EYEreflect on the Labour Party’s ‘Annus Horribilis’ and consider how sex discrimination has contributed to some pretty nasty below the belt infighting.
Given the current comparatively rude health of female representation in UK, public life it’s surprising that some MP’s are still so keen to see our patriarchal institutions circumvent basic democratic principles and impose quotas and discriminatory shortlists on the people in order to ensure ‘equal power’ between the sexes.
Not only is the whole concept of all women short-lists wholly undemocratic but given the way things have panned out for the main party to fully embrace them, there may be other reasons to avoid them.
Champions will argue (correctly) that the Labour Party currently have a higher proportion of female MPs (44%) than any other party and that their positive
action discrimination efforts have done much to move the overall male:female ratio closer to the supposedly utopian 50:50 goal.
From a glass half full perspective this argument certainly has some weight but a cold hard reality is that the Labour Party now has fewer female MP’s than in 1997 when Blair’s ‘one time only’ quota resulted in a hundred ‘babes’ in Parliament and a finding of direct sex discrimination in the courts. The latter leading to a time bound exception to the rule being swiftly added to the Equality Laws and regularly extended thereafter.
Of course this reduction is partly due Labour’s recent political misfortunes at the ballot box but given that AWSs tend to be imposed on winnable constituencies the fact, that only 48% of these candidates have topped the poll isn’t particularly inspiring.
Voters aren’t especially keen and they can cause fractures and divisions when imposed on local constituency parties from on high. Some accused Blair of conveniently using AWSs to freeze out potential competition in the regions and at least one ‘ultra safe seat’ has been lost over such a ‘family squabble’.
But especially given the disastrous year of infighting that Labour have just had, surely another argument against AWSs has to be the aspirational attitude of the politician it can produce.
Some of the current crop will undoubtedly be talented enough to have won their seat on merit but, because we’ll never know, their pen profile will always include a doubt inducing reference that can be exploited by their enemies.
But surely the most problematic outcome of the now heavily embedded policy is that some of Labour’s next generation sisterhood now have such an inflated sense of entitlement that their Party can only inevitably fail to satisfy their insatiable and ever increasing demands.
When Jeremy Corbyn announced a party unifying shadow cabinet which had more women than men AWS superstar Jess Phillips immediately undermined the historical gesture by criticising him for giving all the ‘top jobs’ to men. Conveniently ignoring the fact that pretty much all senior female MPs had ruled themselves out of the running, she even had the cheek to accuse the poor man of “low level misogyny”.
When the Labour rebels made their post Brexit move to unseat Corbyn a common consensus was that a female candidate stood the best chance of uniting the party. Presumably one reason for this strategic analysis was simply that some within the party are currently more obsessed with the sex of the person in the seat above anything and everything else.
This lead to Angela Eagle’s disastrous run, who based on her complete lack of policy ideas seemed to be under the impression that her sex was enough to set her apart from the current leader. Launching her campaign in front of a pink Union Jack backdrop wasn’t enough to convince everyone involved and ten days later some of her supporters went back to crying (internalized) misogyny when others jumped ship and backed a male candidate.
“In its 116 year history, and in spite of its claims to be the party of equality for all, Labour has never had a female leader,” she continued. “It is almost as if it has forgotten about its female membership, so we also extend a warm hand of welcome to any Labour supporters – male or female – who want political representation from a party that makes gender equality a priority. Labour has, in the past, made great strides in pushing forward on diversity, but now it seems it really does have a women problem – and that’s just not funny.” Sophie Walker (wee) commenting on Angela Eagle’s resignation.
The leadership contest that followed was as ill tempered as the in-fights and plots that provoked it and accusations of ‘sexism’ and ‘misogyny’ were common currency throughout.
Yvette Cooper (one of last year’s contenders) used her time in the political wilderness to create an anti internet abuse campaign and with perfect timing, predictably used the self promotion platform to accuse her own party leader of promoting a culture of sexist bullying.
Soon after another AWS alumni (Paula Sherriff) fronted an open letter signed by 45 fellow female MPs, stating tthat hey believed they were being singled out for “targets of threats, undue vilification, intimidation, abuse and violent rhetoric” and that it was largely all Jeremy’s doing.
Pretty petty passive aggressive political tactics, in my humble subjective opinion, but given that 78 out of his 99 female co-workers didn’t rise resiliently through the rough and tumble of open democratic processes, is it any wonder that one of their demands was for more secret ballots (lest the proles object to how their Member voted and send them a rude tweet).
In the end the ‘Blairite Rebels’ didn’t get their way so we’ll probably see more of the same next year.
Interestingly both of this year’s leadership candidates appear to have pledged to place a permanent binary genital ringfence around Labours two top jobs which EYEguess might mean that if they can force another leadership election and convince Tom Watson to stay where he is then technically only candidates of the caliber of Messers Cooper, Phillips and Harman need apply.