Baroness Christine Crawley
Profession/ Current priorities
Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments
© Jan 2001
Baroness Christine Crawley
Political Development1. What made you decide to go into politics?
Two things. I came from a family that was very easy talking about political things, not necessarily party politics, but a family where politics was not a taboo subject. I had become involved in community work when my children were small - I ran a local youth theatre which brought me into contact with local politicians.
2. Do/did you have a role model?
I worked in the European Parliament for 5 years at the same time as Barbara Castle who was a role model for me and taught me a great deal about preparation and that the first person who puts an amendment on the table has the political advantage. I liked her political philosophy.
3.Is there a tradition of political involvement/ policy - making in your family?
As I said, there was an ease in talking about politics in the family and my grandfather was active in issues about land reclamation in Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s. Injustice was always an issue for him.
4. Were you involved in grassroots activities etc.?
While running the local youth theatre, the search for funding brought me into contact with local politicians. I joined the Labour Party and stood as a County Councillor and Town Councillor quite soon after joining the Party. I was elected, and as Labour was in the minority on the South Oxfordshire County Council, I learned how to find compromises and work with other people. The most memorable political experiences were winning the seats on the Councils - if you don't win, you can't change anything - and the very focussed work on the Maternity Leave Directive that I steered through as Chair of the European Parliament Woman's Rights' Committee when I represented Birmingham in the European Parliament for 15 years.
It was an enormous privilege to represent people.
I moved from grassroots activity to party politics, as I could see that this was a way of doing more to improve lives.
5.Were there disruptions in your political career?
Not really, it has been a continuum since 1979 except for one year after I failed to be elected to the Westminster Parliament at the 1983 election where I worked locally on the issues before being elected to the European seat for Birmingham East.
6.Were there disruptions in your biography that have had an impact on your political career? Have your objectives changed during your political career?
No. I have a very supportive family. No childcare arrangements are seamless, but I never had to stand down because of such issues. My objectives have not changed during my political career.
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The Labour Party most represented what I believed in - social justice.
2. Which party and when?
The Labour Party when I was in my twenties.
3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
It has a belief in equality and has a number of practices to ensure a fair representation at different levels in the organisation. Specific measures were approved for the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament elections to ensure as near equal representation as possible.
4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
Branch secretary; started Women's Branch; Social Secretary. This was soon after I joined the Party. I ran for office because of self-motivation and the encouragement of others.
5. Did you have mentors within your party?
Yes, unofficially. I was helped by men and women who gave me a range of practical help and I am still in touch with them.
6. Have you ever changed party affiliation?
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My work as a teacher and in the youth theatre led me into politics.
2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
My vocational training was as a teacher - I taught 9 -15 age group.
3. In what kinds of jobs did you work?
I taught in schools and ran the local youth theatre.
4. Do you link your professional and political career?
Yes, as Chair of the Women's National Commission and as Chair of the West Midlands regional cultural consortium.
5. In what areas do you see your special competencies?
Advocacy; Communications; Giving a practical steer; Commitment.
6. What are your political priorities?
Equal pay for men and women. Using the political system to fight poverty. Social justice in old age.
7. Main fields of action?
Chair of the Women's National Commission. Working member of the House of Lords, specialising in social security. Chair of Regional Cultural Consortium in the West Midlands.
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As I said - equal pay for men and women, fighting poverty and social justice in old age. I would like there to be more tolerance of minorities, of the diversity in our society.
2. How and why have your political objectives changed during your political career?
They have not changed.
3. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
Yes. Mainstreaming and monitoring and the dissemination of best practice in organisations.
4. Did you benefit from these strategies?
5. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
I see indirect discrimination arising out of a lack of thought, but there is less and less direct discrimination.
What keeps women from committing themselves to politics, is time, lack of confidence, and the image of politics in the media. It is seen as a male area of activity, so women feel that there is nothing they can do about it anyway. There is also a lack of access to political language for women who find the political scene remote and full of conflict especially at European level and international level.
6. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
The attitude of men. Men in positions of authority need to think laterally and recognise the potential of women's contribution. Women have an enormous amount of life experience which has given them management skills which men should recognise.
7. What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
Lack of confidence. I may appear confident but I have been grateful to have a second chance of a good secondary education having initially failed the 11 plus examination. This second chance was denied to many of my generation.
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