By Deborah Thomas
Women in politics is not really catching on in the UK as we can see in other developed countries like the US. This was very apparent in our last elections where you could only handpick a few female politicians making waves.
Could this be a case that women do not like politics or there is not enough encouragement and support out there to get them involved without discrimination over their gender? I had the opportunity of interviewing Suzanne Evans, the deputy Chairman of UKIP, who was extremely professional and is resonating to the public in a positive way. Suzanne Evans is going to be a candidate for the London Assembly and I believe she is one to watch.
1. Congratulations on a successful campaign on raising the awareness of your party UKIP. This manifested by your share as the third most voted party in Britain. What is the next step for UKIP?
Our next move has to be helping to get a ‘No’ vote in the forthcoming EU referendum so Britain can leave the EU. This is, after all, UKIP’s raison d’être and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be involved in politics at this time! I see the ‘British exit’ or ‘Brexit’ campaign as very much a cross-party crusade and I’ve been especially heartened to see those on the ‘Left’ of politics, who have traditionally been very pro-EU, questioning this project recently. The crisis in Greece, and concerns about the impact on the NHS of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal being negotiated in secret by the euro-elite and the USA, is making many traditional Europhiles think twice.
UKIP has been saying for over two decades that the European Union is anti-democratic and dictatorial; that it strips national governments of power; and that it puts the profits and ambitions of large corporates before people. Finally I think the message is getting through. The arguments traditional put up for staying in – which were never backed up by evidence – are slowly being eroded, not least as we see those countries outside the EU – Switzerland, Norway and Iceland for example – thriving without the excessive burdens of bureaucracy, over-regulation, uncontrolled immigration or ceaseless demands for more cash from this failing political project.
UKIP is planning a series of events across the country to show how Britain will thrive outside the EU and I’m very much looking forward to taking part in those. Personally, I also hope to gain a seat in the London Assembly. The elections are next year and this would be a first for UKIP.
2. There is a huge rise in the number of women in high profile political positions globally but there is still a massive gap between men and women in politics in UK. As a high profile political leader and positive role model, how can you get more women in Britain more involved in Britain?
You know what? I’d like to see more people get involved in politics full stop! When people tell me they’re ‘not interested in politics,’ I simply say they need to change their attitude. Politics shapes all our lives whether we like it or not. Politics matters because it influences everything, from how clean the street is outside our front door, to what kind of education our children get, to the freedom we have to live our lives as we choose, to how financially stable we will be in retirement.
As far as the role of women goes specifically, the first thing every woman needs to do is vote. It’s simple, free, takes only minutes, yet around nine million British women didn’t bother to vote at the last General Election, about one million more than men who didn’t vote. Women died to get us the vote in this country, for goodness sake, get out there and take part! Get yourself on the electoral register if you’re not already and commit to voting. Make your own voting choice too – don’t just vote for whomever someone else tells you to (you’d be amazed how many women say “I’ll ask my husband how to vote” when I’m out canvassing).
To any women who would like to take an active part in politics, I would say join a political party of your choice, get involved with your local branch, and take it from there. Campaign, canvass, and stand for council. Especially do all these things if you’ve got good life experience behind you; personally I’d prefer every politician to have made something of their life before going into politics; I have concerns about making it a ‘career’ from a young age.
3. Youth unemployment is a big problem and according to the Office Of National Statistics, (ONS) the overall unemployment rate of youth is now 15.6% as January 2015. Can this figure be brought down and if so, how?
I get so angry about this. I’ve met so many young people who are well qualified, hard working, have a great attitude and skills, yet can’t even get a minimum wage job. Governments over the past 20 years have utterly failed our young people and are continuing to do so. Mostly I believe unsustainable levels of immigration have been to blame; our population is increasing by 500,000 people every year as a result of immigration alone and, as the vast majority of migrants are young, fit, and able to work for less money than our young people, they have lost out. UKIP would end mass uncontrolled immigration by introducing an Australian-style points system; ending the EU edict that all British jobs must be advertised overseas; and allow employers to prioritise British workers for jobs. That will bring the figure down.
4.SMEs are pivotal to the economy and as at the end of 2014, 25.2 million people were employed by SMEs that had a combined turnover of £3.500 billion. Due to the economic downturn, lack of lending and high cost of business rates, thousands already have a bleak outlook for 2015. What solutions do you think can be implemented?
I think both Labour and the Tories have a distain from SMEs, as reflected in their policies. Partly this is because there is little they can do to help small businesses because the EU has complete control of business legislation, but also because they tend to favour the big corporates who can, of course, afford to hire expensive lobbyists and who have clout when it comes to getting the ear of government. UKIP, on the other hand, champions small businesses and our manifesto was the only one that put forward sound, deliverable policies to support them. These included reducing business rates for SMEs; improving access to finance for smaller companies and start-ups; introducing a scheme to prevent larger companies delaying payments to smaller companies; making it easier for SMEs to bid for public sector contracts; reducing red tape; encouraging local trade and widening the apprenticeship scheme.
5. You founded the National Patient Charity, Lipoedema UK, what inspired you to the creation of this organisation?
Sheer frustration and astonishment that a very common condition that has plagued me since my teens and which has undoubtedly had a deeply negative influence on me and my life had gone undiagnosed for so long! I simply couldn’t believe no one else was doing anything to raise awareness of the condition and support research projects, so I felt compelled to act.
Lipoedema is a genetic condition that affects as many as 10% of the British female population, although most won’t realise they have it at the moment. The children of carriers (who can be male or female) have a 50% chance of inheriting Lipoedema. The most obvious symptom, usually visible from puberty or some other time of hormonal change, is a disproportionately large lower body, so a woman will have fatter legs, hips and buttocks than you might expect from looking at her torso. Many women find their upper arms are affected too. At the moment, women with Lipoedema are nearly always diagnosed as ‘fat’ but this fat won’t respond to diet or exercise and is often painful too, bruising easily, unlike normal fat. Lipoedema UK is on a mission to help young women in particular get an early diagnosis, not least because dieting and taking the wrong kind of exercising can make Lipoedema worse. Ultimately, the condition can become disabling if it is left untreated, and it screws up your mental health too – nearly 40% of women affected develop eating disorders. See www.lipoedema.co.uk for more information.