Tag Archives: Harriet Harman

Brighton Conference Round Up

The Labour Party Women’s Conference held on Saturday was probably the best attended I have experienced in over thirty years. With over 1000 women it was well-informed and lively. It was really heart-warming to see so many Labour women coming together, and goes to show that feminism is alive and well.

Key speakers Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper told the audience that Labour is the Party for women. The Tories don’t care and the Lib-Dems can’t deliver. In my own contribution from the floor I made sure delegates knew about UKIP’s sexist and racist attitudes plus the fact that they do not have one single woman MEP.

In the afternoon we had an amazing session with Melissa Benn and the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez chaired by all-time favourite Bonnie Greer. Melissa, whose book on bringing up daughters has just been published, is well known to Labour women while Caroline Criado-Perez spoke eloquently about the online abuse she received following her campaign to get women onto British banknotes.

On Saturday evening I was at the London Labour reception catching up with many old friends including Gareth Thomas, Martin and Sara Linton and Parvez Ahmed

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On Sunday afternoon we had the first official photos of our Labour MEP team for the 2014 elections. Here’s a behind the scenes shot as we prepared with Ivana Bartoletti, Claude Moraes, Kamaljeet Jandu, Sanchia Alasia, Seb Dance, and Lucy Anderson.

On Sunday evening I held my usual dinner for London Conference delegates, which is becoming quite a tradition. We very lucky this time to have as our guest speaker Bob Mulholland from California, a Democrat campaign strategist and a super delegate voting for Hillary Clinton. Bob gave a great speech, very up front and very entertaining. Politics is certainly different in the USA.

 

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Bob’s key message is that you have to win in order to have any power to bring about change. That’s a message we have to hang on to for the European and local elections on 22 May next year. We must win both these elections so that Labour can take the concrete action this country so desperately needs. These elections are also the last time people go to the polls before the 2015 general election. A strong result on May 22 will therefore have a big impact on getting Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street.

Earlier in the week, meanwhile, I was pleased to see J.K. Rowling criticise the stigma attached to single mothers. Best-selling author Rowling, who drafted the first Harry Potter book as a lone parent struggling to find work, describes her “slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem”. “Assumptions [are] made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child,” she says.

Before coming into politics I managed Gingerbread – the single parent support charity of which Rowling is now President. I have seen firsthand how difficult and isolating raising a child alone can be – and how it changes the way you are perceived and treated.

One of the most pernicious consequences of austerity is an increase in this kind of stigmatisation. Words like ‘chav’ or ‘scrounger’ have become commonplace, as have stereotypes about single mums. The Conservatives – with their attacks on benefits claimants and attempts to promote marriage through the tax system – wilfully play into this. As a result mothers are now more likely than ever to be “defined” by their single parent status. To help break this cycle it is vital that Rowling and other success stories continue to speak out.

Sadly not a lot seems to have changed since I was Chief Executive of Gingerbread in the early 1990s.       

 

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Harriet Harman this week said that the lack of female sports broadcasters and players is “woeful” and called for government action.

She criticised the inequality in funding for male and female sports and demanded equal prize money for men and women in sporting competitions.  The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party told the Daily Mirror: “There’s an entrenched pattern of inequality that is more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.  There are now a few women broadcasters but the journalists are overwhelmingly men. At every level – both about communicating sport and making the decisions about sport – it’s men running the show. It’s woeful.  The Government doesn’t have a coherent strategy for sport in schools, let alone for girls sport in schools and they need to get a grip on it.”

Ms Harman said the inequality in sports would damage the UK’s chances of producing more female Olympic winners such as gold medallist Jessica Ennis.  She has called on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee to hold a comprehensive inquiry into the issues.  She added that although 36 per cent of Team GB medals were won by women at the London Olympics, women’s sport received just 0.5 per cent of the total sponsorship money.

There is also a difference in the winnings male and female sports stars earn.

The World Twenty20 cricket tournament awarded £618,000 to the men’s winning team while only £38,000 went to the female champions.  Next year’s men’s FA Cup winners will get £1.8 million but the women receive £5,000.  Wimbledon is one of the few competitions where the prize money is equal.  Ms Harman also said it is time to end the loophole that allows men-only sports clubs, like Muirfield golf course.

She said: “We have clubs where women are only allowed in the company of a man. It is ridiculous and has absolutely no place in the 21st century.”

Ms Harman also called for the Football League, which does not have a single female manager, to change.

