Two Green party members who attempted to stand on a job share basis as MP for Basingstoke are going to court to challenge electoral regulations.
Sarah Cope and Clare Phipps had joint nomination papers for the general election in May rejected by the returning officer for the parliamentary constituency.
The pair, whose application was supported by their party, believe there should be more women in parliament and that they could have represented the constituency better by combining their efforts.
Cope is the main carer for two young children and Phipps suffers from a disability. They are seeking permission to bring a judicial review and overturn the returning officer’s decision. The high court will hear the claim on Tuesday.
Lawyers from legal firm Leigh Day will argue that preventing the two women from jointly working as an MP amounts to a disproportionate and unjustifiable interference with both the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act.
Cope, 36, has been an active member of the Green party for over a decade and is the chair of Green party women, a sub-group within the party. She has developed many of the Greens’ policy areas, including those on maternity services, breastfeeding, childcare and prison reform.
She said: “The 32 million UK women make up 51% of the population. At the moment however, over 450 of the 650 MPs in parliament are men. We need to change the culture of Westminster and stop wasting so much untapped talent. Allowing MPs to job share is a relatively minor change which could bring about huge benefits.”
Phipps, 26, is researching gender and health in a part-time PhD and job shares a position on the Green party executive. Since 2009 she has suffered from a disability known as idiopathic hypersomnia, a chronic condition which means she sleeps for about 12 hours a day.
She said: “The concept of job shares has been accepted for some time now, and in a wide array of fields – from doctors, to teachers, to judges. So it is a sad indictment that to get this basic right for MPs we are forced to take our case to court. It is essential that we bring parliament up to speed with the rest of society by allowing MPs to job share.
“Allowing those currently barred due to health conditions or caring and family responsibilities to become MPs would not only give these people their fundamental right to participate in our democracy, it would allow them to fight from within the House of Commons against policies which currently see the privileged few gain at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society.”
This article was written by Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2015 14.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010