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Would-be MP taking a stand over violence against women

Jenn Selby will run in the general election for the Women’s Equality Party in the ‘Two Cities’ constituency, which has seen both Labour’s Steven Saxby and the Conservative Mark Field withdraw from the race

05 November, 2019 — By Jenn Selby

Jenn Selby is the WEP prospective parliamentary candidate for Cities of London and Westminster

THE general election might just have been called this week but in Cities of London and West­minster, a political battle has been raging for months.

Already it has seen current MP Mark Field toppled from power following a tireless campaign from the Women’s Equality Party, after he grabbed peaceful protester Janet Barker by the neck at a black-tie event and faced no repercussions.

Our campaign culminated in a protest (pictured) outside his Conservative Party selection meeting, where activists wore red dresses in homage to Barker and cable-tied themselves together physically to stop him entering the luxurious Grosvenor Hotel.

Hours later Field announced that he would be giving up his 20-year career in the House of Commons at the next general election.

He cited political divisions around Brexit as the reason but we believe there were other factors behind his decision.

Thanks to activists – including myself, one of five survivors of male violence standing for the Women’s Equality Party in the snap election and his constituency opponent – his position as an MP had become utterly untenable.

Our approach, including two previous red-dress protests, a petition for Field to be recalled, striking billboard campaigns and extensive media coverage, has created a movement that the political elite can no longer ignore.

The red-dress protest outside Conservative Party selection meeting

What we want is simple: for constituents to have the right to sack an MP who is found guilty of harassment, abuse or violence by an independent investigation.

At the moment, under the Recall Act 2015, they do not have this power.

Already we have started negotiating with the main parties to change their ways and fully commit to ending harassment and abuse in Westminster for good, in exchange for us stepping aside.

It is clear that our work has shaken the system in “Two Cities”.

Steven Saxby, the Labour candidate in our constituency, has been deselected, suspended and placed under investigation for sexual harassment within the party, as have a number of other Labour figures across the country.

Make no mistake, however, this has not been easy.

As a survivor of male violence, I have exposed the suffering caused by my deeply traumatic experiences to make a point about just how important it is that Westminster leads by example to tackle systemic abuse and misogyny.

If our representatives – the individuals who vote on the very legislation that is meant to tackle this violence – are not held to account for their own violence and abuse, how is anything ever going to change?

Field and Saxby being removed from the race is only the beginning: the Women’s Equality Party will not stop until all MPs and candidates accused of harassment and assault are held to account.

Jenn Selby is the WEP prospective parliamentary candidate for Cities of London and Westminster.
Editor’s note: Steven Saxby has denied all allegations of wrong-doing. Mark Field apologised to Janet Barker but said his actions at Mansion House were due to concerns for security.

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