Our guest contributor is Dawn Foster

Today is the first day of the Autumn Green Party conference, and will feature a landmark speech: Caroline Lucas will address the party faithful as leader, but more notably, as the party’s first Member of Parliament. In her speech, it’s been reported today that Lucas will outline plans to call for a fundamental change to the structure of the role she’s occupied for 4 months. Lucas told the Radio 4 Today programme this morning:

How many times have people talked about career politicians, about politicians being out of touch with reality. If you had job-sharing MPs what that would allow you to do is to keep MPs with a foot in their community, they could keep their caring responsibilities, they could keep voluntary work, they could continue part-time in their profession. It would enable far more women to get into politics.

Most obviously, job-sharing benefits women: despite equality legislation and social change, women still shoulder the majority of childcare. Only recently, Yvette Cooper stated that she could not run for leader of the Labour Party as a mother of young children, a fact that did not stop her male partner. With the rise of the career politician, inclusivity is likely to take a bashing: opening roles to job shares widens the pool of people who put themselves forward, and removes some of the barriers that may have put some people off, whether it is time, childcare, or support. But it makes more sense for communities too. MPs who are not solely MPs have the opportunity to widen their interests, volunteer and develop professional capabilities beyond Westminster that then feed into the what they can give back to their constituents, and their understanding of the day to day lives of those who they represent. Some of the best politicians in Britain are councillors – they are part-time politicians, who know their communities because they are part of their communities.

In many ways it seems bizarre that this is still not the case. Most campaigning bodies and workplaces (private, public and third sector) accept job sharing as a natural part of a functioning, inclusive organisation. That Parliament still doesn’t and is continuing to struggle against voter apathy is particularly telling. Lucas, in contrast to so many polticians, put her neck out and said “Now I know the Daily Mail and the rest of them will pour scorn on the idea and say it’s ideas like that which make us unelectable… Nothing would do more to open up politics to women”. I’m perfectly happy to stand behind a leader up who stands up for women and up to the Daily Mail, and I look forward to Caroline’s speech this afternoon.