Monday 14 June 2010

The gender agenda for equality

William Brett blogs on what the leadership candidates said about how to change gender representation in the party.


Asked what they would do about gender representation in the Labour party, the candidates broadly agreed with each other: the shadow cabinet should better reflect the gender balance of the PLP; the macho culture of Westminster, which demands late hours and ruins families, must be changed.

But Diane Abbott set out how the party members could speed up change "right at the top of the party":

"I've been fighting the good fight on gender representation since the 1980s, when it was considered a dangerously left-wing cause. I've got the t-shirt, although maybe I don't have the dungarees...

"But if you really want to do something about gender representation at the top of the party, if you really really want to do something about it, then I suggest you vote for me as your leader, or as your second preference. Because if I become leader, then I can guarantee that there will never be a Labour leadership race that does not feature a woman."

The argument addressed the general structure of Labour politics, and David Miliband suggested that owing to the relentless pressure of politics, the leadership candidates should have a holiday pact for a week in August. It appeared to be a popular idea.

Andy Burnham was anxious about the lack of time MPs are able to spend with their families, though he was also worried about his World Cup viewing schedule being interrupted by the leadership campaign, although he was keen to stress he watched games with his daughter and son. He added that the new expenses regime could discourage women from standing for parliament, but that would have to be challenged from outside Parliament.

Diane Abbott and Ed Balls both expressed concern about how teenage children start to get embarrassed by the fact their parents are politicians, and about how they get upset about the abuse hurled at their parents by bloggers. (Other bloggers naturally!)

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