Bury St Edmunds: Debate on women in politics and public life tonight has already sparked strong comments

Councillor Sarah Stamp who is on the panel at tonight's debate

Councillor Sarah Stamp who is on the panel at tonight's debate - Credit: Archant

A debate on the representation of women in positions of power has become a talking point before it has even begun, with some saying men are being excluded due to an all-female panel.

Today the Bury St Edmunds Fawcett Society is hosting a debate entitled ‘how can we increase the representation of women in politics and public life?’, which is taking place at County Upper School in the town.

Among those on the all-female panel are Sarah Stamp, a St Edmundsbury borough councillor and Suffolk county councillor, and Jane Basham, parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk.

Eleanor Rehahn, of the Fawcett Society, which works for women’s rights, said after emailing councillors from all levels of local government in Suffolk to invite them to the event she had received some fairly heated replies in response.

Councillor David Nettleton mentioned the “total exclusion” of men as none were on the panel and councillor Jane Storey, who does not agree with positive discrimination, said men and women “should not whinge” if they are not getting promoted above their efforts.

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Ms Rehahn, who teaches politics at County Upper School and is one of the debate organisers, said: “I don’t know if I’m surprised or not.

“I just thought people who are politicians would be more reasonable in their thinking through of things.”

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In her response to Mr Nettleton she said they needed speakers with experience of the issue themselves.

Speaking to this newspaper she said the issue needed addressing at every level of government and public life.

“Suffolk is not at acceptable levels of representation of women; 30% for Suffolk County Council is a significant minority of women councillors,” she said.

But Mrs Storey, who is a councillor on Mid Suffolk District Council and Suffolk County Council, said: “When I look at the senior management team at Suffolk County Council all bar one are women.”

The debate starts at 7.30pm. Questions to the panel can be submitted at the start of the evening or emailed to burystedmundsfawcett@gmail.com or tweeted to @fawcettbse

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