23 MARCH 2015

We’ve got votes for women and have made the voting age fair: the next step for democracy is job-sharing for MPs.

Last year, at a career crossroad in my life, I used the telephone service of the National Careers Service. During this conversation the series of questions led me to identify that the best use of my skills, knowledge and experiences was as a Member of Parliament.

At the time I dismissed the idea: I could not be an MP as I am the primary carer of my child. The job requires nights away from home each week and extraordinarily long hours. The Hansard Society’s survey of new Members of Parliament shows that within six months in post, new MPs work an average of 69 hours per week with eight hours of travel on top.

However, it got me thinking: how many suitable people do not step forward to become our elected representatives because they are parents, carers, or have a disability or condition, because they dismiss the idea as unfeasible? It is a disservice to the electorate if skilled people cannot stand for election because of the hours involved or the multiple job locations. Do we have a true democracy? Are the best people for the role currently standing?

It is common knowledge that the UK parliament is not representative of the population. Currently there are 148 female MPs in the UK which calculates at less than 23 per cent. A similar question hangs over representation of disabled people, thought to be around 16 per cent of the population, and the 10 per cent of the population who are carers. How many MPs are their children’s primary carer and how many are doing this as a lone parent?

These statistics matter because research indicates that people are more able to empathise, support and act as an advocate for people like themselves. MPs, as all of us, are products of their upbringing and experiences and are almost certainly biased whether they are aware of it or not. When they decide how to vote and work on committees, are they having holistic discussions bringing in the experiences and knowledge of a diverse population? Are their decisions the best fit for a diverse society?

The solution is MP job-sharing.

There are many benefits: from decreasing unemployment and allowing talent to flourish to facilitating work-life balance. MP job-sharing provides the electorate with two skill sets and personalities, and may even reduce costs. It is the perfect solution for those approaching the end of their parliamentary careers or whose circumstances have changed.

Since 2014 every employee is entitled to ask for flexible working arrangements and job-share networks such as Ginibee have sprung up. The Civil Service is especially accommodating of job-sharing so why not government?

I want to be able to represent my constituency as an MP on a job-share basis and I cannot be alone in this desire. I have pulled together an introductory MP job description as no formal document exists and have advertised for a job share partner. If my dual candidate and I are denied the right to stand, then we can look into taking up a legal case but the time for change is now.

Please contact me as soon as possible if you would like to be my dual candidate.

Twitter: @localrachel

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Rachel likes passionate debate, solving problems, coloured tights and making people smile.