This row is out in the open – and it isn’t going away any time soon

19th December, 2013 6:38 pm

There was a story in the Times(£) by Sam Coates this morning that hasn’t really generated the level of interest that I assumed it would, but it’s worth commenting on as it speaks to an issue that is clearly aggravating many within the party – the lack of women involved at a senior level in the election campaign. Here’s what the Times reported this morning:

“Harriet Harman “went crazy” at Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election chief, over his running of the party’s campaign and the role given to women, Labour sources have revealed. The Labour deputy leader also attacked Mr Alexander over plans to limit the party’s efforts in the European elections next May, in the face of scant resources and the expectation of a poor performance.”

“Ms Harman clashed with Mr Alexander at a private meeting at Labour headquarters on Monday in front of about three dozen staff, who were “shell-shocked” by the exchange, during which she accused him of speaking over her and ignoring her contributions. She interrupted a presentation by Mr Alexander to raise her issues and at one point declared that she was sick of hearing from “more panels full of boys”. She argued with him for several minutes.”

Now clearly senior politicians fall out. Like in any working environment there are rows, disputes, grudges and fights. Show me an election campaign that didn’t have you a fight and I’ll show you a campaign that won no seats.

But that said, a row between politicians or staffers is one thing – a loud and angry row in front of over thirty staff is a completely different kettle of fish. It’s unpleasant, it’s not the kind of thing you want to be hearing about the party – but more importantly than that, it’s not the kind of thing that happens lightly.

harman alexander


Tensions are clearly high.

You don’t have a row in front of thirty staffers in the Labour Party and not expect it to become a big deal, and this will be a big deal internally, even if it hasn’t set the Westminster Village alight. There is clearly a significant proportion of the party who believe that only having men steer the election campaign is untenable. Jacqui Smith and Emma Burnell have articulated that here before. They are not going to stop feeling that way whilst the status quo remains.

If the party were looking for someone senior, female and with significant experience of running a political campaign, they could do far worse than speak to Stephanie Cutter – the Deputy Director of Obama 2012 – who was in London last night to deliver our inaugural Christmas lecture. Her speech, and the responses to the panel discussion that followed, displayed her understanding of the importance of crafting sharp messaging and the use of data and widely available tools to campaign innovatively even when there’s not much money about (as is the case in the Labour Party).

I’ve no idea if she’d be interested or even available. But the Labour Party could do far worse than give her a call…

  • swatnan

    It would be great to have a podcast of yesterdays Xmas Lecture for those unable to go.

    • Doug Smith

      I’d prefer a podcast of the Harriet vs Wee Dougie clash at Labour’s HQ.

  • Dan

    #TeamHarriet all the way.

  • Doug Smith

    “they could do far worse than speak to Stephanie Cutter – the Deputy Director of Obama 2012″

    Won’t happen. If it did wee Dougie would feel threatened and hopelessly out of his depth.

  • RWP

    Reading the Times quotation, it reads more like Harriet’s miffed at being excluded by wee Dougie, so I’m surprised this article takes a “Harman wants more women in the election campaign slant”. That may be an undertone of her unhappiness but it doesn’t seem to be the main issue in this row.

    If she’s so unhappy about the latter it may be time for her to raise this with EdM, who appointed four key people to the election team, all male.

    More likely though, it seems she is bridling at her lack of influence despite her deputy leader role.

  • Steve

    Clearly the answer is all women shortlists . For exemptions see appendix entitled ‘family members’.

  • Carolekins

    Go Harriet! Who decided that what we needed fronting the election campaign was more of the same sleek young (or even middle-aged) men.

    • markmyword49

      Middle class, middle aged, Oxbridge educated white males who’ve never been employed outside the Westminster bubble perhaps????
      “more panels of boys” give the only answers they feel comfortable with because of their lack of real world experience. The Taliban aren’t only found in Afghanistan.

  • FionaUK

    Hi Mark, last time I heard, Harriet was the deputy shadow prime minister and she should be raising this issue very forceably and publicly.
    SHAME ON THE TIMES for using the usual put downs for women such as ‘crazy’ and implying a level of chaotic, emotional actions on her part.
    With the tone of their reporting I am surprised they didn’t suggest she was having a period!
    Patriarchy is a rotten form of government and it is NOT the best we can do

  • ColinAdkins

    She is right of course. But is her objection based on the absence of women or the absence of Harriet. Both I guess.

  • EricBC

    If Stephanie Cutter works for UKIP focussing upon Labour=Tory marginals, Labour should achieve a majority above sixty.

    I am not a cynic.

  • Sheila

    Well done, Harriet! A man speaking over a woman? A man ignoring a woman’s contribution? Really? Now there’s a surprise. Thanks for protesting loud and clear. I wouldn’t have been “shell-shocked”. I’d have been cheering you on!

  • Pingback: Harriet and Labour’s own “woman problem” | uk politica()


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