Despite all of the advances made through all-women shortlists and by the breakthrough Blair generation, Labour politics in 2013 remains primarily a boys’ game at a senior strategic, staffing and selection level. Labour Women’s Network is trying to even the score – but we can’t do it without hundreds more men and women joining our ranks.
LWN is already changing the face of British politics by helping our diverse and dynamic graduates get selected in seats which will make up the next Labour majority, but behind every PPC stand the dozen women she was trained with. Not every graduate of our flagship parliamentary programme will go on to be an MP, but across the country LWN trainees are making their presence felt by becoming councillors, CLP officers, party staff, union activists and Labour commentators.
Two things would help those women to go even further. The first is access to a political apprenticeship, the kind of jobs which make thinking politically second nature and which currently go to white men in disproportionate numbers. The second is the chance to shine on a national stage. One common view says that the ‘problem’ with women in politics is they lack confidence and so they don’t need any power redistributed to them, just kindly words from well-meaning men. Our view, based on our work with hundreds of strong and capable future leaders, is that they don’t need generic ‘encouragement’, they need a break. That’s why initiatives to ensure women’s representation on panels matters and why LWN is so determined to showcase the talents of our members through upcoming events like our northern political conference, Labour Women’s Conference and, of course, at Winning with Women next weekend.
Information about those kind of events, as well as relevant details on selections, job vacancies and upcoming training can be found on Twitter and in our members’ newsletter. But while LWN will do everything we can to let people know about their options and opportunities, in the end politics involves a contest for power and women have to dare to compete.
We can’t guarantee that you’ll win every bout, but we can guarantee that you won’t if you don’t get in the ring. So if you want to be a blogger, blog. If you want to be a Labour staffer, apply. If you want to be a candidate, run. And when you do, you’ll have hundreds of Labour women across the country celebrating with you when it works and giving you the resilience to keep going when it doesn’t. The first female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, once said that there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. If you think there’s a special place in heaven for women who do, grab yours.
Kirsty McNeill is a former Downing Street adviser and a member of the LWN management committee. She tweets @KirstyJMcNeill and is speaking at next week’s Winning With Women conference on Communications: Getting your message across. Sign up for your ticket here.
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