Women's Equality Party launches European election campaign
PUBLISHED: 13:06 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:06 09 May 2019
Women's Equality Party
The Women's Equality Party has launched its European election campaign, dismissing claims it would split the Remain vote as "nonsense on toast".
The party is standing a slate of eight candidates in London and supporting like-minded candidates elsewhere in the country.
At an event in Bethnal Green, East London, today it unveiled its manifesto under the slogan 'Because equality is better for everyone', containing proposals including a new social deal for Europe, a permanent citizens' assembly and a focus on issues such as shared parental leave.
But Catherine Mayer, the party's co-founder and lead candidate for London, also tackled accusations that another Remain kid on the block could further splinter the vote against Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.
She told the audience: "You'll hear something else from the old parties and even from some of the supposedly new ones — though I have yet to see Change UK produce any policies or vision that live up to its name.
"These parties will try to warn you that the Women's Equality Party is 'splitting' the progressive vote.
"This is nonsense on toast, with an extra helping of nonsense. For one thing, it assumes that votes belong to parties. They don't."
Votes had to be earned, Mayer said.
"For another, WE are the ones who are working to bring the votes together in the numbers needed to make a difference through progressive alliances and collaborating across political divides to do so," she said.
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"WE even chose to run only in London to enable other smaller parties to run unopposed in key target seats for them."
Mayer said the party backed a People's Vote on any Brexit deal because "we see this not as a second referendum on the UK's relationship with Europe but the first".
She said: "This is, of course, in part because of the systematic and systemic ways in which women were excluded from the debate and marginalised by it.
"For example, analysis by Loughborough University shows that in the last seven weeks of the campaign, women accounted for just 25.3% of all individual sources included in television coverage and just 15.4% in the press."
The manifesto also includes making a commitment to abortion rights a precondition to EU access for any aspiring new members. "No reproductive rights, no entry to the EU", said Mayer. It commits the party to making Europe the first continent free from human trafficking.
Mayer was joined on stage by fellow candidate Hannah Barham-Brown, a GP Registrar and disability advocate described as one of the UK's 100 most influential disabled people.
She said: "Across NHS trusts and social care there is now a shortage of more than 200,000 staff and the number of nurses and midwives joining has dropped by 91%.
"Now we were warned by UKIP back in 2016 that we were at breaking point because too many immigrants were arriving.
"I'm here to tell you today that we're at breaking point because too many migrants are leaving."
The Women's Equality Party has suggested a 'care workers' passport' enabling nurses, midwives and social workers to access the best teaching at European training and assessment centres and be placed on a central register for qualified workers so their skills are recognised across Europe.
The party won its first seat in last week's local elections in Congleton, Cheshire - dubbed by Mayer "the Feminist Republic of Congleton".