“It isn’t the Labour party’s vote”: Carol Keen of Women’s Equality Party campaigns for Southey council seat in Sheffield

A Women’s Equality Party candidate for Sheffield Council has said her party will not go away until major parties put gender equality “front and centre”.

Carol Keen, of Kenwood Road, is standing at a by-election in the Southey ward tomorrow and is the first member of her party to stand in Sheffield.

Ms Keen, the only woman among seven candidates in the race, said she had always been a feminist but never been involved in politics before joining the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), which was founded in 2015.

She said she had joined the party after following the 2015 general election coverage and feeling that she “really wasn’t represented”.

“We’re finding that the people that we’re talking to are very disaffected with the current situation,” said Ms Keen, a physiotherapist.

“Lots of them would normally be Labour voters and are telling us that they just can’t bring themselves to vote Labour again, and they’re looking for something else.”

“We’re offering people a choice that they maybe haven’t had before.”

Ms Keen said her campaign is working with South Yorkshire Police to make streets safer for women.

“That’s moving from serious assault but also covering that idea of being able to walk down the street or being on the bus without being touched or groped,” she said.

“That’s resonated with a lot of the people that we’ve spoken to, a sense of women not feeling safe, and men as well who have family members they’re worried about.”

Another focus of Ms Keen’s campaign is making childcare more accessible to women.

She said childcare should be treated the same as infrastructure, which she sees as a male priority.

“When you hear infrastructure, you might think public transport, roads, building, construction, and those all sound like things that will create jobs for men,” she said.

“We want the council to be thinking about gender equality in those kinds of projects, doing a gender audit of those kinds of things, are we creating jobs across the spectrum?”

The WEP campaign also wants the council to address a gender pay gap whereby women in Sheffield earn 81p for every £1 paid to a man.

Ms Keen rejected the claim that her campaign was splitting the left-wing vote.

“It isn’t the left’s vote, it isn’t the Labour party’s vote, it’s the vote of the individual and it’s up to the individual to decide where to give it.”

“If the Labour party or any of the other parties wants us to go away then they can simply adopt that policy.”

“We’ve seen it happen already, we’ve seen [London mayor] Sadiq Khan take on gender pay audit when he was challenged by the Women’s Equality Party in the mayoral election.”

“If parties are genuinely putting gender issues front and centre, then we’ll go away.”

Ms Keen has raised £290 in donations from a crowdfunding site.

The WEP is putting up five candidates in local elections tomorrow, including in the Liverpool mayoral contest.

The Southey seat has been vacant since Labour councillor Leigh Bramall resigned in March.

Labour’s Paul Blomfield, running for re-election as Sheffield Central MP, said he was “very confident” his party would hold it.