Week in Westminster is a weekly political radio programme, which is broadcast on Saturdays on BBC Radio 4.
Women in parliament
It was first broadcast on 6 November 1929 on the BBC Home Service. Ramsay MacDonald was the Prime Minister at the time, after the 1929 General Election on 30 May 1929, when the Labour Party had won the most seats (287) in a general election for the first time. The 1929 general election was known as the Flapper Election because it was the first general election in which women over 21 had been allowed to vote. The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 had been given Royal Assent on 2 July 1928. Men were also allowed to vote when over the age of 21. Only in the Representation of the People Act 1969 would the age be lowered to 18, but people aged under 21 could not stand as MPs.
Women's broadcasting on the Home Service had been initiated by Hilda Matheson OBE (7 June 1888- 30 October 1940). The programme was at 10.45am on each Wednesday and first known as The Week in Parliament.
As parliament, and its affairs, was thought to be a new institution to most women by the patriarchal-run BBC, it was decided to create a radio programme whereby female MPs would broadcast short talks to the nation's women, to help them familiarise the parliamentary processes and significances. The first presenter was Scottish. Margaret Bondfield was the first British female cabinet minister, when she became Minister of Labour in June 1929. Lord Reith approved of the programme, and wrote of it, "it is chiefly for the benefit of housewives but covering also a large mixed audience of shift-workers, unemployed, invalids, etcetera".
In 1931, male MPs were also given a slot on the programme to expound their opinions. The programme had become more well-known by then. In the late 1930s the programme's producer was Guy Burgess, later found to be a Soviet spy.
World War II
During the Second World War, the programme had an (enforced) eighteen month break.
Margaret Thatcher gave the broadcast on 10 April 1965. By the late 1960s presenters other than actual MPs, such as political journalists, were given slots. In the late 1990s, the Controller of Radio 4 moved the programme to late Thursday nights. A protest ensued and it was restored to Saturday mornings.
The programme today is not presented by actual MPs, as it was before the 1960s, but by political journalists. They interview a small group of backbench MPs in the studio, interspersed with features. It is broadcast for a half-hour on Saturday mornings, and is available as a podcast. It does not run during parliamentary recesses.
- Category:British political journalists
- Politics Live, on BBC Two at weekday lunchtimes, with a relatively similar format.
- The Westminster Hour, on Sunday nights on Radio 4, with a regular in-house presenter
- Yesterday in Parliament, broadcast since 1947