It followed the success of England football star Rachel Yankey, who last week beat Peter Shilton’s record to become the country’s most-capped player with 125 appearances.  I urge everyone to watch Hope Powell’s England, who are in Sweden, ready to compete in Women’s Euro 2013.

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Shocking figures reveal lack of women aged 50+ on TV

Just one in five presenters at major broadcasters over the age of 50 are women

Although a shocking figure in one sense, it really should not be a complete surprise. I’d probably struggle to count on one hand the number of women presenters over the age of 50 who regularly appear on TV or who have their own shows. Yes there are some well-known faces, but they are an exception.

As soon as you hit 50 your days are numbered, as Miriam O’Reilly knows only too well. It was her brave decision to fight her employer, the BBC, over this discrimination which forced  the industry to recognise it has a problem.  O’Reilly was interviewed in the Guardian just last week and reveals how she has spoken to other women who were as badly bullied and/or side-lined in the same way she was. Veteran presenter Anna Ford who is sadly no longer on our screens lamented the lack of older women television presenters again in the Guardian last Saturday.

Harriet Harman’s figures, published recently show ‘just one in five presenters at major broadcasters over the age of 50 are women’, is terrible. It shows that women have to fight harder than men to achieve the same roles and do so throughout their careers.

We are familiar with the difficulties women face when going back to work following a period of maternity leave, and we know how hard it is for women to reach the board and executive level in many companies because we have the stats to prove it from recent research studies.  And now women are faced with their working lives being cut short because they are not considered ‘the right fit’? Whatever the reason executives must stop discriminating against capable and experienced women who are 50+. This is a period which should be one of the highlights of women’s careers. After all women in their 50s are experienced, knowledgeable, and should, therefore, be sought after not (as unfortunately they are) side-lined.

Harriet Harman rightly said: “It really is a black hole … Broadcasters behave as though the viewing public have to be protected from the sight of an older woman and that’s just rude. There is nothing wrong with being an older woman….We’ve got to fight back against this sense that older women are less valuable, whereas men accumulate wisdom, authority and experience as they age.”

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Earlier this week I wrote how Boris Johnson is working hard to show (convince maybe) the Tory Party that he can lead them. Last week he did this by revealing plans to appease the Eurosceptic while not upsetting those happy with the current policy.

The Mayor of London said in an interview with the Times that he would prefer a “minimalist EU stripped down to the single market.”

In my blog I explained: “What this really means is that the social and employment legislation associated with the single market – health and safety at work, maternity rights and much more, will go. This is what the Tories really want. Rights for people at work are, as we know, anathema to many Tories.”

As I stated it’s difficult to see how the EU would agree to such a deal.

Indeed France has already indicated that it’s beginning to lose patience with the UK, after the Governor of the Bank of France said that he wants London stripped of its status as Europe’s financial capital.

Noyer said: ““Most of the euro business should be done inside the euro area. It’s linked to the capacity of the central bank to provide liquidity and ensure oversight of its own currency.”

You can read more on Mr Noyer’s call here.

The government must be careful what it wishes for, Cameron must be measured and as I’ve said all along he needs to be mindful that even attempting to renegotiate powers is not in any way an easy process.

You can read my blog from earlier in the week with more thoughts on this, here.

Jackie Ashley’s article in yesterday’s Observer, suggested that older women are the “nation’s great untapped resource.” She cited Labour as taking the lead in tapping into skills and experience which otherwise go to waste, and she warns the other parties ignore this demographic at their peril.

She explores how the baby boomer generation who enjoyed much greater freedom are now finding that they are ‘sandwich carers’, responsible for children as well as parents.

This week she will be part of an inaugural meeting of a new panel set up by Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper; ‘The Older Women’s Commission’ will attempt to change attitudes towards older women. It’s an enormous task but this is an interesting idea for a task force which will undoubtedly come up with some innovative and exciting ideas about how we can tackle this issue. Read her article here.

Finally, congratulations to Harriet Harman who last week celebrated 30 years as a Member of Parliament.

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Rupert Murdoch owns too many newspapers

Rupert Murdoch owns too many newspapers. This was the uncompromising message from the Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman at the Westminster Media Forum yesterday as reported in the Guardian.

It’s not solely a British problem. Here in the European Parliament we have debated media pluralism, or plurality as we call it in the UK, on many occasions. One of the first debates after the 2009 European elections was about Silvio Berlusconi’s vast and often unedifying media empire. The vote on the resolution went narrowly against the appalling Berlusconi to the surprise of many on the centre right who wrongly foresaw an easy victory for their side.

