Women Representatives Acting for Women: Sex and the Signing of Early Day Motions in the 1997 British Parliament
The return of 101 Labour women MPs in 1997 generated an expectation that their presence would enhance women's substantive representation. And many of Labour's new women MPs claim to have acted for women since their election. Yet demonstrating the difference that MPs make is not easy. Much of what goes on in the chamber of the Commons reflects party identity, and much of what goes on elsewhere in parliament is hidden. Studying sex differences in the signing of early day motions (EDMs) provides one way of testing whether Labour's women MPs are acting for women. Analysis of all the EDMs in the 1997 parliament, some 5,000 motions, establishes that they are more likely than Labour's men to sign ‘women’s’ and especially feminist ‘women’s’ EDMs. There is clear evidence of behavioural differences between Labour's women and men MPs, strengthening arguments that women's political presence is important because of the substantive difference they can make.
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