Today, Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party threw down a creative challenge for the crowd at Rise 2022, the diversity and inclusion conference run by Creative Equals. She called for the assembled creatives to put their brains to work coming up with ideas to crack a massive brief - to make the case for and garner public support for universal childcare, and to do so on a shoestring budget.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of the brief, Mandu gave the crowd an overview of how creative thinking and disruptive innovation had allowed the seven-year-old Women’s Equality Party to make a big impact on the British political landscape.
Indeed, proving the old Picasso adage that ‘genius steals’, Mandu said that the WEP has been prepared to hack the system, even taking strategic ideas from their ideological opposites.
“Our model took inspiration from an unlikely source - that source is the unlikely UKIP. Whether you like it or not UKIP has been one of the most influential forces in British politics over the past few decades,” said Mandu who demonstrated UKIP’s ability to set the agenda with few elected politicians, dragging discourse to the right. Where they have been a force of ‘malevolence’, the WEP hopes to be a force of ‘benevolence’, bringing the Overton Window back to a more progressive place.
Mandu said that advertising agencies like McCann, Now and Quiet Storm had been instrumental in helping the party do a lot with very little, in terms of budget. She also said that they have been deliberate in eschewing traditional campaign techniques, leveraging creative thinking. “Inclusive, innovative and inspiring” is the Women's Equality Party’s mantra.
Examples include a viral campaign encouraging women to set their OOO on their work email on equal pay day, saying they would be out for the rest of the year. Another is a TikTok campaign that directed women to bombard the voicemail inbox of Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, with thousands of messages about abortion access.
“We are constantly shifting our approach and that makes us unpredictable, a force to be reckoned with despite our modest means,” said Mandu.
One major challenge that the WEP is trying to address is violence against women and girls - and the institutional misogyny within the police that is entrenching the problem.
They have been campaigning for a proper statutory enquiry of misogyny in the police following the murders of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens and sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who became the subject of misogynistic messages in a police WhatsApp group. The party used traditional police channels against them - erecting police incident boards. Only those boards included messages from these WhatsApp groups - and the public was encouraged to report the police to the Home Secretary’s Office.
“We did all this on a shoestring budget,” said Mandu, detailing how a small group of activists met at 5am outside Charing Cross Station in London to erect the boards. The response, said Mandu, was ‘explosive’ and the stunt generated numerous interviews and garnered public support. Within days, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick had stepped down.
Having given the audience a taste of the kind of influence the party has had with a bit of ingenuity and savvy platform hacking, Mandu set the brief.
“Childcare in this country is punishingly expensive and in most families it is shouldered by mothers… childcare is a key driver in the employment, pay and pension gap. Introducing universal childcare is a radical, desperately needed intervention to revolutionise our economy, our society,” said Mandu, who argues that universal childcare would benefit parents and children in a generation and help create a world where “men and women are truly equal”.
The Women’s Equality Party wants creative ideas that will “mobilise the 14 million parents across the UK to campaign for the childcare revolution”. Mandu reassured interested creatives in the audience that WEP embraces “political polyamory” and is happy to collaborate with people who are members of other political parties.