Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, gave a revealing and frank interview to the Observer this weekend. In it she revealed that taking her seat in Parliament 32 years ago was a very different experience to what today’s female elected MPs might experience. When she was first elected, Parliament was 97% male. “We were very much fish out of water and regarded as intruders in the world of politics. But I think there is now a critical mass of women,” she said.
Of course the House of Commons is still disproportionately made up of men, just 22% of seats are represented by women. While this is a significant improvement even since 1987 when just 41 MPs were women, evidently there is still a huge amount of work to do before any kind of equality is reached.
The opening of the European Parliament took place in Strasbourg last week, and to mark the occasion an orchestra played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the EU’s unofficial anthem. However, in an act of protest UKIP, Led by Nigel Farage, stood with their backs turned while the anthem was played. It was extremely ignorant and disrespectful. However, their display simply served to reiterate that the party doesn’t in any way take its role seriously and is not able to act in anyway as a credible opposition.
Over the weekend it was announced that Police would lose the power to unilaterally “drop” rape investigations, even if they think there is insufficient evidence to proceed, under a Labour government.
The party will tackle the way in which sexual crimes are handled if elected. It was revealed over the weekend that the shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, will announce this week that the Police service will have to get agreement from the Crown Prosecution Service if they wish to end an investigation. Under current rules the Police are not obligated to investigate a case or present it to prosecutors.
The Independent on Sunday revealed: “she hopes the plan would end the culture of rape and sexual violence being an ‘optional’ crime to investigate and help end a ‘culture of defeatism’ where the authorities believe there will never be a large number of rape convictions because it is ‘too difficult’ to prosecute.
I don’t doubt sexual violence is a hugely under-reported crime in the same way that human trafficking is. These crimes are heavily associated with power and control and this would be a significant move towards supporting victims and letting them know that the crime will be properly investigated. Hopefully, with knowledge that they will be believed, this will go some way to encourage more victims to report the crime of which they are a victim.
Another change, Alex Smith who has played such an important role in Ed Miliband’s Leadership election campaign has had to pull out of today’s fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference – Blogging for Labour – How Social Media can drive a wedge into the Coalition at Manchester Central – Charter 1, at 6pm.
Alex kindly arranged for his colleague at Labour List, Mark Ferguson to step in for him, thank you Alex. Mark is the acting editor of LabourList,who sends me like many others a daily email with all that is happening in the Labour Party. I recommend subscribing which you can do here. I first met Mark when he was Islington Labour’s borough organiser, where he helped Emily Thornberry to increase her majority in Islington South from under 500 to over 3000 and to double Jeremy Corbyn’s majority in islington North to over 12,000. Superbly his organisation helped Labour to win back Islington council back from the Lib Dems by 35 seats to 13.
Mark was brought up in the North-East, before studying Social and Political Science at Robinson College Cambridge, where he was elected President of Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU). . He has appeared on the BBC News Channel, BBC Radio 5 and has been interviewed for Channel 4 news. I am pleased he will be joining the panel this evening.
Almost 12 months ago I wrote about the importance of school meals for all children, and called upon Islington Liberal Democrats to scrap their plans to cut back on their provision. Congratulations to the Labour team in Islington for winning their campaign to ensure that every child at Islington Council’s primary schools and nurseries will be entitled to a free school meal from March 8th.
Amazingly Islington Liberal Democrats have warned that if they win the Council elections in May, they will scrap the universal free school meals initiative for ever. I am not an expert on local government finance but I find it hard to believe there are not other areas of expenditure that cannot be looked at. I think as we approach a General Election and London Council elections it says much about the Liberal Democrat’s priorities.
The picture shows Islington South MP Emily Thornberry. Islington Labour Group Leader Catherine West and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn with a young supporter. They have launched a petition which you can sign here.
Independent experts know that a nutritious meal is best for our children’s health and education. I agree and thank my colleagues in Islington for all their hard work on this campaign.
I am, I hasten to say, writing this before the Norwich North result is declared. Having worked in the by-election yesterday and the day before, I thought I would share a few thoughts and observations. I have, as many of you know, a special affection for Nowrich North as I was the Labour candidate in the 1987 General Election, a fact recently pointed out by Iain Dale.
I would like to pay special thanks to my colleague Richarrd Howitt, MEP for the East of England, who helped organise my trip. Richard worked assiduously in the by-election. He has always had a reputation for hard work, and is definitely one of the most conscioentious of the Labour MEPs.
Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, visited the Constituency on Wednesday to an enthusiastic response. I was pleased to see Phil Dilks, London Labour Party Press Officer, during David’s visit. I understand that the Director of the London Region, Ken Clark was in Norwich yesterday, though we didn’t actually meet up. A belated hello to Ken. In additon, I had the opportunity to catch up with several of the Labour Party national staff who were there – Ray Collins, General Secretary, Alicia Kennedy, Deputy General Secretary, Hilary Perrin and Roy Kennedy. Emily Thornberry MP for Islington South arrived at the election centre in Mile Cross Ward while I was there and I gather I just missed Stevenage MP Barabara Follett.
One of the most striking things during my two days in Norwich was the number of young people who turned out to help the Labour Party. Students, in particular, had come from all over the country. Who says young people are turned off politics?
The weather was almost perfect, hot and sunny without being oppressive, just what is required for an election. There can be very few more pleasant cities than Norwich in the summer.