An attempt by a feminist political party in the UK to win its first seat in parliament is being derailed by bitter in-fighting.
The Women’s Equality Party wants to make its mark by campaigning in the constituency of Shipley, West Yorkshire, at Britain’s snap general election in June.
But the move has outraged local feminists, who have accused the WEP of arrogance and attention-seeking which will ultimately harm their cause.
Party leader Sophie Walker (pictured above) will be the WEP candidate, despite living in London, 207 miles away.
She chose Shipley because it is currently represented by Philip Davies, a vocal opponent of modern feminism who also writes a weekly column for Heat Street.
Her (almost certainly doomed) attempt to win the constituency was announced with much fanfare in the left-leaning Observer newspaper at the weekend.
But since then, the Shipley Feminist Zealots group – founded specifically to oppose Davies – has been at the WEP’s throat.
Its spokesman, Jenny Wilson, went on the attack in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
Wilson called Walker’s candidate “grandstanding”. She added: “It’s putting your own interests before actually considering the needs of the people on the ground, and that’s disappointing.
“I’ve lots of sympathy for WEP’s agenda, of course I do, but the way they’ve gone about it is unfortunate.”
Opposition has been building online as well. Another local opponent, Kristina Diprose, wrote the following in response to a gushing article on feminist site The Pool in support of Walker:
FFS as a Shipley feminist activist I’m feeling mightily let down by the London-centric media hype around Sophie Walker. Have you seen the response from local women to this news on the WEP Facebook page?
That a lot of us are dismayed at having a candidate parachuted in from London for a publicity stunt?
Do you know that there is a massive grassroots group of Shipley feminist campaigners organising against Philip Davies since last August, that the WEP has completely failed to engage with?
A spokesman for the party made a spirited attempt to defend Walker’s candidacy, claiming that her family lives in Yorkshire even though she does not.
The WEP stands practically no chance of victory – in 2015 Davies got 50% of the vote, 19% clear of his nearest rival. National polling suggests that, if anything, his majority will increase.
Instead, the contest is largely an opportunity for groups like the WEP to cement their reputation in the minds of the electorate.
Unfortunately for them, it appears that this reputation is less likely to be as fearless campaigners for equality – and more as conceited metropolitan elitists who are prepared to trample local women in pursuit of some flattering headlines.