Last year my Guide troupe were able to have the Leeds MP, John Battle visit us to present two Baden Powell awards and have a Q + A session with the girls. I felt this was a good subject to blog about and particularly a feminist subject since Mr. Battle was one of the politicians who voted for shortening the time limit on abortions.
During the questions we got to find out why this was and the MP's plans and opinions on our area of West Leeds.
Everything I write here comes from the notes I made on the night, so this re-count is not word for word, however the questions and answers are still accurate to what was said on the night.
The questions started with one from a selection the girls had arranged the week before, which was, 'When are we getting brown bins?'. John Battle answered that he completely agrees with brown bins and will actually look into why we haven't received them and when this most likely be.
The nest question was from one of the younger girls which was, 'Why do people eat chocolate?'. Mr. Battle couldn't really answer this, but he said that he does like chocolate but tries to eat apples whenever he can. He did also confess he has a weakness for something called Fry's Chocolate Cream.
Then we discussed graffiti in the local area, focusing on a pub called The Golden Lion (which we mistakenly called The Crown). Mr. Battle told us about a team made specifically for cleaning graffiti. He stated if he didn't have it sorted in 2 weeks to contact him (that's 2 weeks from the 25th of September).
We also asked him why the glass outside one of the girls houses hadn't been cleaned up yet. He admitted the Council should be working on that and that he will look into it for her, he even took a note of her address to do so.
After that, one of the girls was quite forward with asking him about the Guiding funds for computers, which he did say wasn't easy, he gave a couple of suggestions such as fund raising . he also asked is we needed brand new computers and mentioned applying to colleges to get second hand ones. An idea that went down pretty well with our unit leader.
Next we asked 'Why are more women not in politics?', he started by stating that men won't get out of the way, he went on to tell us that when he went to Parliament in 1987 he was surprise that there were only Gentlemen toilets. Mr. Battle would also like to see a woman take his job after him. He also believes that women are the best leaders because they are more co-operative and peaceful. He even said his 'hero' is Helen Clark, the New Zealand politician and mentioned other countries that seem to have benefited from female leaders such as Argentina and Germany.
One of the girls asked about a bus stop in Pudsey which had been dumped with a large amount of rubbish on it. John battle took note and says he'll talk to the MP for Pudsey about it. (UPDATE: The girl who asked this question let me know that the rubbish was cleared away last month)
After this, one of the older girls asked Mr. Battle why he voted for limiting the abortion time limit. Mr. Battle was very confident and concise in his answer, he explained that science shows that children can live after a certain time in the womb and he doesn't want to put doctors and nurses in positions where they would have to kill people.
Afterwards the discussion moved to the issue of smoking and the sale of cigarettes. Mr. Battle says that he does hate them but also says that he can't and shouldn't take away people's free will to make their own decisions.
We ended the Q + A on the possibility of traffic lights being set up at the four way junction at the top of Armley Town Street, which I think would be a great idea and help prevent the accident that will inevitably happen up there some day, so watch this space, if this goes through I'll will certainly be updating on it.
After the discussion all the leaders, including myself, felt that it had been a really positive experience for the girls. It was the type of constructive and different activities that kept me continuing on with the Guide Association. But this evening , even though it was very interesting for the girls, did shed a bit more light on John Battle's views, particularly with women's issues.
I believe Mr. Battle is a politician who wants to do the best for the people he represents, that is the impression he gives me, he got involved in politics because he wants to help people and make a difference for his community.
However, there are parts of his answers that are very telling about his politics on Women's Rights. While he wishes to protect doctors and nurses from the possible moral issue they would face with an abortion and is even considerate of the potential life developing inside the womb he fails to even register the person who really will be the most affected and therefore, really the most important person involved, which is of course the living, conscious woman who wants the abortion in the first place.
And only a moment later says that he shouldn't take away people's free will.
If you would like to contact John Battle, MP, you can find his contact details on his website;