5 Female Politicians You Need to Know

The women trying to change your world

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ELLE's politics editor, Ellie Gellard, on the politicians speaking our language.

 

Good news from the world of politics. This year, we elected our highest number of women MPs. Ever. But, and there is a big but, even that number is dismal. Just 191 of 650 MPs. If Parliament reflected real life there would be 332 of us. Yep, the majority.

The good news is that of those 191 newly elected women, there are some stars. Women to watch. Parliament will be the better for these five women who might even start to change our perception of politicians.

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Get to know them.

 

Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West. Labour.

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If you’re looking for an MP to inspire you, look no further. The MP who defeated George Galloway hasn’t taken the usual route into politics. Far from it. Shah was sent to Pakistan at the age of 12 to escape her mother’s violent partner, only to be forced into an arranged marriage with her cousin three years later. After suffering years of domestic violence and with her little sister at risk of sexual abuse, Shah’s mother snapped and killed her former partner – she was sentenced to 14 years in prison. While taking on the role of mother to her little sister, Shah went from washing local hospital bedsheets, to packing crisps and - after working her way up through the NHS - is now a Member of Parliament. A pretty incredible journey. If you’ve got 5 minutes and want to feel a little less sceptical about politics, read her story.

Mhairi Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire. Scottish National Party.

The youngest ever MP. Mhairi Black recently remarked, after news that the government was scrapping housing benefit for the under 25s, that she was the ‘only 20-year-old in Britain’ that Chancellor George Osborne was willing to help with housing. Black won and entered parliament on the tidal wave of support for the SNP. Her first speech in the House of Commons grabbed headlines. She doesn’t sound like your average MP which probably accounts for her popularity.

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley. Labour.

Much like Mhairi Black, you won’t hear Jess Phillips repeating rehearsed lines and perfected soundbites. A proud feminist, she does her politics in plain English. She fights unapologetically for causes close to her heart like protecting women from domestic violence and making parliament more family friendly. And despite the excitement of a new high profile job, the mother of two has stayed pretty grounded - after being quoted £1,450 for a three-night stay in London to show her kids her new place of work, Jess said ‘sod it’, crammed bedsheets and pillows into her ‘clapped-out’, second-hand VW campervan and headed down to Westminster. Saving her, and us, some cash.

Dr Tania Mathias, MP for Richmond and Twickenham. Conservative.

In a terrible election night for the Lib Dems which slashed their number of MPs from 56 to 8 (and women to *0* - yes, there are no female Lib Dem MPs), Dr Tania Mathias hit them where it hurt. She beat Lib Dem veteran Vince Cable ending his 18 year stretch as MP for the leafy London suburb. Tania is a NHS doctor who, in the early 1990s, spent two years working for the UN in war-torn Gaza, helping people in an under-resourced clinic. Any Westminster conflicts will pale into insignificance by comparison – but she’ll certainly be ready for them.

Lucy Allan, MP for Telford. Conservative.

After unexpectedly beating her opponent in May, it was clear Lucy Allan was a fighter. And it’s no wonder when you consider the far tougher fight she’s already come through. Following a bout of depression in 2011, a child protection investigation was launched to assess whether she was fit to be a parent. A local councillor at the time, she was forced to quit her role and change her son’s school as a result. While her child was found to be at no risk, the experience stuck with her – and pushed her to launch a campaign to reduce the number of children in state care. Expect to see a lot more from this determined woman.