In Depth

Women's Equality Party's Sophie Walker vs Conservative MP Philip Davies

Pro-equal pay politician plans to challenge the men's rights MP who once tried to block a law protecting women from domestic violence

Women's Equality Party

Women's Equality Party leader Sophie Walker plans to stand against Tory MP Philip Davies in the coming general election, saying he is a "sexist misogynist" – and other opposition parties have said they may leave her a clear field for the fight.

Who is Sophie Walker?

Walker is a journalist-turned-politician who spent much of her career with Reuters news agency. She was unanimously chosen to be the first leader of the Women's Equality Party (WEP) when it was created in 2015 and stood as its candidate in the 2016 London mayoral election.

At the weekend Walker announced she will stand for election in Shipley, West Yorkshire, where Davies has a majority of more than 9,000. According to The Guardian, the Green party and Liberal Democrats are considering not fielding a candidate to give Walker a better chance of winning.

Who is Philip Davies?

Davies has been Tory MP for Shipley since 2005. He is currently the Conservatives' most rebellious MP and vowed in his maiden speech to never leave the backbenches in search of promotion.

He came to wider public attention when he was elected to the select committee on women and equalities late last year, despite being a "vocal critic of political correctness and 'zealous' feminism" who had appeared at a conference put on by the anti-feminist Justice for Men and Boys party, according to the BBC.

Davies used one of his first questions in the Commons after joining the committee to appeal for the word "women" to be dropped from the name of the committee, said The Independent.

He made the headlines again in February when he tried to stop the Commons signing the UK up to a convention on preventing domestic violence, on the grounds that it did not refer to possible violence against men. Davies spoke for a 91-minute filibuster to try to block the bill, but failed.

What does Walker say?

Announcing her candidacy yesterday, Walker told The Guardian: "Philip Davies basically is a sexist misogynist who puts his own ego ahead of his constituents."

She accused him of "attention-seeking" and said his "anti-equality agenda" threatens the rights and freedoms not just of women but other minority groups.

What does Davies say?

Saying he was happy to let the people of Shipley decide who they wanted to represent them, Davies added: "I have consistently asked Sophie Walker to quote just one thing I have ever said which has asked for a woman to be treated less favourably than a man, and she hasn't been able to find even one quote from the 12 years I have spent in parliament."

Is Davies an anti-feminist?

Davies insists he is not against women's equality – but is "wholly opposed" to positive discrimination. Earlier this year, he told the New Statesman: "I accept that people in the past have been discriminated against. To my mind, the solution is to stop the discrimination. The solution for me can never be to then start discriminating against other people."

Davies told the New Statesman that if a feminist could be defined as someone who calls "for men and women to be treated equally" then he would call himself a feminist. He has repeatedly objected to being described as a "men's rights activist", saying he is "not interested" in that movement.

Can Walker beat Davies?

Davies has a healthy majority so the odds are against Walker and she will face all the resistance any candidate 'parachuting' in from London might expect.

Her stance on the EU will not help: a majority of Shipley voters chose to leave the union. Walker is staunchly pro-remain, while Davies is a fierce Europhobe.

What will happen if Davies retains his seat?

According to one of his – feminist – colleagues on the women and equalities committee, the attention Davies is getting for his politically incorrect views will not have an impact. Labour MP Jess Phillips said: "He will have little effect [on the committee], much like in the rest of his career."

And, speaking to the New Statesman, Davies himself admitted: "I think on the whole, in broad terms, the Labour party, the left in politics, has won, really. The left in politics has won."


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