This is a good week for Labour women – but the party can and must do more

8th October, 2013 8:23 am

I’m enormously proud of my Party – the Labour shadow cabinet now has 44% women compared to a Tory Cabinet which still has only 4 women.  In this week’s reshuffle Ed Miliband had able women to promote and he did. David Cameron had fewer able women to promote and failed to send out a message to the public and the next generation of Tory women by promoting some who could have served in the Cabinet.

I won’t even start on the Lib Dems.

Rachel Reeves is serious and clever and a good choice for Work and Pensions.  The DWP is a fiendishly complex department where IDS has clearly demonstrated that having a good reform headline isn’t enough to deliver change.

Gloria de Piero ranks alongside Caroline Flint as a great communicator.  Caroline’s analysis about how to win in the South, her description of how to target Aldi Mum and her work on the energy package announced at conference have not received sufficient praise and recognition.  Gloria has done good work putting tackling Anti Social Behaviour back in the news for Labour again.  She is a good promotion to the Shadow Cabinet.

Emma Reynolds, although not a full member of Cabinet, has a key role in the Housing brief.  Other women in Shadow roles have been some of the hardest working and most effective and I’m glad they’re getting the promotion and the recognition they deserve.

However, this progress has not happened by accident and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.  It is All Women Shortlists and pressure to ensure equal numbers in the Shadow Cabinet which provided Ed with the good women to choose from for his team.  As recently as 2010, we fought a General Election with only 4 women as full Cabinet Ministers.  The televised debates may have focussed attention on the top 3 men, but there was still a pitiful lack of Labour women at the front of our campaign.

And yesterday I felt a frisson of concern at the appointment of Douglas Alexander, Michael Dugher, Iain McNicol and Spencer Livermore as the heart of our 2015 campaign.  They will be an impressive and effective team, but there need to be women at the centre of our election strategy and planning too.

A recent article profiling the key people in Ed’s office showed a totally male team.  Only one woman was appointed to the senior executive team at Labour HQ and there have been times when the emails sent out to members about policy inititatives and the front page of the Labour news website have been all male.  There have been candidates selected on all male shortlists for the next election and too many people seem to think that an open selection is a male selection.  Wrong – All Women Shortlists are there to correct a longstanding and previously intractable inequality in our selection procedures.  The job’s not finished yet.

I know that the senior men in our Party care passionately about ensuring more equal gender representation in our politics.  I know they’re not deliberately discriminating against women.  I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.  But the price of equality is eternal vigilance.  Labour women – and many women in the country are watching you and expecting more.

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