A request by Green Party members Sarah Cope and Clare Phipps’ for joint parliamentary candidacy submitted to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on Thursday 9th April was rejected today by the Electoral Returning Officer on the grounds of a ban on job-shares for MPs.
Neither Cope nor Phipps would be able to serve as a full-time MP. Cope is the main carer for two young children, and Phipps suffers from a disability which would prevent her from working full-time.
Allowing job-share MPs has been Green Party policy since 2012. In 2010 Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, used her first speech as Green Party Leader to call for the post of Member of Parliament to be opened up to job-shares to encourage more women MPs and make Westminster politics more accessible to ordinary people.
Cope, 36, is a mother of two. She has been an active member of the Green Party for over a decade and is the chair of Green Party Women, the women's sub-group within the party.
Allowing job-share MPs would open up Parliament to a much more diverse group of people, including more women, those with childcare and other caring responsibilities and those with disabilities.At a time when people are disenchanted with 'business as usual' politics, it is an idea which could re-engage people. If voters have the chance to vote for people who are more like them, and who can relate to issues within their lives such as living with disabilities, or coping with caring responsibilities, they may be more likely to engage with the democratic process.
Phipps, 26, is researching gender and health as part of a part-time PhD and job-shares a position on the Green Party Executive. Since 2009 she has suffered from a disability known as idiopathic hypersomnia, a chronic condition which means she sleeps for around 12 hours a day.
It is now almost 100 years since women were first able to vote - yet The Electoral Reform Society predicts that on May 8th only 30% of MPs will be women. At this rate of progress, a girl born today will be drawing her pension before she has an equal say in the government of her country.It's time our government reflected the people it is representing. Allowing job share MPs is just one way we can change politics for the better.
Phipps and Cope argue that preventing their joint candidature contravenes their Convention rights, including the right to respect for their private and family lives and the requirement of respect for rights and freedoms without discrimination on the grounds of disability. Following the formal rejection of their application for candidacy, Phipps and Cope are seeking legal advice and will be continuing their campaign to become job-share MPs.