Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The sky’s the limit for Labour’s women

Ahead of the crucial PLP vote today on whether there should be gender balance in the shadow cabinet, and tonight’s women’s hustings event for the leadership, it is heartening to see how Labour women have spoken out in the wake of the general election, calling for a better deal for women in the Labour party.

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Lead For Women, formed by a group of grassroots activists in early June, wrote to every leadership candidate, asking them to set out their thinking on five priority areas, including: 50:50 gender balance in the shadow cabinet, speaking up on women’s issues (and not leaving them as the sole preserve of women politicians), providing an outlet for women’s policymaking within party structures, delivering a cultural change within the party that sees women meaningfully included in decision-making, and removing barriers to participation, and, finally, instigating a rigorous and meaningful complaints procedure to ensure problems with other party members are dealt with swiftly and correctly. A comprehensive set of asks, but ones that are crucial if we are to act like the party of equality we claim to be.

Lead For Women received responses from all five of the leadership candidates. Their replies can be found in full on the Lead For Women website.  Lead For Women, and others, then went a step further – writing to the Guardian to restate the urgent need for a balanced shadow cabinet: that this action would make it clear that Labour is the only party that speaks for women’s equality, and the only party that takes women’s representation seriously.

Labour Women will be out in force at Fabian Women’s Hustings tonight. We are urging all members of the PLP to vote in favour of a balanced shadow cabinet and will be putting the case for a broader improved deal for women in the Labour party to all of the candidates this evening.

Women were virtually invisible in the 2010 general election. We know the difference that is made when women are properly represented and are shaping and making the law in parliament, and delivering for our communities in local government. For Labour to win again we must be relevant and we must be representative. Never before have we needed to so clearly demonstrate the stark differences between us and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Starting with an equal gender balance in the shadow cabinet and a wholescale reorganisation of the macho culture of politics, we can prove to Britain once more that only Labour will deliver for women, and that our politicians are as good as their word.

After the leadership election, Lead For Women will be seeking to meet with the new leader as soon as possible, to urge them to commit to the pledges that hundreds of women Labour members have signed up to – and to make sure they put their words into action.

Photo: layalk

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Helen Gibson

is a member of Lewisham Deptford constituency Labour party

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