Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Handing over the reins

Progress has tried to lead the field on the representation of women in the Labour party. We were the first grouping to ban ‘all-male panels’ – long before my time, under the leadership of Jessica Asato – and pushed for the party to limit them at Labour party conference. The Progress strategy board is gender-balanced. John Woodcock, the then chair, was the first to sign the Labour Women’s Network #Powerpledge. When the Labour party has no women in leadership positions outside Scotland, Progress has Alison McGovern as chair. My predecessor, Robert Philpot, did lots of work with fellow thinktanks and party groupings on generating new women writers and speakers at events. We now regularly share the names of excellent writers and speakers we come across. Women-only training sessions on political writing and on standing for public office have become regulars in the organisation’s calendar. The first Winning With Women conference, with all-women speakers, was held in 2013. In recent months, the number of women writing for Progress magazine has leapt. But you just need to look at the gender balance of our staff team to see the distance we must travel. We must all do more.

So this month I step out of the editor’s seat and hand the reins to Ayesha Hazarika, broadcaster, stand-up comedian and former adviser to Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman. She will be the magazine’s first guest-editor and every contribution in March’s edition, due in time for International Women’s Day, will be authored by a woman. Ayesha has secured authors not seen before on the pages of Progress – Bonnie Greer, Miriam O’Reilly and Gaby Hinsliff. Every one of them is Alison McGovern and John Woodcock PowerPledgemost welcome. I hope that this will not just be their debut but the start of regular appearances.

More importantly, if our women members and those active on the left take one thing away from what will be a brilliant edition, it is that if they have comment to make, an idea to champion or an argument to win, Progress is the place be published.

The Labour movement must draw its pool of talent from the most wide and diverse places. It is on the pages of Progress, Fabian Review, LabourList, Labour Uncut, Left Foot Forward and more that those people can come to the fore. It is incumbent on all of us who convene those platforms to constantly strive to deliver the representation modern Britain demands. Alison wrote for the Mirror on becoming the first woman chair of Progress that, ‘Politics is done better when it isn’t dominated by just a few. I believe in politics for the many.’ We will not always get it right, but as long as I am in the editor’s seat, we will be striving to make it better.

If you are not a member or subscriber, please join today to get the next edition delivered to your home.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets @RichardAngell

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Richard Angell

is director of Progress


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  • I’m not normally in favour of positive discrimination, but I think politics should be an exception, as the entire point of representative democracy is to represent the electorate. If politicians and political parties are not a reflection of the electorate in all its diversity, then they are not fulfilling their fundamental purpose. So I think all Labour’s moves in terms of all-women shortlists, women’s conferences and having a Women’s issue of Progress are to be hugely welcomed.

    As a black woman, I would also want to draw attention to how few members of the BME community tend to get involved in politics. I live in a very ethnically diverse part of London, but this is simply not reflected in the membership of my CLP (and I can only imagine that it must be far, far worse in the Tory party). This is sad, and worrying. Of course you can’t force people to have an active interest in politics, but making sure that it’s well known how welcoming Labour is to women, the LGTB community, ethnic minorities and disabled people has got to help.

  • What happens when the best candidates are male or white (or even both)?? Should we promote average woman and average people from ethnic minorities?

    Whenever I’m asked to make a choice, I always support the non-white and woman candidates first. I hope my positive discrimination makes a change.

    Recently we’ve been electing delegates to the GC. My branch managed to elect 3 women and 2 men, another branch found 4 women and 8 men – and all white. They used the gender rules as guidelines.

    I’m a middle aged white male.

  • As I say, I’m not normally in favour of positive discrimination for exactly the reasons you describe – you should always choose the best candidate for the job regardless of their gender, race, sexuality etc.
    But I also think that in politics being representative of the population you come from is one of the factors that adds to you being the “best” candidate. I certainly wouldn’t advocate giving advancement to a terrible candidate ONLY on the basis of gender or ethnicity, but I think it should be something that should be considered in the assessment of which candidate is the best.
    To be honest, the bigger problem (particularly in regard to race) seems to be the lack of people who even want to get involved in politics in the first place, which makes it extremely difficult to nominate them into positions of power in the party.

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