Come on Labour, happy to back women’s football and the brilliant Lionesses but still denying Labour Women’s Declaration a stall at conference? Women are watching

by Joanne Harding

On Sunday afternoon I had the absolute privilege of attending the Women’s Euro final at Wembley Stadium. As the Executive Member for Culture & Leisure in Trafford, I was incredibly proud to host the opening match at Old Trafford and watch the amazing journey of the Lionesses unfold. The atmosphere during the final was one of hope, anticipation but most importantly one of friendship, vitality and really wanting the women to win.

I watched, with my heart in my mouth as we entered extra time; but I was also caught off guard a few times feeling very close to tears. Bursting with pride at what these women had achieved so far, thinking about the message they were sending out to women and girls everywhere. The final whistle couldn’t come quick enough and, when it did, the stadium erupted.

Walking back to the tube, the image that stuck with me was of a father walking ahead of me, his two daughters, probably about 7 and 8, draped in the Three Lions flags. I asked the girls if they had enjoyed the game. Their little faces lit up and they were telling me how much they had loved it. Interestingly, the dad was a little blunter with his observations. He recounted his experience of watching the England V Italy match in 2021, “I couldn’t have taken the girls anywhere near that match, men drunk, shouting and swearing. This has been totally different, a real family atmosphere”

Those little girls saw women winning and I want them to hang on to that. That dad witnessed the differences between the way that men and women behave; and, in a world where we are battling to end violence against women and girls, I want him to hang on to that. I want them to be part of the change we want to see for women and girls, not only in sport but in wider society.

During the very long train journey home, I of course took to Twitter. I saw the Starmer tweet congratulating the England team and I saw the responses. Not, in my opinion, wholly unfair responses either.

“What is a woman?”, “What is a girl?”, “Protect women’s sports.”

Women have been trying to talk to Labour about the issues they face in society for a couple of years now, they still don’t feel they are being listened to. In fact it’s the opposite, they feel they are being silenced and Labour continues to tie itself in knots.

Labour Women’s Declaration simply want a stall at  Labour Party Conference, the party with the proud tradition of anti-racist and anti- sexist campaigning is denying them this, and it’s become a battleground that will not do the Labour Party any favours. I have no doubt again at this year’s conference in Liverpool, women will once again be forced to meet in secret, to discuss women’s safety, you really couldn’t make this up. Are Labour so afraid of women having a voice?

You can’t silence and stop women. The Suffragettes, The Lionesses, the #MeToo movement, they fought, they won; but it shouldn’t be a fight between Labour and women. WE are the party who should be working with and for women; and yet here we are, left wanting.

The final whistle for me on Sunday, was not simply about The Lionesses lifting the cup (though this really was the icing on the cake). It represented so much more than that.

It was symbolic of women fighting back, deserving respect and setting the tone for future generations. Women’s football has been battling for years to be valued, in the same way as the “beautiful game” is heralded for men. One of the best banners in the stadium said “Women play football, #notwomensfootball”.

Now, the country is full of pride; and rightly so at the richly deserved victory.  A legacy I am determined to build on in the communities I represent as a Councillor.

Labour must now reflect. Women don’t just want well meaning, congratulatory tweets. They want action. In the recent Green Paper published by Labour, reference is made to a set of brilliant policies across education, police and CPS, victims and courts, where “good intentions must be backed up by effective action”.

Let’s start with one critical policy action: listen and engage with women. Don’t shut us down.

I felt like I was part of history on Sunday evening, and I don’t know about you but I want a whole future generation of Lionesses. Across sport, business, science, politics, engineering, the art of the possible for women and girls.

I want Labour to be the government that leads on this. But we need deeds, not words.

Joanne Harding is a councillor in Trafford, Greater Manchester – Executive Member for Culture and Leisure

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6 Responses to “Come on Labour, happy to back women’s football and the brilliant Lionesses but still denying Labour Women’s Declaration a stall at conference? Women are watching”

  1. Anne says:

    Great game, and really well done to the Lionesses. Women have come a long way in many sports not just football, but in athletics, tennis and golf. No doubt the Lionesses have broken a barrier down in promoting women’s sport, and this will encourage more young players into the sport, and hopefully better coverage on the TV. It was noticeable the TV coverage of the marathon event in the Commonwealth games showed all of the mens race but not all of the women’s race.
    Women have come a long way in the UK regarding representation and equal rights in the UK, especially when we look at other countries around the world where women are treated as second class citizens. It is very concerning regarding the situation for women in Afghanistan. The anti abortion law in America is detrimental to women.
    Women do have to compete with men in the workplace but it is hoped this is achieved on an equal representation, and the best person for the job approach.

  2. Labour Member says:

    The reason Labour Womens Declaration is not being allowed a stall at Labour Conference is clear to all. It’s not because it is discriminatory against women as you imply. It is because it has strong discrimatory views that have no place in the Labour party.

    Conflating a proud moment for the whole country with this anti-Trans organisation is frankly sickening.

  3. Bronwen Davies says:

    Well said, Joanne.
    I really like the fact that you make about how women do things differently, while highlighting the shabby treatment of women generally and Labour Women’s Declaration in particular in the Labour Party at the moment.
    It is because women bring our differences from men into politics that is the reason the Labour Party need us – you can’t win a fight with one hand tied behind your back.

  4. Anne says:

    Liz Truss is making some very dangerous statements. Rubbishing Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, is not a very professional approach – indeed it is foolhardy- Truss has succeeded in irritate the majority of Scotland, including Scottish Conservative, and giving a hand up to Scottish Independence- continuing on from Johnson who is disliked in Scotland. Sturgeon may not be every one’s cup of tea, but she has proved herself as a competent leader.
    Also advocating regional pay agreements and then changing her mind within hours shows very poor judgement.
    The Conservative Party has fallen a long way from producing competent Ministers.

  5. john P reid says:

    labour member

    the Labour Womens declaration isn’t anti trans Lucy Masoud had spoke out strongly for women as Has Bev jackson and trans have been involved ,not just Debbie Hayten

    and many of who’ve been involved in LWD have trans friends or trans colleagues at the party

    as if the labour party by treating LWD or rosie Duffield like this is A moment( or movement) for the whole of the country with the party, who remembers 4 years ago Julie bendels side meeting next to conference, had her meeting stormed by anti trans activist screaming threatening her Venice allan suffered the same, Posie parkers dictionary deffinition of what A woman is was taken down, by police, on A poster next to conference,

    Lily madigan(liam) a Gay man who hates women who was Womens rep who’d got Venice allan ousted form the womens meeting and got himself elected Womens rep was saying I’m a lesbian and if you don’t like it you can suck my lady D@@k
    then Jenifer james got appallingly treated too

    the idea you just say LDW has strong discriminatory view, just because you say it’ it doesn’t make it true its Critics are a fetish and catalysis for anti women views and for throwing away hard won Womens rights away.

    if labour wants to ignore this be a anti Womens group dressing the women badly treated up as the bullies to get kink fetish student votes, of wither younger women who don’t get that by having these people as friends to treat like victims they’re just aiding kink fetishes and people who hate women

  6. John p Reid says:

    Marsha De Cordova Ferrell Clark both backing Tonia and Rosie on Labour women declaration brung allowed to talk at conference and mermaids Nadia have both said theirs labour women MPs are on a noted list
    Billy Bragg fully supporting this

    Well it was Billy Bragg who said here comes the future you can’t run from it if you’ve got a black list I wanna be on it

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