She is the leader of the Women’s Equality party (WEP), a new political force committed to furthering the cause of gender equality, but which has yet to make inroads electorally.
He is a Tory MP who tried to derail a bill to protect women against violence, and told a conference hosted by an anti-feminism party that “feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it”.
Now, in what is likely to be one of the most fascinating clashes of the general election, Sophie Walker and Philip Davies are to face off on the campaign trail as other opposition parties consider giving her a free run in her attempt to unseat the Shipley Conservative MP.
The developments in the West Yorkshire constituency come as attempts to engineer a broader “progressive alliance” gather steam. On Monday the leftwing pressure group Compass will launch a website to help maximise the anti-Conservative vote in constituencies around the country, and bring together activists from the three main opposition parties in a new political movement.
Walker, a journalist who became the WEP’s inaugural leader in 2015 and has been at the forefront of its campaigns for equal representation and pay in working life, said: “Philip Davies basically is a sexist misogynist who puts his own ego ahead of his constituents. His anti-equality agenda in Westminster threatens the rights and freedoms not just of women but also people with disabilities, BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) and LGBT+ communities. I think that Shipley deserves an MP who will prioritise representing them and the issues that are important to their constituency, rather than using parliament as a stage to play out attention-seeking performances.”
The Green party approached the WEP with the offer to stand aside, according to local Green activists in Shipley, who have yet to rubberstamp the idea but are supportive of it in theory. The idea has not so far been floated widely among local Liberal Democrats, who meet on Thursday, but there is strong support already among some officials.
However, while the idea of Walker’s candidature has been discussed by WEP and Labour members of Shipley Feminist Zealots, a local group, some Labour members are eager to field a candidate. Local chairman Joe Wheatley said that Labour had shown itself as the “most effective” opposition to Davies, who racked up a 9,624-vote majority over his Labour runner-up in 2015.
The Brexit-supporting MP will be boosted in a constituency that mirrored the referendum’s national result. Walker, a Remain supporter, wants an “equality impact assessment” of any final Brexit deal, and the chance for MPs to vote it down if necessary.
We are a grassroots group of women and men in Shipley, West Yorkshire, working for gender equality.
We started with a cake stall in August 2016, when our local MP Philip Davies notoriously said “Feminist zealots want to have their cake and eat it” and also complained of “politically correct males who pander to this nonsense”. He is also a well known supporter of Trump and opponent/filibuster of equalities legislation – despite currently sitting on the parliamentary committee for women and equalities.
We run cake stalls raising money for Bradford Women’s Aid and CALM (a charity working to prevent male suicide) and we organised the Shipley Sister March on 21st January.