Life in parliament

A detailed account of what it is like to be a female representative in parliament. With some interesting ideas on flexibility in a list-based system and being family friendly. The pointy end perhaps of juggling roles in the public eye.

Holly Walker writes:

As the Green Party's electoral reform spokes-person, I spent a lot of time thinking about MMP. The introduction of a proportional voting system in 1996 saw a rapid improvement in the percentage of women in Parliament, one of the strong arguments for retaining MMP at the 2011 referendum.
Yet after leaping from 21 per cent in 1993 to over 29 per cent in 1996, the proportion of women in Parliament has remained largely static for the last twenty years. Many politicians and academics have debated how to resolve this. Most of the solutions proffered encourage more individual women to put themselves forward, and challenge political parties to identify and foster more women candidates. To their credit, most parties are attempting to do this.
Ultimately, though, this approach requires individuals to put themselves and their families through the wringer of an election campaign and then, if successful, to subsume themselves to the sometimes absurd demands of a parliamentary career. For me, these included working from (at least) 8am until 10pm on sitting days; a punishing travel schedule; nights and weekends full of public events; being expected to accept phone calls from journalists at any time; conversations about welfare policy at the supermarket; bruising encounters in Question Time; being shouted at by angry members of the public; and having my body and clothes criticised online.