Alison Thewliss: To defeat Trump it’s time to “make room for women” in politics

Nathanael Williams

SNP MP for Glasgow Central gives her remedy to Brexit and Trump populism and the prospect for victory in a future independence referendum

ACCELERATING the engagement and encouragement of women at all levels of political action is the key to defeating Trump style populism, according to MP Alison Thewliss.

The SNP spokesperson for cities at Westminister told CommonSpace that the rise of Trump, populist right-wing movements and Brexit all reflected the threats to women’s agency, freedom and everyday lives.

She made the comments in an interview ahead of protests around the world in opposition to the inauguration of Donald J Trump which saw millions take to the street in response to a campaign run against the rights of LGBT, women, migrants and ethnic minorities.

“The fact is that not enough women are reaching that point.” Alison Thewliss

Thewliss in response to Trump said: “For the United States, it’s hugely disappointing that we have Trump and it’s disappointing to see that a female candidate couldn’t make it even against someone like Donald Trump. And resistance is of course important. I suppose my worry is that it may entrench in people’s minds the idea of a female candidate as being less advantageous which may come into play for future nomination and voting contests.

“The fact is that not enough women are reaching that point. However, you have Merkel who is proving herself not just in German national terms but in European terms with real leadership.”

Thewliss was keen to point out the connection between international political events and the relevance to the advancement of women’s rights in Scotland. The same goes for the “progressive causes” which she listed Scottish independence as one where supported among women has often been lower than that of men. In a recent report by Common Weal, Dr Craig Dalzell lead researcher, found that support for independence among women over 55 had dropped since the referendum of 2014.

The figures came from data company Panelbase were conducted with a group of 1000 participants and showed that support for independence had gone from 38 per cent to 22 per cent.

“I think the independence referendum was great at giving women forums to speak.” Alison Thewlis

“I think the independence referendum was great at giving women forums to speak. Women for Independence (Wfi) and the work they have done to encourage, train and bring women into the political discussion is an example. Women who have never at any point in their lives before hand had political involvement at all.

“It was about engaging women in different ways and above all finding – making room for them. What we need to do is extend this”, she said.

The MP, who came from a background of experience in local politics, said that changing the way politics is viewed is an important step to making sure more women “get involved and in charge”.

She said: “The problem in general may be that the things they cared about aren’t considered ‘politics’. They have a whole series of cares, views and experience in providing services, using services and being involved in the running of society. But if politics is men in suits – and many may see it like that – then politics is seen as distant to what they take part in.

“There has to be space for women to contribute and space for women to be part of that political process.”

“The problem in general may be that the things they cared about aren’t considered ‘politics’”. Alison Thewliss

On the topic of how Brexit will affect the lives of women in Scotland, Thewliss emphasised the legal protections important to everyday concerns such as work and health. Having campaigned against the dubbed rape clause which forces women who have had more than two children to prove that any extra children were products of sexual violence in order to get welfare payments she is reticent about a UK Government she says has shown no improvement in attitude to consolidating the rights of women in work and wider society.

“Well there’s a real worry that I have, and I was at an event with Maternity Action. They were talking about in the past year a real restriction of access to employment tribunals for women who are being discriminated against for reasons like maternity discrimination and things like that and their worry is that this kind of situation might get worse.

“If some of the protections based in EU law are taken away, such as the ability to appeal at the highest EU level, there’s no guarantee from the UK government of their enshrinement in law.

“Undoubtedly being part of that wider European ideal has been beneficial for much of the legal protections that have secured social progress for women.”

Picture courtesy of Alison Thewliss

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