Sexual violence campaigner gets fewer votes than Miss Great Britain

// 11 July 2008

As Louise reported a few weeks ago, Jill Saward – campaigner against sexual violence – stood in yesterday’s Haltemprice and Howden by-election. This was the by-election called by David Davis in protest over the 42-days detention proposals, CCTV and DNA databases – what he calls “the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms“.

Unfortunately Ms Saward didn’t do terribly well, coming sixth overall – ahead of “Mad Cow Girl” of the Monster Raving Loony Party, but just behind Miss Great Britain – in what must have been the oddest by-election in living memory.

Davis won with 72% of the vote (on a 34% turnout that means that 24% of the population eligible to vote voted for him), although neither Labour nor the Lib Dems ran a candidate against him, presumably ‘not dignifying him with a response’. Nevertheless, it is thought that he may have sacrificed his political career to make this stand, having previously been seen as the possible next Home Secretary. He now says he doesn’t expect to find his way back into front bench politics any time soon.

Saward ran against Davis’ platform (in particular disagreeing with him on the importance of DNA databases) saying:

“Mr Davis thinks that by forcing a by-election he is standing up for British justice. In reality he is attempting to strike a hammer blow through the very tools the police need to keep us safe.”

Ms Saward was herself the victim of the infamous ‘Ealing Vicarage’ rape in the ’80s, waiving her right to anonymity as a rape victim to campaign against sexual violence, which she has been doing ever since. She also campaigns for funding for victims of sexual violence, increased prison capacity, ease of housing transfer, support and training for medical professionals to deal with victims, and consideration of victims’ rights during trial.

Gemma Garrett, otherwise known as Miss Great Britain, beat Ms Saward by 29 votes, having made a recent career of running in by-elections pledging to make politics “sexy”.

Comments From You

Sam // Posted 11 July 2008 at 11:36 am

Miss Great Britain would have picked up voters who were determined to vote for an absurd candidate unrelated to mainstream politics, to protest against the farcical nature of Davis’s contention that this election is any type of referendum on the 42-day detention limit. The serious nature of Saward’s campaign would not have allowed her to pick up votes in the same manner.

Moreover, let’s recall that the total number of votes between the two, in a constituency where 20,000 people voted was a whopping 29 (source:,,-991,00.html).

Ultimately, both candidates received a negligible proportion and number of votes in a single-issue election which had nothing to do with either of them. Please let’s not make a big deal out of this.

Lynne Miles // Posted 11 July 2008 at 12:01 pm

I wasn’t particularly intending to “make a big deal out of this” (as you rather dismissively put it), just to provide an update on a story we reported on a couple of weeks ago.

I agree that Gemma Garrett would have picked up the farcical votes and, as did mention in the piece, there were only 29 votes between them – in essence they got about 2% of the vote each (although, by the skin of her teeth, Garrett got her deposit back whilst Saward lost hers).

But I disagree that it had “nothing to do with either of them”. Gemma Garrett may have had nothing to say on 42 days, but Jill Seward was at least engaging with the issues. Davis called this by-election hoping that it would bring the issue into wider public debate, and she was at least participating by putting the opposite view on the debate over the value of liberty vs the value of protection.

Sam // Posted 11 July 2008 at 1:56 pm

I’m sorry if I came across as dismissive. I suppose it was a reaction to how the headline, while technically accurate, was emphasising the importance of a small difference. I’m very (and perhaps overly) wary of situations where it might look to the casual observer as if we, as feminists, manufacture cases of misogyny where they do not exist, and the potentially pernicious effects that this can have in allowing them to accuse us of the same in circumstances that sexism is present. I thought that was particularly an issue with the headline chosen, as if you do compare the number of votes Saward received to those any other candidate, what particularly shocks is that she (and Garrett) lost to the National Front.

Lynne Miles // Posted 11 July 2008 at 3:19 pm

Err, no actually you’re right – I think I was being a bit defensive there. Having a bad day at work and being grumpy. Humble apologies!

Yes, it is shocking that she lost to National Front, and I probably should have said that. I’m glad you did!

NorthernJess // Posted 11 July 2008 at 3:42 pm

Jill Seward was campaigning for her cause to have greater precedence in parliament and to open up a new debate- which I believe was the right thing to do. However, in an interview with the Guardian, Ms Seward claimed to support the 42 day limit which is the original cause of this by election in the process and for this reason, I would not have voted for her.

The Miss Great Britain Candidate did not address this issue, and the Miss GB website appears to have its main campaign focus on the candidates looks. The Miss GB website proudly declares “A vote for beauty is a vote for change and for the real empowerment of women which will improve society as a whole.” “beauty does have a real power of its own to harness and create positive change.”. This for me is the most shocking thing about the whole campaign, that we have two female role models standing against each other- and the won who won the most votes was the one who is purpatrating the idea that women would make better leaders because they are attractive? I know its only 29 votes, but the principle of the thing (especially seeing as you consider that statistically, women are more likely to vote) makes me question strongly what morals and messages are being perputrated by the media, advertising and, especially, other women, to make more people think that it is acceptable for a woman in politics to be judged fit for the post because she is classed by the majority as beautiful!

The thing that makes me so angry is that the enpowerment of women would improve society as a whole! This is why we need access to fair justice against people who have commited sexual crimes against us! And I’m pretty certain if you asked the Miss GB candidate if she thought that this issue was just as important as her looking great I’m sure, as most women would, she would agree.

Torygirl // Posted 11 July 2008 at 5:07 pm

The term ’empowerment’ gets tossed around such a lot that generally if someone uses it to me I ask them to specify exactly what they mean.

I wouldn’t have voted for Saward on the basis of her stance on the 42 days. On that issue I strongly supported DD because, well, I think he was right, though I also think he should have stood down permanently which would have sent a much stronger message.

Sonia // Posted 11 July 2008 at 10:41 pm

I was very disappointed, if not at all surprised by this result. Throughout the past couple of weeks, the mainstream media has fallen over itself to promote Miss Garrett, whilst practically ignoring virtually every other candidate with the exception of Mr. Davis. This was most shameful. In 2008 I still expect it of the tabloids (e.g. The Daily Star which has a vested interest in Miss GB) but not of the BBC, The Times, Guardian, Independent etc. Another reason for Miss Garrett’s “relatively” high return was the sheer level of financial backing that the wealthy Miss GB organization was able to pump in. Personally, I also feel that Jill Saward was someone that both Mr. Davis and Gordon Brown feel very uncomfortable with. I applaud Jill for standing and encourage her to stand again.

Steph Jones // Posted 12 July 2008 at 5:20 pm

It rather sums up my disenchantment at politics and voters, when Jill Saward gets less votes than not only the Miss GB party, but also worryingly the National Front (Tess Culnane – ).

“Davis sees off Green’s gay rights challenge and returns to Commons”

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