2015 marks the fortieth anniversary of the election of Margaret Thatcher as leader of the Conservative Party. 2015 is also the year that the Labour party, which used to love to taunt the Conservatives over their ‘women problems’, elected a man to be the Leader, Deputy Leader and their London Mayoral candidate.
Following Harriet Harman’s departure from her second stint as acting Leader of the party, a role twice fulfilled by women otherwise kept out of the magic circle of leadership, it’s worth reflecting on the necessity of All Women Shortlists (AWS) in our party and their failure to supply a leader in the 20-plus years they’ve been put forward.
Instinctively, I don’t support AWS. I have seen them foster resentment among colleagues male and female. I would prefer a system where shortlists are made up of 50:50 male to female ratios but sadly, what I would prefer in an ideal world does not work. Therefore my support for AWS is based on evidence of which the 2015 Labour internal elections are merely the latest in a long line.
If you believe men and women are equal you have to address why men dominate the upper echelons of society and politics and always have. The answer is structural and perhaps even inherent in how society and people operate. Clearly, simply increasing the number of female candidates is not enough. Labour has a much larger talent pool of female MPs than the Conservatives and we’ve still failed to elect a woman leader.
The fact that having two strong candidates in 2015 after having one candidate in 2010 on borrowed votes is seen as progress shows how far we have to go. 2015 should be the bare minimum, not our best effort yet.
In this leadership election we had more women stand for senior positions than ever before; Diane Abbott and Tessa Jowell for the London Mayoral candidacy, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper for the Labour Leadership and Caroline Flint, Stella Creasy and Angela Eagle for the Deputy Leadership.
Despite this array of candidates, nearly all of whom would have been strong or exceptional candidates (on average, arguably stronger than their male counterparts), the Labour party, a party that considers itself the natural home of women’s rights and advancement, elected men to all three posts.
Worse was to come in the new leader’s shadow cabinet appointments…
(To read the entire article go to Labour Uncut by clicking here)
Alex Ross Shaw, Shipley Branch