WDC Guest Night Dinner - Women in Politics

Therese Coffey

On 22 February 2012 Therese Coffey, who first entered Parliament in 2010 as Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, gave a spirited address entitled ‘Women in politics’ at the WDC spring guest dinner.

Therese received her PhD in Chemistry from UCL, qualified as an accountant and worked for Mars Drinks UK, finally as finance director. After leaving in 2009, she became a full time European candidate and later joined the BBC as a property finance manager

She said she has been inspired by Derek Hatton (she grew up in the North West) and Margaret Thatcher to join the Conservative party in 1988 and has been active ever since. She had previously contested a parliamentary seat in 2005 and fought the European elections in 2004 and 2009.

She said it was the first time she had been invited back to UCL and had wonderful memories of the Old Refectory with debates taking place presided over by portraits of past Provosts.

Therese said she was the first woman MP in any Suffolk seat and that her constituency is a pioneering place – it had the first woman mayor in the country - Elizabeth Garrett Anderson - who was brought up in Aldeburgh, retired there and became its mayor in 1908.

She emphasized that she has to constantly tell people that MP does not mean ‘magical powers’, and that one of the most important traits needed by an MP is tenacity.

Referring to the future of women n politics, Therese said that women only shortlists have been fiercely resisted by many local Conservative associations, who are angry at what they see as attempts by central office to impose politically-correct candidates on them. However, David Cameron

had said in 2010 that while he sympathised with the view that progress within political parties should ideally take place on merit, the pace of change was so slow within the Conservative Party that radical steps were necessary. She herself had been selected from a fifty-fifty shortlist.

The evening ended with a lively question and answer session.

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