When we are united we win!

Labour Women's Network

In the early hours of this morning, Manchester, the birth place of the women’s suffrage movement elected its first Labour woman MP, Lucy Powell, with a swing of 16 per cent to Labour.  It should never have taken this long but it’s a significant moment for women in Manchester and the Labour movement.

Since the coalition government came to power in May 2010 we have seen women’s rights, independence and progress take steps backwards for the first time in over a 100 years.  We have faced budget cuts set by a cabinet of white, male, millionaire, Oxbridge graduates.  Contrast this with Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet which is 42 per cent women.

We are all far too familiar with the anecdotes. George Osborne referring to benefits claimants as making a ‘lifestyle choice’, Jeremy Hunt telling poor families to have ‘fewer children’ and David Cameron’s unforgettable and unforgivable ‘calm down dear’. Comments which betray a sinister undertone.

Before the cuts women in the UK were already at a disadvantage, experiencing a full-time pay gap of 14.9 per cent, making up 64 per cent of low paid workers and having pensions which are only 62 per cent of the average for men.

Women are being hit hardest by cuts to public sector jobs, wages and pensions.   I see it every day in the ward where I am a councillor and Lucy has seen it every day while she has been on the campaign trail. Women are being hit hardest as the services and benefits they use more are cut and it is women who are being left to fill the gaps as services are withdrawn.  Mothers who are struggling to make ends meet and being locked into a cycle of poverty because it no longer pays for them to go out to work. Women, whose aspirations and hopes for the future are being trampled on by the coalition.

However, Manchester women are not the type to sit back and take it on the chin. Women in Manchester are organising, they are campaigning and they are standing up for their communities. This growing women’s activism is a reflection of a growing anger many women feel. Anger led women to organise and win the vote. Anger led women workers in Dagenham to take action and fight for equal pay. Let’s use that anger to challenge this government.

Lucy’s election gives those women in Manchester who are fighting so hard for their communities a message of hope. It will also help inspire a new generation of Labour women to come forward, to believe that they can make the difference and stand for election themselves.

Manchester has always been at the centre of the radical women’s movement. Let’s carry on in that proud tradition.  Let’s send a message to Cameron and his millionaire pals – be afraid be very afraid – the women of Manchester are uniting and when we are united we win!

Suzanne Richards is a councillor for Longsight ward on Manchester City Council and despite the title a lifelong Manchester City fan!

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  • Andy Farrell

    You know before I read this I’d seen Lucy as a person who had won the seat on her ability to do the job not for her victory to be down to her simply being a women.

    How daft was I

  • Joan Davies

    Andy, Suzanne didn’t say that. She was commenting on how an already strong and active group will be further emboldened by Lucy’s success and implying that this would be really welcome at a time when women were so disproportionately expected to bear the burdens of current policies.

  • Andy Farrell

    That’s your version of the interpretation Joan.

    Reality is that it’s not just women suffering, (try having no running warm water for almost a year because you can’t afford to have a water tank fixed), nor is it just women campaigning to end inequality or injustice for ALL (see my article on anti-social behaviour: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2010/10/19/keep-antisocial-behaviour-on-the-agenda/ ).

    Sadly I see the negative side of the ‘campaigning women’ having an, albeit, Tory MP, who despite being contacted on issues hasn’t replied for years but also two Labour ward councillors who got the opportunity to have the roles for no other reason than they are related to ‘senior’ members of the closed shop that is my CLP.

    Both are useless, both have delivered things in our community they claim is for the benefit of residents, when they haven’t been asked for, both are working with their TORY comrade to achieve it and nothing will be done about either of them because of their family ties.

    I really hope other young women do see Lucy as an inspiration to get involved but, like most outside of the feminsta bubble, I only won’t them in roles that affect others if, like Lucy, Jessica Asato, Bex Bailey, Johanna Baxter and so many others, they have the ability to do it.

  • http://twitter.com/CllrSuzanne Suzanne Richards

    Andy you have totally misinterpreted my piece. It is about the importance of
    the politicisation of women and how this will contribute to helping us win the
    next GE.

    At no point do I say Lucy won because she was a woman. I was writing
    an observation on a particular element of campaigning / politics in Manchester
    at this current time. The fact is there is a growing women’s movement in the
    city and this is a good thing for politics and the party.

    This fact doesn’t negate the role men are playing or the impact of the cuts
    on men. I simply was not writing from that perspective.

    Sadly your experiences in your own area seem to colour how you see every
    other part of the party. As you said to Joan – you also have your
    own version of interpretation and as the person who wrote the piece I can
    categorically say it’s a mis-interpretation.