Ensuring that women can rise to the top—including within the Labour Partyby Jess Phillips / July 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
There are many splinter groups in Westminster. The Conservative “awkward squad” Remainers compete against the hard Brexiteers. The Labour Party seems to have so many different groups it’s hard to keep track of which Whatsapp group to respond to. The Socialist Campaign Group, Blue Labour, new labour, new newLabour (I made this one up before you get over-excited about the prospect of the party splitting.) All these groups are aggravating for change, seeking to use their collective voices to amplify their messages.
The Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, of which I am the chair, is different. It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, grouping. Comprising 119 female MPs and 64 female peers, if Labour women sing together it’s difficult to turn a deaf ear. Decades after Harriet Harman set up the group (which she was told off for at the time) these women are working together to change things.
This is crucial since it’s not just the government which is in need of a nudge on gender equality, the Labour Party is too, and the Women’s PLP will continue to strive for better female representation in local constituency parties right up to the national leadership.
I know the Labour Party has never elected a woman leader where most other parties have, and if I’m honest I think that sucks. But Labour voters did elect more women to parliament in 2017 than any other party ever. Labour women do take up a whacking great space on those green benches.
Just as with all the other groups that exist in parliament, members of the women’s PLP use their collective mettle to push their agenda. And we are a positive caucus—not a division within the ranks. For all that is written about the Labour Party’s family feud, at the fortnightly meetings of our collective you will see Shami Chakrabarti and I happily drawing up priorities together, while Diane Abbott and Luciana Berger talk about how to improve safety and security for women MPs. All are welcome, all are heard. This is not to say that disagreements don’t arise, they do, but they stay in that room.
The fact that nearly 50 per cent of Labour MPs are women is because of the pressure applied by this group to change the party rules, to demand positive action.