A woman’s place is not only in the House

November 26, 2012 11:45 am

In Manchester, with the Manchester Central by-election and Police and Crime Commissioner elections out of the way, we now have no elections expected until 2014. This doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy – I know members have been out on the doorstep locally over the weekend, as well as helping out in advance of this week’s by-elections, and we’re sending a minibus to Rotherham on Thursday. Nevertheless, it does give us a bit of a pause to reflect on our next steps – and when you’re in an area with as many talented and experienced party activists as Manchester, those next steps tend to include a selection process or several.

I should hastily add, before you all sit up at your keyboards, that I have no gossip, at all – this absolutely isn’t that kind of column. I’m just aware that between the rash of recent elections and the next ones coming over the horizon, and the smell of selections is in the air, and it’s got me thinking.

The other weekend, some of you may remember, I had the privilege of ‘covering’ Labour Women’s Network’s Political Day event for LabourList. (I say ‘covering’ like I’m Laurie Penny or something: all I had to do was sit there eating a falafel wrap and pressing ‘retweet’.) It was a fascinating and incredibly valuable day, and the first event of its kind. However, many Labour women will be familiar with LWN’s more regular selection training events.

And this event didn’t disappoint – after a full day of panel discussions on everything from Obama to Page 3, the final session was indeed about advice on selections and elections, from those who had been through one or both. It was…exhausting, frankly. I can put some of that down to it being the end of a very long day, and some down to the fact that the overwhelmingly energetic Suzy Stride was on the panel, but there’s no getting around the fact that the detail and depth of advice all the speakers gave was terrifying, demanding and very, very good.

One problem, however – and this isn’t at all a criticism of LWN, who do a fantastic job of widening access to Parliament and of supporting Labour women to do things they never thought they had in them, and have done for years – why are we so focused on getting people into Parliament?

It’s not only Westminster selections occupying the thoughts of Labour’s rising stars. The next time Manchester people go to the polls (touch wood) will be for the European elections in 2014. In the North West we have one excellent Labour woman MEP already in Arlene McCarthy, hopefully to be joined by Theresa Griffin, who was an excellent candidate in 1999, 2004 and 2009: but where are all the women putting themselves forward as new candidates? Where were all the women in the PCC elections? (Here’s another interesting fact I picked up at the LWN event: six out of the forty-two newly-elected police and crime commissioners are women. Six!) Where are the women elected mayors and the women council leaders? There are women in these positions, of course – great ones – but the level of representation is dismal. And yet as a party all of our focus, all of our agonising about the need for women candidates and BME candidates and local candidates and whether and how these lofty ambitions conflict – and, most importantly, all of our training and support – seems to fetishise Westminster.

We have active members and supporters – women and men – who are never going to see Parliament as a place for them (and there’s no shame in that: I’m reminded of the Nye Bevan quote Paul Richards repeated on LabourList as advice for the 2010 intake of MPs); but as Nick Cohen noted yesterday in the Observer, some of the best work Labour can do while we’re in opposition has to happen outside the House of Commons. Let’s work towards making Labour representative and accessible in all the places power resides. After all, a woman’s place is not only in the House.

  • http://twitter.com/PeterKenyon Peter Kenyon

    City of London Labour Party is delighted with the response to appeals for possible candidates for next year’s Common Council elections launched over the weekend through the Labour and Fabians Women’s Networks.

    We are looking for:

    “….candidates that care passionately about the City as an ethical world financial centre, as well as a good local authority promoting best practice in the delivery of public services.”

Latest

  • Comment Freelancing needs a policy agenda of its own

    Freelancing needs a policy agenda of its own

    The self employed are often the ‘most entrepreneurial, go-getting people in Britain’ . That is what Ed Milliband said during his conference speech when he placed a commitment to the self employed and albeit freelance workers at the heart of his election pledges for the general election. One of Labour’s six pledges is to provide equal rights to the self employment. As Ed Mililband noted ‘two out of three don’t have a pension, one in five can’t get a mortgage. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Cameron’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act shows he’s legally illiterate

    Cameron’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act shows he’s legally illiterate

    In a crowded field, there is one issue which can always evoke splenetic outrage in the Daily Mail and the Tory backbenches: the Human Rights Act. And so it came as no surprise that its abolition ‘once and for all’ formed an integral part of David Cameron’s speech to the Tory conference. He had a simple pitch: the UK government is being told what to do, not by its own Courts but by Strasbourg. So we need a British Bill […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Cameron’s Tax Cut is a Tax Con – but it’ll be popular, and highlights Labour’s missed opportunity

    Cameron’s Tax Cut is a Tax Con – but it’ll be popular, and highlights Labour’s missed opportunity

    David Cameron’s conference speech today was well-delivered, punchy and memorable. It had a clear top line to grab the evening news headlines, and his populist tax cuts will be the overwhelming focus of tomorrow’s front pages. This was cheese to Miliband’s chalk. Whilst the Labour leader appeared to lack energy last week, and his headline announcement leaked in advance (and wasn’t sufficiently headline-grabbing to grab headlines), Cameron was surprisingly pumped up, energetic and forceful. He was also doling out policy like […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Dismantling Britain’s despotism

    Dismantling Britain’s despotism

    The fictional town of Dunchester is the scene for a right-wing science-fiction novel by nineteenth century author H. Rider Haggard. It is also the site for a fantasy game used to recruit and train British civil servants. The Tory novel is about radicals trying to block experts and professionals from saving Dunchester from an epidemic of plague. The civil service game allows players to spend £20 million in regenerating a fake town with the same name. Players take the role […]

    Read more →
  • News Video “This is who we resent” – David Cameron lets slip what he actually thinks

    “This is who we resent” – David Cameron lets slip what he actually thinks

    Unfortunate Freudian slip for David Cameron during his Conference speech today: “This party is the trade union for children from the poorest estates and the most chaotic homes; this party is the union for the young woman who wants an apprenticeship; teenagers who want to make something of their lives – this is who we resent.”

    Read more →
7ads6x98y