Category Archives: Labour Party

Review of Commissioner designate Věra Jourová’s hearing

In her opening statement at the Commission hearings yesterday afternoon (01 October), Věra Jourová, Commissioner designate for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, spoke passionately about her enthusiasm and the sense of responsibility she has for the role.

She said her commitment was to deliver on the European values and fundamental rights described by Vaclav Havel and quoted his address to the European Parliament in 2000, in Strasbourg.

Her mandate will be characterised by focussing her efforts on three areas: the need for citizens to have choice, the protection of citizens’ rights and the need to build trust across the judicial systems within the EU.

On women she asserted that vulnerable women who suffer violence “need our voice”, adding: “Whether its women who suffer domestic violence or the inhumane practice of female genital mutilation. These are incompatible with everything the European Union stands for.”

Later on during questions Jourová, she said she would ensure all member states ratify the Istanbul Convention (about preventing violence against women which will be signed in 2015). Until now only eight member states have signed it.

The Commissioner designate, if ratified, will have responsibility for a new portfolio and she said she hoped that she would be able to build bridges between national legal systems and build a fairer single market. She said: “It will help to build economic growth because a sound and predictable justice system is a prerequisite for economic growth and a business friendly environment in which cross-border trade can flourish.”

Jourová also promised to tackle the ‘glass ceiling and assured us that she will defend the Women on Boards proposal.

Jourová, spoke passionately about being the victim of injustice and the lengths she went to clear her name. “It was this”, she said, “That pushed me to study law”.

During questions she was asked if she will support the European Parliament’s roadmap against discrimination of LGBTI in Europe. She responded: “We are dependent on the member states that need to fight against this, but I will use awareness campaigns.”

Following this she was asked if action against specific member states will be taken but Jourová’s response was vague and she said it is something to discuss with individual countries to see if such barriers exist.

Her answers on gender equality were a bit more promising, albeit rather general and she said women must have equal access to services that men have at their disposal.

She was also asked about female representation in the European Commission and if she is willing to start a campaign for more female commissioners. She said she would “be presenting proposals to increase gender equality in the Commission.”

In her closing comments she admitted she was a little general with her responses. It is true that her answers lacked detailed. However, her portfolio is new, extremely complex and covers a very large area; in addition she was questioned for three hours.

Although a member of the ALDE group (Liberal group) I found her remarks on women, in particular, very encouraging.

Lord Hill’s hearing was also yesterday running at the same time as Věra Jourová, so I was unable to see it but you can read more on that here.

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No to women-only carriages on our railways

While I am fairly certain that Tory Transport Minister Claire Perry’s heart is somewhere in the right place, I fear she is very misguided in her views on how to reduce the number of sexual assaults on women using public transport.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday, Ms Perry let it be known that she is considering measures similar to the women-only carriages introduced on the San Paolo metro two months ago, according to City Metric.

No-one is disputing that action is urgently needed. The number of sex crime incidents against women on the London underground and DLR increased by 31 per cent during the past year. Sexual offences on UK mainline railways rose by 21 per cent between March 2013 and March this year.

The situation is indeed very serious. However, the answer must be to put the onus on the offenders, the men who carry out the attacks, not the victims, the women who are attacked.

Segregating women in their own carriages is quite simply the worst of all worlds. It makes women the ones who are “punished” not their attackers.

Instead of demonising all women who travel on public transport, Claire Perry, who is apparently currently meeting with police transport officers to discuss reducing sexual assaults on women using the rail and underground networks, should be seeking to take action against those who commit the offences.

Two immediate ways of dealing with sexual assaults are:

Improve law enforcement on the underground, mainline rail and other rail systems

Take immediate measures to improve the abysmally low conviction rates for all types of sexual offences

There are, I am sure, other measures which would target the offenders not the victims and be successful in reducing sex crimes.

Segregated carriages currently operate in India, Russia, Indonesia and Japan. There is little doubt they are effective and incidents of sexual assaults on women using public transport have gone down in all these countries. It may be effective but it it’s neither fair nor just.

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Women are more likely to vote Labour than Conservative

With the Scottish referendum successfully out of the way and Labour Party Conference concluded, it’s time to start reporting again on women, Brussels, London and related matters. I should, of course, also add that the European Parliament went back on 1 September and that we’re now beginning the hearings for the Commissioners designate. But more on that later. In the meantime, I was very interested in this opinion survey.

The excellent Mumsnet, the UK’s biggest network for parents which aims to make their lives easier by pooling knowledge, advice and support, has teamed up with Ipsos MORI to find out how women are intending to vote next year.

It’s very good news to hear from this survey that women are still more likely to vote Labour than Conservative

Thirty-nine per cent of women back Labour while the Tories have thirty per cent

Howver, the survey also found that the female vote is still up for grabs, and six out of 10 women (58%) say they may change their minds between now and next May

Mums Net Graphis

The lesson for Labour surely is that we need to be vigilant about women voters and always take women’s views on board. Women could make the difference between winning and losing.

Although Labour has done better among women than the Tories for several years, this has not always been the case. I well remember the Conservatives being well ahead during the 1980s. There is nothing automatic about women voting Labour. We need to earn this support which could mean forming a government or spending another five years in opposition.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

It was encouraging to hear that the numbers of women on corporate boards has crept up again. However, we are only talking of a minimal increase of one per cent, but at least it’s heading in the right direction and it’s happened less than a year since the last figures were published.

