Campaign spotlight: Power women

Marie Birchall, campaigner at One World Action

What's the problem?
This year it's the 30th anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. In spite of this global commitment to gender equality, we feel that women are still grossly under-represented in almost all political processes around the world. Even though women make up half of the world's population, less than 20 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide are female.

What's your connection?
I come from a political background and I have seen lots of strong women who have made a positive difference in areas of life that are important
to women. Having equal counts of men and women involved in politics is a matter of justice, and if we have more diverse representatives, then we
will get more representative decisions. This isn't a matter that affects only developing countries. In the UK, less than 20 per cent of our parliamentarians are women - that's less than in countries such as Tanzania and Afghanistan.

What are you doing about it?
We're calling for women to occupy 50 per cent of seats in power worldwide. We want people to realise that, across the globe, women do two-thirds
of the world's work, receive only 10 per cent of the world's income and own less than 1 per cent of the world's property. We're also working with the Department for International Development to try to increase support for projects that support women's participation in politics.

How can we get involved?
Go to: our website ( more_women_more_power) or you can email: mwmp@

This article first appeared in the 19 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The Strange Death of Labour England

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.