Pregnant MP Stella, who has served Walthamstow since 2010, is campaigning for full maternity leave cover for her constituency, reports Elizabeth Atkin
Almost 35,000 people have signed a petition in support of Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy’s campaign to hire a ‘like for like’ replacement to cover her maternity leave.
Stella, who is seven months pregnant with her second child, made national headlines yesterday after threatening legal action against the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) for not allowing the hiring of a ‘locum’ MP.
During her first six-month maternity leave, which began in November 2019, local fundraiser Kizzy Gardiner was hired as the UK’s first locum MP – dubbed a ‘trial run’ at the time.
In March 2020, Kizzy told the Echo that her day-to-day work as Stella’s replacement involved “holding surgeries, meeting people, chatting to people, finding out what’s important to them.”
She did not sit in the House of Commons – and a proxy would cast votes on Stella’s behalf.
Currently, IPSA provides up to £60,000 pro rata for pregnant MPs to hire additional staff to keep up with workload during a maternity leave period.
And said, according to the BBC: “Constitutionally no-one can take on the full roles and responsibilities of a Member of Parliament, who is an office holder elected by the general public.”
But Stella argued that that “any reduction in the quality of representation during this time, perceived or actual, is likely to undermine the MP’s standing among her constituents.”
And while in hospital due to gestational diabetes – a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy – she took to Instagram to say she “does not want Walthamstow residents to be shortchanged” in her absence.
She began: “I am still in hospital which is why this baby needs me to challenge the decision of parliament not to follow the law on maternity cover in what they will fund when it’s born, and the women of childbearing age who want a political career need better than this.
“Above all I don’t want Walthamstow residents to be shortchanged because like for like cover available to cabinet ministers not backbench MPs! Please help me hold IPSA to account for their decision…”
The petition supporting Stella’s challenge was started by the maternity discrimination campaign group, Pregnant Then Screwed, and its founder Joeli Brearley.
It was first created two years ago – but has picked up steam in light of recent events.
It states there is “no provision for any paid cover for what MPs do outside the parliamentary chamber: the campaigning, constituency casework and municipal work. This is about 80% of the work MPs do” and called the current system “a barbaric way to treat female leaders”.
Adding: “If IPSA will not release these funds then MPs are either forced to return to work very quickly after giving birth, or their constituents miss out on representation. This was the case for Tulip Siddiq MP who had to return to doing casework three days after a C-section.”
Founder Joeli also posted on Instagram: “MPs have no legal right to maternity cover thereby forcing them to choose between their baby and their constituents.
“I am so utterly furious at how she is being treated – it is bad for equality and bad for democracy, and for the love of God, if we can’t get this right in Parliament then what hope is there for the rest of us?”
Labour MP Stella has represented Walthamstow constituency since 2010.