel like I stand on the shoulders of some magnificent giants.

It's significant that it's 100 years since partial women's suffrage. but it is important to remember it is only partial. The vote was granted only towomen over 30 who owned property or were married to a man who could vote, which was just 40% of women. Full women’s suffrage was only 90 years ago - so the real anniversary is yet to come. Today, women are just as likely to turn out to vote as men – but crucially women, especially younger women, are now voting Labour in greater numbers than men. At the last election women under 55 were more likely, by some way, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

What makes me particularly excited about the next general election is the possibility of a Labour government that is not only socialist but also feminist. We are still riding on the 4th wave of feminism, and that is unearthing a lot of things many people would prefer to keep shut in a box: sexual harassment, rape culture, and the #metoo campaign to name a few. The struggle for equality is hard and difficult, but totally necessary. We still have a long way to go and women’s voices in politics are still not where we need them to be - many women are being left out especially BAME women, trans women, women in prisons and more.

As a 32-year old I feel embedded in a generation (I think I am just about a millennial) that is not going to keep quiet on these issues. We need to stand in solidarity together and be  honest about what is happening, but also about what has happened to women in the past and how the struggles continue.

Onwards!

Guest blog: Fran Boait on women's suffrage

This week is the centenary of the first granting of votes to British women. I hope this week everyone finds the time to reflect, even if just for 30 seconds,...

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In the week where we are celebrating the first women winning the right to vote, I've asked some Labour women in the South West to write about women and politics. Sarah Church, Labour's Parliamentary candidate for South Swindon, has written a profile of one of Labour's Parliamentary pioneers:

As one of Labour’s Parliamentary Pioneers, Dorothy Jewson did far more for women than to blaze the trail to the House of Commons. She understood that for women to gain true equality, education about and access to contraception was fundamental to women of any class, but particularly the working class, to take control of their bodies and their futures. Up to this point, a woman in her mid-30s could expect to undergo around 20 pregnancies and a large family of surviving children, a situation that took its toll physically, economically and professionally. Dorothy Jewson was the Labour women’s voice for birth control whose legacy has had an impact that spans generations and to whom I am personally grateful.

Dorothy only served as a Member of Parliament for ten months in total, but her work before, during and after this time as a campaigner marks her out. She had a privileged start in life with an education at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, but her understanding of the social injustices facing women of all classes, but most particularly the working class, led her politics. Dorothy joined with Margaret Bondfield and Mary McArthur as an organiser for the National Federation of Women’s Workers in 1916 before becoming MP for Norwich in the 1923 General Election. She became President of the Workers’ Birth Control Group in 1924.

Guest blog: Sarah Church on Dorothy Jewson

In the week where we are celebrating the first women winning the right to vote, I've asked some Labour women in the South West to write about women and politics....

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Today women in the UK are celebrating the centenary of our first step towards universal suffrage. After many years of heroic campaigning, women over 30 who met certain criteria were at last given the right to vote in General Elections in the UK. Of course, it was not until 1928 that we were able to vote on the same terms as men. The UK was certainly not a trail blazing democracy in this regard as New Zealand gave women the vote in 1893, and the Republic of Georgia introduced equal suffrage in 1918 but at least we were well ahead of Switzerland (1971) and Portugal (1976).

Being able to vote and stand for office was an important step forward and we have made many strides since then. However, we all know that there is much more work to be done in the UK to ensure that there is true equality in pay, career opportunities and progression, representation in all levels of public life and at the very top of business. 

I am proud that there are an equal number of Labour women MEPs as men and that in the European Parliament as a whole, 37.4% are women, a better proportion than in Westminster at 32% which is the highest number of women MPs in its history. Again, Labour are ahead with 45% of the Parliamentary Labour Party being women. In Europe we are way ahead of Hungary, where only 10% of MPs are women but there is still some way to go to catch up Sweden which has 44% women MPs.

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the European Union takes issues of equality very seriously. Much of our equality legislation is now derived from the EU as well as the fact that EU grants must be able to show that there is no negative gender impact and funding bodies must be gender balanced. We are always looking to go further. Last month the FEMM committee agreed a paper that is calling for Gender equality in EU trade agreements. I doubt that will be on offer if we end up leaving the EU and Liam Fox is doing a deal with Trump’s America.

Celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage

Today women in the UK are celebrating the centenary of our first step towards universal suffrage. After many years of heroic campaigning, women over 30 who met certain criteria were...

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This week, the European Commission published its Plastics Strategy.
I welcome the Commission’s strategy to reduce plastic waste and I am glad to see the Commission recognising the need to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. But we must push for more ambitious proposals for action.
 
While the Commission's objective to make all plastic material reusable and recyclable by 2030 is positive we need more action, for example with theintroduction of minimum recycled content standards for new products coming onto the European market and take firmer action on banning micro-plastics.
 
The Commission must commit to extend eco-design to the resource efficiency requirements and it is essential to bring forward ambitious legislation to drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastic items within this Commission’s term.

Clare tentatively welcomes Plastics Strategy

This week, the European Commission published its Plastics Strategy. I welcome the Commission’s strategy to reduce plastic waste and I am glad to see the Commission recognising the need to tackle...

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Labour politicians from across the West are calling on the UK Government to commission and publish economic assessments of how Brexit will affect the West of England now. 

The region’s MEP, five MPs and two of its Prospective Parliamentary candidates have united behind a letter calling on David Davis to publish an assessment of the impact of Brexit on each nation and region of the UK. 

Research by the University of Birmingham shows that the Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North Somerset economic area – including Bristol, Swindon and Stroud – is one of the most exposed to Brexit in the entire country. 

In a joint statement, the Labour politicians said: 

“The Government is taking decisions about Brexit without assessing its impact on the West of England. We are pushing ministers to put consideration of Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire people and businesses at the heart of its decisions. 

“Following the chaos and confusion of the sectoral impact assessments that weren’t, the DExEU department or, if it is incapable of doing so, the Treasury, must commission analysis of the consequences for each UK region and nation – and publish it. 

“Our area is one of the most exposed to Brexit, with 15.6% of our economy at risk – the third highest in the country.  People and businesses throughout the West of England have a right to know what Government decisions will mean for their jobs, their livelihoods, their futures. 

“UK regions are far more exposed than anywhere else in Europe, with the highest levels of regional GDP exposure to Brexit found in many of Britain’s non-core regions. 

“The bottom line is we need to know what will happen to our people and our businesses outside the EU. David Davis and the Government should heed the calls of the Labour MEPs’ letter by commissioning and publishing regional impact assessments.  We need to know that the Government is making informed decisions on the future of our country and that it is allowing the people who will be affected to be aware of the consequences of those decisions. 

“History is littered with examples of bad decisions made through ill-informed or judgement or made in secret.” 

The Labour politicians are Clare Moody MEP (South West & Gibraltar), Thangam Debbonaire MP (Bristol West), David Drew MP (Stroud), Darren Jones MP (Bristol North West), Kerry McCarthy MP (Bristol East), Karin Smyth MP (Bristol South), Fran Boait (PPC for Gloucester) and Sarah Church (PPC for South Swindon). 

Government must consider impact of Brexit on the West of England, and do so now, warn Labour politicians

Labour politicians from across the West are calling on the UK Government to commission and publish economic assessments of how Brexit will affect the West of England now. 


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