Posts Tagged ‘women’

Labour is losing women. It could cost the party the next election. It doesn’t have to be this way

22/09/2021, 09:45:33 PM

by Nicole Lampert

This piece is part of a new book “Labour’s reset: the path back to power” which Uncut will be launching at Labour conference next week. The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election.

Labour is losing women. It is losing its female activists, its putative politicians, its core voters. And the trans debate could even see it lose the country at large. Again.

There’s a female MP, Rosie Duffield, who is too frightened to appear at Labour conference because so many trans rights activists – whipped up into a fury by people within the party – have threatened violence against her.

A long-awaited statement yesterday by Keir Starmer was the usual fence sitting – asserting the Party supports the Equality Act which legislates for single sex spaces but adding that trans people should mainly be allowed in them – while also reasserting plans for self-identification. They leadership must have hoped that this would dampen down the row but, in fact, it served to only add fuel to the fire. Did they learn nothing from the Brexit fudge which managed to infuriate both sides and lost them votes from Brexiters and Remainers?

Women’s rights are being removed all over the world; in the last few weeks we’ve seen it from America to Afghanistan. And that is why women will not take this lying down, even from a party that they have always supported.

Sara, whose parents and grandparents were Labour councillors, and has campaigned on doorsteps for the party since she was a child, calls it: ‘The toxic nail in the coffin of my support for Labour. I cannot support Labour because of this.’

Joan, who with her partner made up the only gay couple in her CLP, says: ‘When I asked for help from our Labour candidate in keeping hospital wards single sex, I was told that I was, ‘irrationally prejudiced against trans people.’ I’d rather spoil my ballot than vote for Labour.’

Nicola, a Labour veteran, is almost in tears when she tells me: ‘The Tories are not competent. They are pushing more people into poverty. But I can’t vote for a party that prioritises the interests – political, economic, social – of males over the reality of women’s experiences.’

While Sally, a trans woman, says the debate feels equally poisonous for the trans community. ‘Self ID is a long-term negative for trans people because the barrier to a protected characteristic is too low and Labour needs to recognise that,’ she says. ‘Look at things like Wi Spa in America [when a self-identifying trans woman with a history of sex offences exposed their penis in a room full of naked women and girls]. People are beginning to think we’re all perverts and someone needs to talk about this sensibly.’

I haven’t given any of them their real names because this is the most toxic row that Labour is involved in today. Women don’t feel just ignored but demonised. They are being pushed out of the party and, in the wider world, losing their jobs. A writer friend lost work solely because she followed a gender critical feminist on Twitter. Aside from a brave few, Labour MPs are terrified about speaking up, because they know trans rights activists will then demand they are sacked and the leadership will do nothing to stop the bullying. Even the trans people who speak up against the activism orthodoxy are labelled transphobes.


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We need to woo women voters to win

17/12/2012, 07:00:49 AM

by Sarah Rabbitts

A few weeks ago, the Labour Women’s Network held it’s political day, looking at how the Labour party can be a more electable party and the importance of women’s votes. As we come to the end of the year, the lessons from that day are worth reflecting on if we are to build on our current poll advantage.

Deborah Mattison, the founder and director of Britain Thinks, explained that Labour needed to target women because they are more likely to be concerned or affected by cuts to local public services and, crucially, are also more likely to switch party.

British elections are very different to the US Presidential elections in terms of scale and funding, but there are lessons in how to engage with women that we can learn from the Democrats. Merici Vinton, a former new media campaigner for the Democrats, advised Labour campaigners to respond to every email and social media post in order to engage with a high number of potential voters. It’s difficult to monitor and reply to everything because we have fewer resources in the UK, but this strategy makes sense.

The next general election will be fought using new media for the first time; we’ll have to embrace it and its ability to generate a two way conversation with voters. Josie Cluer, who’s on the board of North London Cares, acknowledged that the growth of twitter since the 2010 election has been immense: it’s grown from 3.5 million users, to 12 million users. However, Josie rightly argues that Labour’s twitter reach is limited if voters don’t chose to voluntarily follow our twitter campaigns. We need to be more creative with our use of new media. Labour needs to look at all the new media channels in the UK and how we can most effectively talk to different women’s groups through sites like, for example, Mumsnet.


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Its a man’s world in government after this reshuffle

07/09/2012, 01:34:47 PM

by Sheila Gilmore

Watching Maria Eagle open an opposition day debate for Labour on rail fares on Wednesday, with a woman shadow transport minister sitting alongside, I couldn’t help contrast that with the phalanx of men on the government’s new transport team. Four ministers all men.

