Tag Archive: gender quotas


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I support Harriet Harman’s suggestion that we formalise the lucky situation we find ourselves in at the moment where we have a balanced representation at the top of the ticket. If anyone feels that it isn’t necessary to do this in the modern Labour Party, I tell that that I was called a “Barmy  Ballbuster” by a fellow Party member on Twitter for even suggesting it’s something we could look at.

All Women Shortlists have served us well and should remain until we find that we have achieved stable gender parity. I think quotas are vital in the world we live in. As has been shown by the dreadful recruitment rate in the Lib Dems and the lack of A-list success in the Tories, All Women Shortlists has consistently been proved to be the method that works best in ensuring that we get a more and increasingly representative party in Parliament.

But great women candidates don’t appear from nowhere. There need to be far greater support for women taking positions in the party at all levels to give them the experience and confidence to come through and challenge – particularly in areas that have traditionally been male dominated. We also need to make sure working class women are also coming through, and getting the support and networks that they need to continue to make our representative of the working class.

I support the idea of a 50% quota for women in the cabinet. The idea that this will stop “the best candidates” is a straw man. For any job, there is no perfect candidate, but a set of criteria, and a number of candidates who match this criteria to a greater or lesser extent. All this does is add an extra level of criteria in the essential category. In politics we all know that there have always been other factors than simply “merit” in appointing people, and that this is true in all parties. Factionalism is far more damaging to politics than gender balancing but is allowed to carry on regardless as it’s an informal rather than a positive and formal rebalancing.

We have a great deal of talented women in Parliament – certainly more than enough to make up half a cabinet of experienced women in Parliament, and a new generation of women in the new intake who can be inspired to take these leadership roles on. A cabinet with for example – Anne Begg, Karen Buck, Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle, Harriet Harman, Meg Hillier, Margaret Hodge, Tessa Jowell, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, Joan Ruddock and Joan Walley – is not a cabinet stuffed with also-rans but is vibrant and interestingly diverse in terms of political positioning (something I think would be an inevitable part of making the pool you are choosing from smaller).

I hope this wouldn’t be a permanent measure, but one designed to permanently change the culture until it makes itself unnecessary – like All Women Shortlists.

Anyone unlikely to vote for a party based on this issue alone, is always going to be unlikely to vote Labour. On the other hand, this single measure gives us back a sense of radicalism and transformative politics that has been missing from the Labour Party for a while. It could have the power to further inspire the base, particularly the women, and to bring in a generation of women who see Labour taking real and direct action to improve our reflection of them in Parliament.

Traditional models of political engagement for the working classes have largely broken down. It used to be that the unions were the best recruiting ground, but with workplaces becoming smaller and more atomised, unions have had less reach to the 21st Century working class, the telesales workers and shop assistants who are being exploited as much, if not more, than ever. The Labour Party must work – with unions where possible – to bring together small businesses and entrepreneurs with the workers they need to find solutions that ensure decent wages and lifestyles but also allow economic growth and don’t stifle the best of industry.

Unions have some work to do on themselves to transform into 21st century vehicles for the aspirations and needs of the modern working class. Labour should support them as close but critical friends in this process. The union link is essential to Labour, but equally we need to represent the majority of Britain. We need to help unions to find a way to do that with us.

A supporters network is an interesting idea, but I don’t think it is the solution to why busy people aren’t getting involved in politics. I believe Labour could make far more of the Socialist Societies who already offer those with a particular interest to engage with Labour on a less formal basis. Socialist Society members who are not members of other parties are already allowed to vote as part of the affiliates group in Labour’s electoral college, and if the Societies are better strengthened and promoted they can work in much the way a supporters network would while allowing a legitimate route for policy engagement from sympathetic non-members.

We should also work with unions and Socialist Societies to engage their members in questions about the Party. Asking unions to survey their members regularly to find out what they expect from their affiliation fees would be a useful and interesting and nuanced exercise and would tell us more than simply expecting their General Secretaries to speak for them.  

At their best, socialist societies act as a perfect bridge between expert communities and the party. On housing, environment, science, law, education, health and with LGBT, Jewish, Tamil, Chinese, disabled, student and Irish communities, Christian socialists and the broad interests of the Fabians and the Labour Clubs, the Socialist Societies offer the unique combination of practitioner and campaigner expertise and Socialist beliefs.

There is a wealth of knowledge in these organisations, and a depth of commitment to bettering the policies of the Labour Party as a result. We can be proud historically of the contribution we have made to debates both in our own expert contributions and our ability to pull in knowledge from outside the party.

