Archive for the ‘In the media’ Category

Ed Miliband’s letter to Lead for Women got a bit of a mention in Julie Bindel’s article in G2 in the Guardian on Friday. We didn’t agree with her assessment of Ed’s leadership, and we sent the following letter to the Guardian to let them know that we think Ed has made a promising start in fulfilling his promises made to women in the Party during the Leadership election.


We welcome Julie Bindel to the Labour Party. However, her description of Ed Miliband as “sexism lite” is inaccurate. Ed Miliband has made greater commitments to women’s equality than any Labour leader before him, both in his letter to Lead for Women during the leadership election and in his speeches since, including a firm defence of all women shortlists in his first leader’s speech at party conference. Lead for Women will work with Ed to made real his commitments to women’s organisation and representation in the Labour Party. If Julie Bindel wants to make her views heard she is welcome to get involved.

Lead for Women

Read Full Post »

Following Ed Miliband’s comments in the Guardian today, in which he announced a process of reforming Labour’s structures and policy-making mechanisms, Lead for Women have released the following statement:

Ed Miliband should be congratulated for his comments to this paper on the need to reshape Labour’s policies and practices. As grassroots women Labour activists, we called upon all our leadership candidates to end the marginalised role of female voices in our Party, and welcomed Ed Miliband’s commitment to do as our campaign urged and “Lead for Women”. Speaking of his desire to renew the Party, Ed pledged he would ensure that “women’s diverse voices are just as central to that process as men’s”. When too few women are selected, too few women shape our messages, and too few women’s votes are won, the time for reform is now. We encourage Ed to embrace this timely opportunity to follow through on his promise.

Read Full Post »

Very excitingly, we heard (from twitter) that we were namechecked today on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour with the marvellous Jenni Murray.

We ‘listened again’ (as you can do here) and heard a great conversation between Jenni and Labour pollster and Lead for Women supporter Deborah Mattinson, and MP Meg Hillier, about what Labour needs to do to lead for women. We were extra pleased to hear Jenni refer to the Lead for Women letter putting pressure on the Labour leadership candidates to tell us how they will change our Party.

This is the blurb from the Woman’s Hour website:

Labour leadership: Who will win for women – Ed, David, Diane, Andy or Ed?

The die is cast on who will become the next leader of the Labour party. The ballot closed at five o’clock on Wednesday with the winner to be revealed at the party’s conference on Saturday. After a general election campaign in which women were near invisible and a leadership election in which just one woman stood, how will the new leader reach out to those who think the party fails to represent them? Jenni is joined by Labour MP Meg Hillier who’s already put her hat in the ring for the shadow cabinet elections and by party pollster Deborah Mattinson.

Read Full Post »

There is a (short) letter from Lead for Women activists in the Guardian today, on the subject of the PLP vote on gender quotas for the shadow cabinet.

Four of the five Labour leadership candidates promised to support a 50:50 shadow cabinet. So we are disappointed the parliamentary party decided that the shadow cabinet should include only eight women out of 26. We look forward to the support of the new leader in persuading the PLP that we need a shadow cabinet that clearly leads for women.

Rachael Saunders, Helen Symons, Melanie Ward and eight others

Read Full Post »

There are some good write-ups of Wednesday’s women’s hustings on the blogs.

Rowenna Davies writes in the New Statesman:

There was something rather satisfying at seeing the “young princes and top guns of New Labour” — a description used by Diane Abbott to describe her fellow candidates — being forced to seek approval from a room packed with several hundred women…

…You have to wonder how much lobbying the leaders did to push their 50 per cent preference — perhaps a token vote in the right direction was just a little too convenient. Ed Miliband sounded strongest here, saying we have to rebut the idea that women’s shortlists are an affront to meritocracy. Having so few women at the top cannot be a fair representation of the talent that’s out there.


Over on Left Foot Forward, Claire French says:

In a room packed with women, four men and one woman set out their pitches for being the Labour Party’s champion for women. After an exhausting number of hustings already, last night found the wannabe leaders quizzed exclusively on issues that affect women.


Meanwhile, blogger Delilah writes:

“It’s the famous five of Britain,” said Mary Riddell, columnist and a political interviewer for the Daily Telegraph, and chair of the Fabian Women’s Lead4Women hustings in Westminster this evening…

…As the division bell signalled their departure, all the Fabian Women in the audience smiled for the camera, proudly wearing our Labour Lead4Women sashes.

After all the promises we’ve heard, let’s hope the candidate who wins does that too.

Read Full Post »

Now we have received responses to our letter from all of the candidates to be Labour leader, we have published the following statement in response:

Labour Leader candidates divided over ‘invisible women’ campaign

All five candidates to be Labour Party leader have now responded to a call to action from grassroots women members to ensure Labour is the Party that leads for women. Their responses expose significant differences about how far they would go to make Labour more representative.

At a Labour Party members’ event this weekend in Leeds, all five candidates will be quizzed by women members on how they will ensure women are never again ‘invisible’ in the Labour Party.

All the candidates have now publicly set out their plans for opening up Labour’s structures to women, after a group of over 200 women in the Party wrote to the candidates. They called on them to outline in detail their plans to tear down the barriers that put off many women from being involved in the Party, and ensure that women are equally and meaningfully represented at all levels, and are never again ‘invisible’ as media spokespeople or internal decision makers.