When he was modernising and “detoxifying” the Tory party, David Cameron made much of getting more women into Parliament. And to be fair the 2010 intake of MPs showed a step change for the Tories in terms of women on their benches. Further Cameron said he wanted to see that one third of his ministers were women by the end of the Parliament.

Half way through it is just one in six. That includes some peers – the situation in the House of Commons remains overwhelmingly male. A lot of press attention was paid to the cabinet (one woman less) but the interesting thing to look at is the junior ministers, those from whom future cabinet members may hope to come. What do we see?

In the treasury there are now five men. The only woman there before, Chloe Smith, has been shuffled off to the cabinet office, doubtless on the back of her now notorious Newsnight performance. But she was only trying to defend the indefensible, with Osborne, as is his habit, happy to hide behind his junior ministers at such times.

And it continues. Defence – five men; foreign office  – five men; local hovernment  – four men; energy and climate change  – four men; and environment – four men. A few of the smaller departments are all male as well, but these bigger ones should have given Cameron at least some scope for gender balance.

Yet the women, especially the women elected in 2010, have been widely seen as being effective and talented. I may not agree with what they say but see them being active in the chamber, in select committees and running various campaigns. Scanning quickly down the list I came across one man whose name was so unfamiliar I had to look him up. Turns out he’s been undercover in the whips office for the last two years. A few months ago I overheard a couple of male Tory MPs saying that whips’ threats about promotion were meaningless now because they were the “wrong age and gender.” They can breathe again. Their party has reverted to type.

The 2010 intake (both men and women) have been particularly rebellious on Europe and the House of Lords, and few prime ministers would quickly forgive that, especially with the House of Lords scars being so raw.  But there are a number of loyalists among the women who have been inexplicably overlooked, especially if Cameron was serious about bringing the proportion of women up by 2015.

But then like “the greenest government ever” it is doubtful he really believed in it.

Sheila Gilmore is MP for Edinburgh East

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Cameron’s women problems

27/06/2012, 04:32:39 PM

Treasury minister Chloe Smith last night joined an exclusive club.

No it’s not the Bilderberg Group. Not much chance of an invitation there after her disastrous appearances on Channel Four News and later on Newsnight defending the government’s u-turn on fuel duty.

No she’s just been inducted into the ex-Next Big Things club. It’s a select intake of those of whom great things were expected.  But bad news travel fast in modern politics and Twitter was abuzz last night and this morning at the general awfulness of her career-limiting performances.

Of course an individual minister taking a caning in an interview is neither here nor there, but Chloe Smith’s case exposes a deeper problem for David Cameron.

In fact he has two big problems: both with women.

The first is the growing sense that the PM is a bit of a chauvinist. It’s revealed in small things like his silly put-down to Angela Eagle in the Commons (“calm down dear”) and probably not helped by leaving his daughter in the pub the other week.

These are relatively trivial offences, compared to the differential impact coalition cuts are having on women’s lives, wisely picked up early-on by Labour’s frontbench and now used to bring home the very real effects of the government’s programme to women voters bearing the brunt of unemployment, tax hikes and service cuts.

His second problem is closer to home. A government reshuffle is due soon. Unlike most other PM’s Cameron is said not to believe in regular changes, allowing ministers to get to know their briefs properly. A commendable enough sentiment, but the government is in need of fresh faces and to prune the less effective ministers.

In a bid to tackle his problem in communicating with women voters, the logical impulse is to promote more female political talent. But it’s not until you look down a list of government ministers that you realise just how few women there are.

The attendant problem is that the women ministers he currently has are among the least effective performers in the government.


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As the government abandons women, where is Labour on equality?

09/04/2012, 12:00:38 PM

by Mike Eakins

The 27th April 2011 was a missed opportunity for the Labour party. On that day the debate surrounding gender inequality did, briefly, rear its head at the forefront of the British political agenda.

David Cameron’s quip advising Angela Eagle to “calm down, dear” brought two distinct reactions with many in the Labour party outraged at the prime minister’s remark. Those with profiles to enhance such as MP Heidi Alexander asserted that “people will rightly be asking how someone with such disgraceful views came to be selected as a Conservative candidate in the first place… David Cameron should apologise and make clear that there is no room for sexism in Britain today”. At the same time some commentators berated those on the left for overreacting to what they insisted was nothing more than a humorous remark.

Amidst all the posturing and prevaricating Yvette Cooper was the sole frontbench Labour voice to look deeper into the prime minister’s comments and question whether they were symbolic of a wider “blind spot” that this government has in relation to women.

