Getting women in the shadow cabinet becomes a leadership issue

The next leader of the Labour Party will be a man.  Everybody knows that.  And not because it is obvious who will win.  It isn’t.  But because there is only one woman candidate, who is not even trying to win.

Dismal though this is, it might work for women MPs’ interests in the end.

Under the rules as they stand, the number of votes which MPs must cast for women in shadow cabinet elections is four.

The last time one of these arcane contests was held, in 1996, four women out of 19 seemed rather progressive.  Now, it seems pretty lame.

Prodded on diversity at the Progress conference last weekend, Ed Miliband announced that, under his watch, a third of shadow cabinet places would be reserved for women.

Then, at his special meeting for women MPs in the House of Commons yesterday, David Miliband was asked to agree that the woman quota on the shadow cabinet should be half.  (This was a well attended meeting, with a couple of dozen of Labour’s 81 women, including Diane Abbott, showing up.  As did the Glaswegian curmudgeon, Ian Davidson, scourge of the European Union and received wisdom, who is a man).

Miliband is said to have talked and listened quite well, but not to have replied to the question about the quota.

Which leaves his brother Ed as the only leadership contender publically to pronounce;  but leaves plenty of room – and appetite among PLP sisters badly represented in the leadership contest – for a benign arms race.

David may have dodged this question yesterday, but none of them will do so for long.

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2 Responses to “Getting women in the shadow cabinet becomes a leadership issue”

  1. Niklas Smith says:

    In what way is Diane Abbott “not trying to win”?

  2. John H says:

    Niklas: from Diane Abbott’s announcement of her candidacy:

    “Diane hopes to provide a more diverse option on the ballot and a platform for a full debate about the future of the Labour Party. … ‘I want to provide a platform for debate about who should be the next leader, and that debate would not be complete without a candidate, like myself, who represents a more diverse choice’.”

    Implication seems to be that her aim is to improve the quality of the debate during the leadership election, rather than that she thinks she has a realistic prospect of winning. And she’s right on both counts.

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