On Thursday the House of Commons set aside a couple of hours in this debate to raise the profile of International Women’s Day which takes place today. Only two MPs from Sussex took part in the debate and the first was Caroline Ansell from Eastbourne who pointed out that since December 2019 the number of female Sussex MPs has now risen to 7 out of the 16 MPs and I am pleased that my MP, Caroline Lucas is one of these 44% of our local MPs. However just to be pedantic Ansell’s statement “In Sussex in 2005 a solitary one in 16 seats was represented by a woman; there was a doubling of numbers to two in 2010, and a magnificent seven in 2019. I am delighted to say that today my parliamentary next-door neighbour, my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, will be closing this important debate.” was not correct as from 1997 to 2005 there was in fact one female MP, Laura Moffat in Crawley and in 2005 she was joined by Celia Barlow in Hove which doubled the number. Sadly in 2010 although Amber Rudd and Caroline Lucas both got elected, Celia and Laura both lost their seats at the same time.
By comparison to Sussex there are currently only 33% female MPs in the House of Commons and that is a significant improvement since 2015 when the national position was 23% female MPs and the Sussex group represented 31% which was a major shift from the previous number which was 12.5%.
Caroline did refer to the role of her party colleague Katy Bourne as our PCC and also she referred to the Eastbourne Herald senior reporter and Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, presumably as these are people she has met. Rather sadly she did not mention their names and it seems to me that along with the issue of mentioning people who are politicians, that those who are not members of a political party deserve the same level of respect. So for the Eastbourne Herald Annmarie Field is the chief reporter, but also there is Ginny Sanderson and the deputy editor is Laura Sonier. The Chamber of Commerce CE is Christina Ewbank (who I have also met) and indeed there are seven others out of a total of 16 Directors so they have actually got 50% of women on their Board.
The reality is that there are many other women across Sussex playing vital roles. The following are a list of some of the people I have met (with one exception) and who I am proud to know. These include the two Caroline’s and Nusrat Ghani along with Maria Caulfield. There are two female Senior Police Officers, Jo Shiner is the Deputy Chief Constable and Julia Chapman is one of the Assistant Chief Constables and many other females officers at a slightly lower level within Sussex Police. The Chief Fire Officers in East and West Sussex are both women although I have only met Dawn Whittaker from East Sussex, however Sabrina Cohen-Hatton from West Sussex was appointed last year. The Sussex Chamber of Commerce CEO is Ana Christie although sadly the Chamber which I am currently a member of has less than 50% female Board members. Becky Shaw is the CEO of both West Sussex County Council and East Sussex County Council and Natalie Brahma-Pearl is the CEO of Crawley. The Political leader of Brighton City Council is Nancy Platts (Labour) and until recently the leader of West Sussex was Louise Goldsmith (Conservative). The Vice Chancellor of University of Brighton is Debra Humphris and Samantha Allen is the CE of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and then in the voluntary sector we have many more CE’s such as Jessica Sumner of Community Works, Philippa Thompson who is just leaving Sussex Oakleaf to take up the role at Croydon Mind and Jo Crease from Together Co and many more people. Inevitably there are many blockages in various settings but there are also many other first class examples to focus on and it is vital that we all celebrate the current success!