The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) have announced their first leader as Sophie Walker.
Walker, 44, a Reuters journalist and author, is to stand at the helm of Sandi Toksvig’s political offering designed to campaign for women’s rights. The organisation is currently the fastest growing party, with 1,300 people paying £4 for a monthly membership on the first day.
Walker has two daughters and two step-sons, and admits that her children were an influence in starting her political career.
“I realised the other day that I’m having exactly the same conversations with my friends that my mother was having with her friends in the Seventies. I look at my daughters and think I really don’t want them to be the third generation having those conversations.”
Though new to the political arena, Walker is refreshingly different. She didn’t study politics, go to Oxbridge nor has any previous political experience. Speaking about this, Walker said, “I think I’m the best leader for the party because I am a very ordinary person. Politics has got to make room for ordinary people again, particularly ordinary women.”
She does however have a strong campaigning background – her eldest daughter is autistic and Walker has been keen to raise awareness. Her book, ‘Grace Under Pressure’ is about raising a child with the condition and she is also an ambassador for the National Autistic Society.
The party hopes to be able to put forward candidates in next year’s elections, but insist that they also want to work with the other political parties to be able to put women’s issues back on the agenda. Speaking about this Walker said, “What we are trying to do is make the existing political parties better. Yes, we absolutely are presenting ourselves as an electoral force, we have learned lessons – it’s very clear to see how other parties have come through and managed to put their agendas in the mainstream by being an electoral force.”
The WEP currently has six goals, rather than an official manifesto, but Walker has said that they are “asking the people to write our policies. It’s about opening up the political game to real people.”
“We are listening to all our members, we are taking everything on board right now.”
These six goals comprise of equal representation in politics and business; equal representation in education; equal pay; equal treatment of women in media; equal parenting rights; and an end to violence against women.
The party was established in April this year by the broadcaster Toksvig and journalist Catherine Mayer.