I bow to those better placed to talk about community organising, and look forward to hearing about how the Movement for Change is going to work. I add the caveat that it must be real and genuinely of the grassroots. If it becomes another way for the well connected to add a feather to their already over-stuffed caps it will fail.

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More on Quotas

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By Emma | 2 comments

I think this idea is absolutely the right thing to do, and this is absolutely the right time to do it.

 The idea that this will stop “the best candidate” is a straw man. For any job, there is no perfect candidate, but a set of criteria, and a number of candidates who match this criteria to a greater or lesser extent. All this does is add an extra level of criteria in the essential catagory. In politics we all know that there have always been other factors than simply “merit” in appointing people, and that this is true in all parties. Factionalism is far more damaging to politics than gender balancing but is allowed to carry on regardless as it’s an informal rather than a positive and formal rebalancing.

I hope this wouldn’t be a permanent measure, but one designed to permanently change the culture until it makes itself unnecessary – like All Women Shortlists.

 Politically, I don’t think this can hurts us. Anyone unlikely to vote for a party based on this issue alone, is always going to be unlikely to vote Labour. On the other hand, this single measure gives us back a sense of radicalism and transformative politics that has been missing from the Labour Party for a while. It could have the power to further inspire the base, particularly the women, and to bring in a generation of feminists who see Labour taking real and direct action to improve our offer to women in politics.

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It will surprise precisely nobody that I think Harriet Harman is absolutely right in her call for 50% of the Shadow Cabinet to be made up of women. We have a great deal of talented women in Parliament – certainly more than enough to make up half a cabinet of experienced women in Parliament, and a new generation of women in the new intake who can be inspired to take these leadership roles on. A cabinet with for example –  Anne Begg, Karen Buck, Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle, Harriet Harman, Meg Hillier, Margaret Hodge, Tessa Jowell, Meg Munn, Dawn Primarolo, Joan Ruddock and Joan Walley is not a cabinet stuffed with also-rans but is vibrant and interestingly diverse in terms of political positioning (something I think would be an inevitable part of making the pool you are choosing from smaller).

I think quotas are vital in the world we live in. As has been shown by the dreadful recruitment rate in the Lib Dems and the lack of A-list success in the Tories, All Women Shortlists has consistently been proved to be the method that works best in ensuring that we get a more and increasingly representative party in Parliament.

But great women candidates don’t appear from nowhere. There need to be far greater support for women taking positions in the party at all levels to give them the experience and confidence to come through and challenge – particularly inareas that have traditionally been male dominated. We need to make sure working class women are also coming through, a d getting the support and networks that they need to continue to make our representative of the working class.

So I applaud Harriet today, and look forward to action in the future, led by changes at the top but in conjunction with strong grassroots action.

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1. Will you restore the vote to conference, and if so, what measures beyond this would you take to make our party more democratic?

2. What will you do to ensure that the Labour Party Leadership and cabinet reflect the diversity of our membership and of Britain?

3. How should  a left-of-centre party, in opposition to a Right-of-Centre coalition conduct itself in opposition?

4. If you were forced in this contest to be defined by one key policy proposal, what would it be?

5. How do we articulate a progressive and (small l) liberal vision of an active and pro-active state?

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I was at the Fabian’s Next Left conference on Saturday, and anyone who saw me there will know that I am supporting Ed Miliband for the leadership of our party. I think he is an ideal candidate, warm and engaging, thoughtful and not afraid to push back on a question – or to say I don’t know, but then make sure he does find out. I thought the speech he gave was inspiring and principled (I actually welled up to hear a Labour politician talking thoughtfully about class, something we have tried to ignore for too long). Ed’s record at DECC was exemplary, and through my work with SERA and my interest in climate change issues I am aware of how far he brought us and the passion he has for taking Britain into a new era in a compassionate, fair and progressive way.

The issues that arose at the Fabian conference got me thinking about what we need in a leader and what I would want the whole slate to commit to or think about.

So here are some questions all our candidates should answer, some specific, some on direction and principle, that will help to focus the debate, and the answers and discussion of then would help us to renew as a party, a movement and as an electoral force.

1. Will you restore the vote to conference, and if so, what measures beyond this would you take to make our party more democratic?

2. What will you do to ensure that never again will we have a position where there are no female candidates in the contest for the Labour Party Leadership?

3. How should  a left-of-centre party, in opposition to a Right-of-Centre coalition conduct itself in opposition?

4. If you were forced in this contest to be defined by one key policy proposal, what would it be?

5. How do we articulate a progressive and (small l) liberal vision of an active and pro-active state?

For me I think these cover the areas of vision and leadership, without tying them down to policy specifics that they may decide would be best discussed through conference and other bodies.

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