In an interview with the New Statesman, the shadow home secretary described what she called a “toxic combination” between the traditional conservative view that the woman’s place is in the home, and the liberal objective to withdraw the state from family life.

The lack of analysis of what lay behind Cameron’s attitude towards women is an indication of how the world in which the equality debate now operates is one of tax policies centred on pasties, government ministers taking blame for individual stupidity, funding scandals, fuel panic and George Galloway MP.


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Sisterhood is not dead. It is alive and kicking and living in Labour.

13/03/2011, 06:00:18 PM

by Ray Filar

As a relatively new Labour party member, attending the annual women’s conference – celebrating the centenary of international women’s day – was a first insider’s foray into the challenges discussed by women in party politics. The day seemed to structure itself: talks could hardly do anything other than concentrate on the systematic attack on women that is Tory-Lib Dem policy, and women’s continued under-representation in government and politics. It doesn’t take much to connect these two themes. More surprising, though, was an explicit focus on sisterhood. Throughout the day the speakers repeatedly entreated the audience as “sisters” to support pro-women initiatives. Though there was little open reference to feminism and feminists, barely a scratch on the surface of the conference was needed to reveal the underlying message: sisterhood is still powerful.

This is big news because even recently it hasn’t seemed that way. Only two years ago, Harriet Harman proposed a policy at the time so revolutionary, so unthinkable, that a riotous queue (with John Prescott at the head) formed, its sole purpose to decry her suggestion as self-serving nonsense. What was the proposal? Only this: that never again should Labour leadership be a male-only province. Rather, the leadership should always be comprised of one man, one woman, whether this be a male leader and female deputy leader, or vice versa. (more…)

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On international women’s day, do women have cause to celebrate this government?

08/03/2011, 11:30:22 AM

by Victoria Williams

Today is international women’s day. An apposite occasion to ask, in which case: do women have cause to celebrate the Tory-Liberal government?

In Parliament, women’s representation has improved, with the number of female MPs rising from 126 to 142 in the 2010 election. Nevertheless, the centre for women and democracy has described the 2.5% increase as “derisory”. The election of “Cameron’s cuties” swelled the number of female Conservative MPs from 18 to a more respectable 48 (though one might argue that calling them “Cameron’s Cuties” rather negates any positive aspect of it as an exercise in equality). But even adding in the Lib Dems’ paltry seven female MPs, the two governing parties combined still have fewer woman MPs than Labour’s 81 (and than the 94 they had in 2005, or the 101 in 1997). (more…)

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Friday News Review

16/07/2010, 07:29:30 AM

Union backing declared

The GMB Union has backed Ed Milliband for the Labour leadership

Several unions moved to give their backing to candidates for the Labour leadership yesterday as the campaign enters a potentially critical phase.The GMB became the first of the three big Labour-affiliated unions to nominate its choice, urging its 700,000 members to back Ed Miliband, the former climate change secretary. It will ballot all members on the candidates. – The Guardian

Mr Miliband also received support from construction union Ucatt yesterday. The Communication Workers Union swung behind Ed Balls and train drivers’ union Aslef backed Diane Abbott.Voting is split three ways: MPs and MEPs, trade unions and other affiliated organisations and thirdly grassroots activists. The two biggest unions – Unite and Unison – have yet to declare. – The Mirror


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Labour must have a woman on the ticket, says Lesley Smith

07/06/2010, 08:11:29 AM

Ten days ago Labour Uncut called, patronisingly, for “a credible woman” on the Labour leadership ballot.

I’ve rarely found myself making common cause with Diane Abbott, and nor is she my preferred candidate, but she has at least seen an open door and walked towards it. There should be a woman on the ticket – but not to save Labour’s embarrassment. It’s an indictment that none apparently wants it (even perhaps Diane) and that we’ve propelled so few women into recent positions of responsibility and recognition that any feel eligible or likely to be taken seriously.

Labour’s 81 women are 31% of the parliamentary party, the highest proportion ever, and include the first three Muslim women MPs.  But in terms of women’s voices being heard we’re behind the curve. The 22% of seats held by women in the Commons make Britain the fiftieth most female parliament, level with Uzbekistan, just ahead of China and Malawi but below Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is obvious that broadening participation, in terms of gender, ethnicity, background or experience, changes politics. So a ballot that includes only interchangeable, middle class white men is something of a failure for a party that has banged on about inclusion for three decades. (more…)

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Getting women in the shadow cabinet becomes a leadership issue

25/05/2010, 12:14:47 PM

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. (more…)

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