The media pluralism question raised its head again during the Hungarian EU Presidency. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of the right wing Fidesz Party sought to change the country’s constitution in a number of ways, including curtailing the freedom of the country’s press and media outlets.

Control of the media, specifically media plurality, is a polarised issue in the European Parliament. Given that much of the business here is conducted on the basis of consensus and the rough and tumble of robust debate so strong in Britain is largely lacking in the European Parliament, this is an unusual phenomenon. The only conclusion I can draw from the way parties of the right and centre-right in the European Parliament have rallied round to defend mass ownership of the media is that they benefit from such an arrangement. Berlusconi as Prime Minister of Italy and media magnate was very much to the right as are most owners of newspapers and television.

Harriet Harman is right when she says, “Murdoch owns too many newspapers and had it not been for the phone-hacking scandal the government would have waved through his bid to take control of the whole of BskyB. Both Ofcom and Leveson are looking at ownership . It is clear that there needs to be change.”

This is very welcome news and I for one will be following the progress of the forthcoming Communications Act closely. As Harriet said yesterday, it will be “an opportunity to take action to deal with difficult, historical problems which have been unaddressed to too long.”

Meanwhile the debate on media pluralism continues in the European Parliament. Control of the media is now more than a national issue. Media spans borders and what happens in one European country affects another. I do not wish to see the mauling received by the Labour Party before the 1992 general election happen anywhere else. Neil Kinnock was vilified by the Murdoch press because he bravely committed Labour to tackling media ownership were it to form a government. Tony Blair later felt he needed to make it up to Murdoch prior to the 1997 election.

This is not the way the UK should be conducting its relations with the media. Political parties should never feel they have to be nice to an all-powerful media baron and they should never feel any pressure to compromise their principles and beliefs to get support from such a quarter. The UK and Europe as a whole needs a free and fair press and media. It’s one of the best ways of securing our democracy.

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Labour Women Pioneers into Power Liverpool 2011 Part 3

 Here is the third part of the fringe meeting I chaired at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.  In this part Harriet Harman talks about how important female representation is for international politics.  As you would imagine, she spoke very eloquently about how having more women involved in elected politics in the UK is beneficial for women in other countries, like Kenya, who need our support. 

I have posted the video below.  Please enjoy.

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At Conference: From Pioneers to Power and Back Again: Why Have Women Been Forgotten?

As the Parliamentary season gets into swing we once again find ourselves back in conference season. This Saturday the Labour Party Conference begins in Liverpool.  I am looking forward to the first couple of days in particular as Saturday and Sunday are the days of the Women’s Conference which I hope as many of you can make as possible. You also might be interested to know that I have organised a Fringe Event on the Sunday: “From Pioneers to Power and Back Again: Why Have Women Been Forgotten?”

One of the most overlooked aspects of the Labour Party’s history is the contribution of its women activists. By holding this event I plan not only to pay tribute to the work they did and the successes of women in the Labour Party but also to ask why women have been forgotten in the socialist movement.

I believe this question is more important now than ever before as the Tories are in the process of rolling back all of the advancements women have made in recent years.  As a result, the women’s vote may cost the Tories the next election.

Labour’s future lies in once again becoming the party for women. So join me, Harriet Harman, Rachel Reeves and Baroness Joyce Goulding for an afternoon where we examine where we went wrong and how to become the women’s party for the future.

You can also find details of it in the Conference Guide (page 63) or online here.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Conservative and Liberal-Democrat politicians were quick to deflect attention from their controversial pension’s plans last week by goading all those public sector workers. Ministers couldn’t act quickly enough to condemn those who plan to strike for the inevitable disruption it will cause.

It will be an autumn of discontent, and this is largely because the government has announced the cuts to public services pensions before completing its discussions with unions. therefore forcing them into action.

Last week Danny Alexander said the plan was to protect public sector workers for the long term. In a speech in London he said the proposals were “not an assault” on pensions and accused some unions of spreading “scare stories” about government plans.

He said a small group of unions were “hell bent on premature strike action”. I find this line deeply inflammatory and I’m certain that it will only serve to fan the flames of the already angry unions who rightly feel they are still in the middle of negotiations. You can read more on last week’s story here.