Rachael Saunders, former Labour Party National Women’s Officer and Lead for Women activist, said:

“We’re proud of Labour’s record on equality, and on getting more women into Parliament, but we still haven’t done enough.

“We were dismayed by the low profile of our talented women politicians at the General Election, and concerned that there are still far too many barriers stopping women getting involved – whether in national politics or in their local Party. We must stop wasting the talent of women who get put off or put down in public life.

“We celebrate the commitment of every candidate to achieving change, and we welcome a real debate about how to tear down the barriers and set us on a clear path to equality – but those debates have to be followed by meaningful action.

“One of the clearest signs that we as a Party are serious about change would be a 50:50 gender balance in the Shadow Cabinet, and tough action to ensure equal representation of women and men in our Parliamentary Party. If we can’t change the faces at the top table, then we’ll never achieve the true culture change that is needed for us to win again.”

At Labour’s women’s day in Leeds on Sunday, the candidates will be challenged by women members of the Party on their plans. They will be quizzed on their commitment to women’s representation in the Shadow Cabinet and asked to take responsibilility for changing the culture in the Labour Party and in politics that means many women are put off politics before they even contemplate standing for election.

After the leadership election, Lead for Women will continue to hold the new leader to account on their promises – whoever they are.

Read Full Post »

We’re really excited to have a letter published in the Guardian today, supporting the Lead for Women letter to the Labour leadership candidates, and calling for radical action to transform our Party.

The Guardian letter is signed by women from right across the Party, including NEC members, MPs and grassroots activists.

Labour must lead on women’s issues

The Guardian, Friday 16 July 2010

We support Harriet Harman’s call for 50:50 gender balance in Labour’s shadow cabinet. We are proud of the Labour party’s record in tackling inequality between women and men and in supporting families. But these achievements were too low on the agenda at the last election. Today, we are issuing a clear challenge to all the Labour leadership candidates. It is time to commit ourselves to taking radical steps to transform the party to become more representative and to win women’s votes, or face a long future in opposition.

Labour is unrepresentative from the grassroots to the top of the party. Just one Labour MP in three is a women. Our women politicians were relegated to the sidelines during the election campaign. Yet we know that women want to see more “people like me” in politics. Labour failed to reach out to female voters. Despite our progress on gender equality when in government, during the campaign we failed to show that we understand the reality of women’s lives. As a result Labour lost support from women across all age groups.

Almost 200 women have now signed the Lead for Women letter and together we are calling on all the leadership candidates to set out their own plan of action for Labour Party renewal, ensuring: equal numbers of women and men in the shadow cabinet; equal and meaningful women’s representation across the whole shadow government, and across the party as a whole; issues that affect women and priorities for women voters will be Labour’s priorities too.

Olivia Bailey

Hannah Blythyn

Katie Curtis

Cllr Helen Gibson

Edwina Hart AM

Diana Holland

Oona King

Fiona Mactaggart MP

Angela Mason

Deborah Mattinson

Dame Julie Mellor

Susan Nash

Ellie Reeves

Claire Reynolds

Dame Jane Roberts

Cllr Rachael Saunders

Cllr Rohini Simbodyal

Nan Sloane

Cath Speight

Norma Stephenson

Helen Symons

Kitty Ussher

Melanie Ward

Harriet Yeo

Read Full Post »

Rachael Saunders has written a blog for Left Food Forward, arguing that Labour urgently needs a leader who will lead for women.

Sadly, for many of us, the 2010 election campaign will be remembered as the one in which women were near invisible. Despite having an excellent woman deputy leader wholeheartedly committed to women’s equality, and despite the record numbers of women MPs elected since 1997, we still need to do more if we are to fully represent the communities we seek to serve. This isn’t just an issue with gender – we need to be more diverse in every way – but women are half of every community.

I am glad that we have a woman on the ballot paper in this leadership election. We still need to hold each of the leadership contenders to account. A group of women activists have signed up to a letter to try and make sure that happens.

There is a policy debate to be had, and we must make sure that women’s voices are heard in that, but that is not the primary purpose of this letter. This letter sets out what we believe the leader of the Labour Party needs to do to ensure our party operates in a way that reflects the importance we all place on equality.

There are a number of policy issues that are often categorised as “women’s issues”. I want a leader who leads on rape legislation just as he leads on anti social behaviour, on childcare as on school standards. Women MPs have made the running on issues such as domestic violence, childcare and flexible working, and I am grateful to them. Now our male leaders must also take responsibility.

We are also calling for gender balance throughout the shadow ministerial team and in local government. We elected a record number of women in 1997, but still we are in a position where only one was willing to stand for leader. That has to change next time, and one step is giving women opportunities in shadow office. Women’s voices must be heard at every level and in every policy area.

Local government is also important. We have the chance to exercise power at council level and in some devolved bodies over the next five years; let’s make women’s voices are heard equally there too.

Too often in the Labour Party I am disheartened and I see others knocked by casual sexism, whether it be the assumption that you’ll make the tea because you’re the only girl in the room, or outright sexual harassment. We can change that, but it will take a real political willing to admit that there’s a problem, and real leadership from the top.

Let’s make sure our next leader leads for women. We’ll be asking all the leadership contenders what they think of our proposals – I hope you will too. Read the full text of our letter on lead4women.wordpress.com and do sign up in support if you too want to see a leader that Leads for Women.

Read Full Post »