Today has been a day of two halves. This evening, hundreds of women turned out in central London to a women-only hustings event for the Labour leadership, hosted by the Fabian Women’s Network, in conjunction with the Labour Women’s Network (as well as Lead for Women).
It was an inspiring event – literally standing room only – and the candidates were quizzed on a range of topics, from how they voted on gender quotas for the shadow cabinet earlier in the day, to their experiences of ‘macho culture’ in the Labour Party and how the party should respond to international abuses of women’s human rights, highlighting in particular the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
In response to the first question they were asked, we heard how the candidates voted in the PLP ballot on gender balance in the shadow cabinet earlier today. Ed Balls told us he voted for a 40% quote for women’s representation, to be implemented immediately. Ed and David Miliband, and Diane Abbott told us they voted for the option that would put a 31.5% quota in place now, rising to 50% after the next General Election. Andy Burnham told us he voted for the option that the shadow cabinet gender balance should always reflect the make-up of the PLP – currently 31.5% women.
Disappointingly, as we left the hustings meeting, it became clear that our Parliamentary colleagues had opted for the lowest possible gender balance quota – 31% women. In a shadow cabinet of 22 people, that would mean just 7 would be women. It’s not yet clear how the rounds of voting broke down, but we’ll certainly be analysing the results when they are published.