I blogged on the interview Harriet Harman gave in last week’s Guardian in which she highlighted how poorly the Tories are on the equality agenda, something which she has fought so hard to achieve but for which she gets little recognition. She said in the interview “You can’t leave equality to the Tories”, it’s a brilliant quote which frankly sums it all up. Harriet, as ever, remains true to her mission to boost women’s rights. You can read the full interview here, and more on my earlier blog here.

Despite her efforts, internationally we have some way to go. Targeted violence against female public officials, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, according to a global survey released on Wednesday.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan, India and Somalia feature in descending order after Afghanistan in the list of the five worst states, the poll among gender experts shows.

The disappointing survey has been compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of a website, TrustLaw Woman, aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s groups around the world. You can read the full report and findings here.

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The appalling position of women elsewhere must not blind us to the dire state of our own.

Today the Guardian published an interview piece with Harriet Harman; talking about the state of women’s empowerment and political involvement both within the UK and the democratising countries of North Africa. 

The state of women’s rights in the Arab Spring countries is one of the most salient current topics within women’s politics. It is true that the danger posed to women in that region and the possibility of regression in terms of women’s rights is a major concern at the moment and one which the Women and Equalities Committee in the Parliament is taking seriously. On Monday we have a workshop discussing how the EU can best force the issue of women’s rights and empowerment onto the democratising agendas of Egypt and Tunisia. To this end, I support Harriet’s demands that aid to the region be tied to the observance of women’s rights. This opportunity to change the landscape for women in that region of the world must not be missed. 

However, often by focussing on problems overseas, by which dismal standards the UK does compare favourably, it can often blind us to the very real problems that still exist within our own country. This blindness can often lead us into hypocrisy. This is pointed out by Harriet when she notes that the UK government is sending delegations of men to other countries to lecture about women’s rights since our international development office has no women. 

The right that the Conservative government has to lecture that region on women’s rights is also dubious since, for example, whilst condemning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Africa, it has demolished services set up by the Labour government to prevent FGM occurring on its own soil. This means more women within the UK will now be vulnerable to this abominable practice. We must also remember that this is the same government whose leader still finds it acceptable to make sexist comments to women in Parliament and whose party is so entirely divorced from the reality of most women’s lives that they have almost no idea how unfairly their policies impact upon women in the UK.

The Labour Party and the women within it are rightfully fighting for women in the UK, battling against the return of a fundamentally patriarchal and misogynist political group, even on time-worn battlegrounds such as abortion rights. Our Labour MEPs are also fighting for women in terms of maternity leave, gender pay gaps, preventing violence against women and reminding member states how their policies need to take the effect upon women into consideration. Having said this however, we have still never had a female leader and women remain underrepresented within the party, particularly in Westminster.

I believe Labour is different from the Conservatives. In terms of  gender empowerment the Labour Party is firmly within this century. The Tories, as Harriet Harman said, are still living in the last. But we need to do more. We cannot be complacent simply because the Tories are so much worse. This is why I support Harriet’s demands for a change in our leadership elections to ensure that women are part of the leadership and for a 50-50 gender balance of elected representatives. Our country is half women. Whilst men should also fight for women, women need to be in power to represent women and not just in Africa.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Today’s Sunday Mirror revealed Labour Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman is hoping to change the party’s rules so that the party’s leader must always be a woman.


The new rule would mean a big change to the party’s constitution and would undoubtedly ruffle feathers. The paper quoted a labour back bencher as saying ‘we should be electing the best two people – regardless of their sex.’
I’ve not heard any rumours on this so am not sure how much of it is true but I’ll keep readers informed as I hear more.
Another claim in today’s Mirror is reported by Vincent Moss who claimed Nick Clegg ‘boasted he had forced David Cameron to ditch plans to bring more private firms into the NHS.’ The Lib Dem leader’s allies are claiming the victory for the deputy PM. I’m sure this will divide the coalition further and it will humiliate the health secretary.
To claim this is Clegg’s victory is an interesting move to say the least…the words ‘clutching at straws’ springs to mind. You can read the full story here.
Unsurprisingly ministers have underestimated the number of universities which will charge the maximum £9000 in fees and as a result the spiralling numbers may be cut to cover the cost of loans. Ministers will have to fund the huge bill in student loans a committee of MPs has warned.

As has always been the concern with the new system of fees it will mean, as feared, university will become the preserve of the wealthiest, and some of the poorest who are lucky enough to get scholarships. Everyone in the middle…we just don’t know what will happen to them, but it continues to be a great concern.

You can read the full story here.

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