UK Politics

General election 2017: Women's Equality Party leader to challenge MP Philip Davies

Sophie Walker
Image caption The Women's Equality Party leader says many women are being shut out of the political debate

The leader of the Women's Equality Party, Sophie Walker, is to stand against Tory MP and male rights advocate Philip Davies in the election.

If elected in the West Yorkshire seat of Shipley, she said she would be a "voice for all women" in Westminster.

She said Mr Davies had a "track record of misogyny", including trying to block laws on domestic violence.

Mr Davies said he welcomed his rival "parachuting herself" into the seat with a "politically correct agenda".

Mr Davies, who won the Shipley seat with a majority of more than 9,624 at the last election, is an outspoken critic of political correctness and what he has described as "zealous" feminism.

The MP, who has warned that men's voices are being "neutered" and that their rights must be more strongly defended, caused a stir when he was elected to the Commons equality and women's committee last year.

'National embarrassment'

Announcing her candidacy on 8 June, Ms Walker - a former journalist - took a swipe at Mr Davies, suggesting that it was a "national embarrassment" that he was on the committee.

Image caption Mr Davies has claimed militant feminists want to have "their cake and eat it"

"Shipley deserves an MP that will represent the needs and interests of all its constituents, instead of one who spends constituency time on a self-indulgent anti-women campaign," she said.

"Right now if you live in Shipley, your MP is best known in Parliament as a sexist whose favourite pastime is inventing long speeches to prevent other MPs from passing important legislation such as the provision of free hospital parking for carers and compulsory sex and relationships education in schools."

Ms Walker also criticised the Conservatives' record on equality issues, saying public spending cuts had disproportionately affected women and Brexit would exacerbate the situation.

She said she would campaign for a fair immigration system after the UK's exit from the EU, more support for women's pensions and for social justice to be put at the heart of a "caring economy".

"Philip Davies' party's austerity policies hit women harder than men and pushed more women into poverty. His party's funding cuts shut vital services to survivors of violence, when two women a week die at the hands of abusive partners."

'Militant feminists'

Mr Davies, who has represented Shipley since 2005 and strongly supported the UK leaving the EU, challenged Ms Walker to back up her claims of sexism with any evidence.

"I have consistently asked Sophie Walker to quote just one thing I have ever said which has asked for a woman to be treated less favourably than a man, and she hasn't been able to find even one quote from the 12 years I have spent in Parliament," he told the Observer.

"I would very much welcome Ms Walker parachuting herself into Shipley as a candidate with her extreme politically correct agenda of positive discrimination and quotas, and am very happy to let the good people of the Shipley constituency decide who they want to represent them."

Mr Davies has regularly called for more focus in the Commons on men's issues, including suicide rates and educational under-achievement among young men and what he says is the varying treatment of male and female prisoners.

In a speech last year he attacked "militant feminists and politically correct males", accusing them of fighting for equality while also seeking special protection when it suited them.

Earlier this year, he was accused of trying to block a Parliamentary bill that would force the UK to sign up to the international Istanbul Convention on preventing domestic violence by making a series of long speeches in the House of Commons.

The Women's Equality Party, co-founded by comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, was founded in 2015. Ms Walker stood for London mayor in May 2016.

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