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Archive for the ‘Leadership campaign’ Category

The Lead for Women team have spent the last couple of days running around Labour Party Conference with a big letter… A very big letter. Over a thousand Labour women here in Manchester for Labour have signed the letter, congratulating Ed on his election, and calling on him to lead for women. This evening, at the Women’s Reception, we presented Ed with the letter.

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We’ve spend today up in Manchester at the Labour Leadership Conference, waiting to find out who has won the election to be Labour’s new leader.

Back in June, we felt frustrated by the way progress on women’s representation within the Labour Party seemed to have stalled. We had just had a general election campaign in which women politicians were almost invisible, and we nearly had a leadership election with no women candidates.

That’s why we wrote an open letter to all those who put themselves forward for the Leadership, setting out our concerns, and asking them to put in writing their specific commitments on how they would ‘lead for women’. Since then, hundreds and hundreds of women across the country have added their names to our letter, and together we have kept the issue of women’s representation high on the agenda throughout the leadership election.

We’re delighted that every single one of the candidates took the time to read our letter and respond (some of them at length and in considerable detail). And we are delighted that Labour has a new leader today. We want to congratulate Ed on his election, but also to remind him of the promises he made in his letter to Lead for Women.

We hope to work closely with the new leadership to put his promises into practice, and to ensure the Labour Party is a Party which truly does lead for women.

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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.

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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

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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.

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This piece in today’s Guardian offers some analysis of the rounds of voting in yesterday’s ballot on gender balance in the shadow cabinet.

In a series of votes on how to reform the party while it is in opposition, Labour MPs declined to reduce the size of the shadow cabinet to 23 places from the present 26 – larger than that of the government’s cabinet of ministers by three.

The defeat of gender parity was described by shadow work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper as “disappointing”.

Harman had called for a 50:50 split in the early days of her tenure as acting leader but with time softened her position.

Instead, she proposed the initial proportion should reflect that of the parliamentary party at large — 31.5% — but rise to 50% over the course of this parliament.

In the event, MPs opted only for a quota of 31.5% with no possibility of the compulsory ratio increasing with time. MPs had disliked the proposal, saying men would be forced to contemplate vacating their shadow cabinet portfolios to make way for women over a period of time. An alternative vote system was used, and while equal numbers supported the 50:50 option and the 31.5% option, in the second round more MPs opted for the lower quota.

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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.

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Today, dozens of women Labour Party members converged on Leeds Met university in Leeds, for a great Women’s training and discussion day.

Not only did we spend time talking about how we tear down the barriers that stop women getting and staying involved in politics, we also had the chance for small groups of us to quiz each of the candidates for the leadership in turn – none of them had the chance to duck the difficult questions!

But the high-point of the day has to have been the Lead for Women photo opp on the steps outside the venue. Fifty Labour women wearing Lead for Women sashes, representing our call for 50:50 gender balance at every level of the Labour Party – from branch meetings to the shadow cabinet table.

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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.

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As of today, we are really pleased to announce that each and every one of the 5 candidates has taken the time to read and respond to our letter asking how they will ‘lead for women’ as Labour leader.

When we first launched our open letter, just over a month ago, we didn’t think for a moment we’d have so many Labour women keen to add their support. Whoever goes on to win Labour’s leadership election, together we have made sure that women’s representation is high on the agenda for all the candidates.

In his reply, Andy Burnham says:

I believe we should do more to support women entering politics, whether at local or national level, not just to get them there, but to keep them there. We need to work with our colleagues in the wider Labour movement to provide women with the proper support and training so that we can make a proper investment in the next generation of Labour women.

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