So, the percentage of women on corporate boards in the European Union now sits at 18.6%, up from 17.8% in 2013, the European Commission figures revealed.

Although an increase is encouraging, this remains far short of the 40% target set by the commission. In addition just over 3% of Europe’s biggest companies have a female CEO. This is a poor figure and needs improving quickly which is why I believe there is a real need for quotas for women sitting on company boards. Three per cent is woeful and shows that there is still so much to do in order to make real impact at a corporate level.

The Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, revealed in his latest poll that Labour will win in Lib Dem target seats. He also said that Labour is on course for a comfortable majority. There will be an abundance of polls between now and the general election next year, but The Labour Party is right to remain cautious because despite the election being a mere eight months away we still have a lot of work to do; not least fighting off UKIP in their target seats. Indeed we mustn’t lose sight of the real threat they pose and we must be vigilant in dealing with this. To ignore them would be dangerous.

We only have to look across the water to France and the municipal elections to see how well UKIP could do here in the UK. The far-right Front National (FN) won its first seats in the upper chamber over the weekend elections, marking a shift in the political map of France.

Anne Penkith in The Guardian writes, “scored a historic victory in elections to the French senate on Sunday, winning its first ever seats in the upper chamber as the ruling Socialists and their left wing allies lost their majority to right wing parties.” If the FN are starting to gain seats in France there’s no reason to think UKIP couldn’t pose a similar threat in the UK.

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Letter to the editor: why do men write in more than women?

John Humphreys asked on this morning’s Radio 4 Today programme, why don’t women write letters to newspapers?

He asked the question after it was revealed that Professor in Journalism, Linda Clarke, of Westminster University revealed a startling statistic. As she was catching up on some back issues of newspapers she decided to carry out an audit over a three week period (not including weekends) of 115 letters published in newspapers. She found that just three were written by women and two of those were co-authored by a man.

As I revealed earlier this week how female politicians in newspapers are negatively portrayed, so women’s opinions are also marginalised.

Yvonne Roberts, chief leader writer of the Observer reminded us during the interview this morning that the playwright Arthur Miller once said that a good newspaper is the nation talking to itself.

Roberts made a serious point which is that letters pages are important historical documents. They give social, and cultural context to the social, political and economic issues of the day and. Such letters make history, and if the female voice is missing then you get a skewed view of the popular history that’s being created.

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Women Continue to be Negatively Portrayed in the Media

Female politicians are portrayed more negatively than male colleagues, new research has found.

I find it deeply concerning and rather astonishing that the media still present women so negatively and do so with little consideration of the consequences . It’s hardly surprising that women don’t feel particularly encouraged to participate in the political process and feel totally alienated as a result.

The researchers from Bournemouth University and Leeds Trinity University suggested that women receive less favourable coverage than men because it is assumed that men stand for, and represent, the whole population.

However, it’s not only within the press that we find consistent negative representations of women. Women in many different areas of public life are regularly attacked in some of the most abhorrent ways on social media. It is well documented that ‘internet trolls’, as they are known, use abusive and misogynistic language and threaten women who dare to give their opinion. There have been some high profile cases recently which thankfully resulted in convictions.

One of the researchers, Dr Heather Savigny summed up her findings rather well and said the result of such negative coverage meant women voters were both disengaged and left feeling un represented in Parliament, “the invidious trend affects the democratic process, whereby women voters feel unrepresented in Parliament and turn away from political engagement,” she said.

The researchers suggested a move towards print journalists being more conscious of including women in media coverage and reflect on how they present women. Their recommendations included the creation of a media monitoring group, comprising politicians, media representatives and academics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New rules on FGM announced

There are some issues which regardless of what political persuasion you are transcend party politics. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one such issue, for which there is a cross party consensus.

New measures have been announced which will end the practice of FGM “once and for all”.

The new rules and guidance provide much action and investment into this terrible crime and were announced as a new study revealed the numbers of women living in England and Wales with the effects of FGM are twice as high as previously estimated.

The report, by Equality Now and City University, found that more than 137,000 girls and women in England and Wales are victims of FGM. Although it has been illegal to carry out FGM in the UK since 1985, the research found approximately 103,000 migrant women aged 15 to 49, 10,000 girls under 15 and about 24,000 women aged 50 or above are victims of FGM.

The new measures announced today will make it the parents’ responsibility to protect their daughters from FGM. If they fail to do so they will be punished. In addition there will be a £1.4mn investment into preventative measures under the ‘prevent programme’ which will both help to stop the practice been carried out on girls but also support and care for victims.

Training will also be given to health and social workers, police and teachers who will be taught to identify those who are a potential risk of being subjected to this most brutal form of abuse.

And a new Border Force child protection unit has been set up which will work alongside the police to target specific flights into and out of the UK in an attempt to identify and prevent young girls being taken out of the country for this purpose.

This is an important step that will go a significant way to stopping this terrible crime. We must also continue to support victims in this country alongside the urgent preventative work which is now being undertaken.

Efua Dorkenoo of Equality Now told the Guardian professionals needed clear guidance to identify at-risk girls but also that action was urgently required: “The government needs to get a handle over this extreme abuse of the most vulnerable girls in our society by implementing a robust national plan to address the issue,” she said.

“There is no time to waste on platitudes as thousands of girls living in England and Wales are having their life blighted by this damaging practice.”

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