Setting a challenge for the Labour Party on International Women’s Day

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Mark Crick
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Labour MPs are talking about one thing right now: the number of party members who have not received their ballots. Although eligible to vote, lots are still waiting for their crucial email according to a number of leadership campaigns that have picked this up from phonebanking, The Guardian reports. This particularly seems to be affecting those newbies who joined after the December election, which concerns Keir Starmer’s team as polling indicates they are most likely to support him. If you haven’t noticed your ballot arrive, search for “The Labour Party – Election of Labour Leader and Deputy Leader 2020” in your inbox and spam folder. If not found, there is still plenty of time to request a reissued ballot by visiting this page.

As for the Conservative Party, it is facing accusations of having failed to act on Islamophobia within its ranks. The Muslim Council of Britain has renewed calls for an independent inquiry into what it describes as a “systemic” problem, and submitted a dossier of complaints against Tory members. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which as we know is currently investigating claims that Labour is institutionally antisemitic, has said it is “actively considering” whether action should be taken. But the EHRC is still “awaiting the final terms of reference of the party’s independent review” – the one that was supposed to be about Islamophobia specifically but turned into a broad review of discrimination complaints.

It is International Women’s Day on Sunday. To mark the occasion, MPs talked about legislating for women’s rights and also shared their personal stories of womanhood and misogyny. Jess Phillips read out a list, as she does annually, of the names of women who have been murdered by men over the past year. It takes six minutes, and the number is going up rather than down. You can watch that speech and other clips of Labour MP contributions here. Unfortunately, the chamber was practically empty during these incredibly important contributions.

I don’t believe that the Labour Party does enough to highlight the misogyny that pervades our society. The UK still has not ratified the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and girls despite signing up to it eight years ago. Why? Because the government would actually have to take steps to combat this violence, and it has favoured austerity instead. It has also favoured keeping the ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy, which is a form of immigration control that endangers migrant women. I know this to be true as a former parliamentary caseworker; all MPs know it. And yet we rarely hear these points made.

Feminism should not be confined to the department of women and equalities. Misogyny is something to be tackled in every single policy area. Our representatives, and the Labour Party as a whole, must do more.

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