“There are more men called Roger on the ballot paper than there are women”
Seema Malhotra is standing as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate in the upcoming Feltham & Heston by-election.
Seema grew up in Feltham, and went to school in Heston. She is co-founder and Director of the Fabian Women’s Network and a former National Chair of the Fabian Society, as well as a former adviser to Harriet Harman during her stint as leader of the opposition last year. If elected, Seema will become the constituency’s first ever female MP. Kathryn Perera caught up with Seema on the campaign trail.
Seema, congratulations on your selection. Is it true that you’re the only female candidate standing in the by-election?
It is. In fact, there are more men called Roger on the ballot paper than there are women. If elected, I’ll be the first woman to represent this constituency, which would be a huge honour. We’re working hard to ensure that we get our political message out across Feltham & Heston, but I need the active support of LWN women to make that happen!
Why do you think it matters to have more women in Parliament?
As I’ve spent time campaigning in our area, I’ve found that women really connect with the idea of a female representative – that it provides an opportunity for them to have political conversations that might not otherwise occur. I think women can bring a very different perspective to the political debate, whether on economics or family and community issues. Often, women are deeply rooted in their communities and are central to the invisible networks that hold communities together. I believe there is real value in that perspective being represented in Parliament.
If elected on 15 December, what will be your priorities as an MP?
If elected as an MP, I will focus on three priorities which I believe matter to the constituents. First, our area is really feeling the hit from cost of living increases. This is an area on the edge of London, where costs are high but many people face serious economic challenges. This Government is doing so much to cut the good work of Labour, and people in Feltham & Heston are really feeling the effects.
My second priority will be to place the question of young people at the heart of our political debate. In this constituency, there are lots of young people with aspirations, but they lack opportunities, especially with steps such as the Government’s cuts to EMA. In Feltham & Heston, long-term unemployment has risen by 147% since January this year, which is shocking. I want to focus on our local economy, helping return confidence to the area and addressing aspirations which are not being met under this Government.
Third, I’ve noticed how my campaign has really resonated with women on the doorstep. They connect with the idea of electing our first ever female MP. I want to do more to engage women in politics at a local level, to bring politics closer to people who might otherwise not take part.
Why are you asking LWN activists to come and campaign with you in Feltham & Heston on Sunday 11 December?
By-elections are a great political experience, and a great opportunity to learn about campaigning in the community. I hope that the women who come to campaign with me will learn more about political campaigning in a very unique environment, as well as having a good time. They will also, of course, be making a direct contribution towards increasing the representation of women in Parliament. So I would say: come and be part of it, I really value your help!
Seema needs the support of LWN activists. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will be targeting this seat hard. Vince Cable will want to shore up his political future after boundary changes and Boris Johnson will be looking to boost his mayoral campaign with the last test of Londoners’ opinion before May’s elections.
Labour Women’s Network and the Fabian Women’s Network are joining forces for a women’s campaign day on Sunday, 11 December from 11am – we’ll be meeting up at the campaign centre at Feltham Labour Hall, Manor Place TW14 9BT. Contact us or Seema’s campaign for more information.