A Feminist Political Party Has Just Been Formed In Britain
"So, women's equality. It's a radical idea but it just might work."
An author and a comedian have joined forces to form the Women's Equality party, which campaigns on equal pay, increasing the number of women in the media, and reducing violence against women.
Writer Catherine Mayer (left), who most recently wrote a biography of Prince Charles, told BuzzFeed News she was at a Woman of the World event last month when the idea came to her: They needed to stop holding public talks and learn from UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
"There were three women from these mainstream parties on stage," she said. "They were all agreeing with each other but also they were talking about what their parties will do for women if they got in, and I was getting quite depressed.
"The pace of change for women's equality is actually glacial. I stood up and said that if we've learned anything from UKIP it's that the one way to make mainstream parties adopt your particular agenda is to start stealing votes from them."
So Mayer put a call-out on social media, went to the pub, and within hours had started the Women's Equality party.
In the last few weeks, she said, the party has met at a town hall, grown its Facebook group from several dozen to a few thousand, and come up with a short, succinct policy platform.
"It's about getting equal representation of women in the boardroom," she said, "about equal pay, equality in education, underrepresentation of women in the media, reduction in violence against women."
Mayer pointed out that men shouldn't feel excluded: "This is absolutely a party that is meant to benefit men as well as women. Because all of the studies shows that drawing from a wider gene pool and having better diversity actually does benefit everybody.
"British institutions are not doing as well as they could because they are not availing themselves of all the female talent out there."
One of the first big-name recruits was BBC Radio 4 News Quiz host Sandi Toksvig, who quit her job to take up a role within the party.
"I have made jokes over and over again about politics and, do you know, this election I've had enough," Toksvig told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. "I have decided that instead of making jokes about it, I need to participate.
"Women are certainly not equal. How is it that we still have a pay gap? What is it, 45 years since the Equal Pay Act? On average for part-time work, women are paid 35% less than men. How is that possible?"
The new party won't be taking part in next week's general election, instead looking ahead to win seats in local elections and the general election in 2020.
"We are in the throes of setting up the party officially," Mayer said. "It's very good for us that we're not registered yet because it means we can offend the rules of broadcasting ahead of the election.
"The moment that parties start looking at what we are doing and change policies then we have already won."
To do that it needs to spend this year recruiting members and raise money.
On 9 June the party will hold an all-in fundraiser at London's Conway Hall, and Mayer's hoping there'll be more national press attention now that Toksvig has come on board.
Asked who best represents the Women's Equality party's issues at next week's election, Mayer wouldn't be drawn into an answer, preferring instead to focus on the problems the big parties face.
"It's extremely hard to choose between them," she said. "All of them have got groups of people aiming to get women in, but it's mostly women working to get women in, and it's not something integral for the parties.
"One of the ridiculous things is that we get treated like special-interest groups. But we're actually half the population."