Labour Women Pioneers into Power Liverpool 2011 Part 3

Labour Party

 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.

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

Labour Party

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.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

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.

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

Labour Party

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.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

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.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round Up

Labour Party

Five days ago a father and son from Romania were given jail sentences for trafficking five young women to England. The women were regularly raped, beaten and punished if they attempted to escape. The shocking truth has been revealed after the EU criminal intelligence agency said in today’s Observer that minors are still being trafficked into Britain.

Campaign groups such as the Poppy Project fear that the current government are intent on downgrading trafficking as a priority, something which they (the government) deny. However, the evidence is stacked against them after they failed to sign an EU directive on Human Trafficking – something which shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper will condemn.

The story in today’s Observer is a harrowing account but you can read the full story of Marinela Badea, a 17-year-old Romanian student from Romania who was taken from her flat, sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution in Britain.

I know it isn’t easy to read this kind of graphic story but it’s important we understand the true nature of this harrowing crime. You can read the full story in todays Observer here.

Last week saw rumours that Question Time host, David Dimbeleby, will quit following a row over the shows relocation. He has fronted the show for the last 17 years, but I hear the ‘unofficial’ shortlist is all male. Quite rightly Harriet Harman has pointed out several strong female contenders in the form of Emily Maitlis, Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney.

Harman has branded the unofficial list as full of ‘dreary men’. If he does go the BBC execs will be foolish to ignore the top female political talent they have within their ranks and I sincerely hope they are added to the shortlist. You can read the story here.

I am concerned to learn that a London project, which helps unemployed parents back to work, is to be axed after it was claimed it had not met targets. However one London council, Harrow, which benefits from funding from the Xcite project, insisted the scheme is a great success and was well on track to get 100 parents into permanent employment by April, thus meeting its target.

The London Development Agency, which admittedly is under pressure having its funding cut by the government, said the project as a whole had under-achieved. Projects like these are what help lift families out of poverty it is vital they’re not scrapped in order to reduce the deficit. Surely this is a counterproductive move in the long term. I will keep you posted on any developments I become aware of. You can read the full story and case study of successful stories here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

I couldn’t help but think that the Coalition Government is somewhat nervous of the new shadow chancellor appointment. Ed Balls is a brilliant economist but it didn’t stop Nick Clegg on the Andrew Marr show this morning raising some very odd questions about Ball’s experience. “I think we are entitled to ask questions about Ed Balls’ record.

Ed Balls the new Shadow Chancellor

“If you ask yourself ‘Who was in charge of the City when they were gorging themselves on bonuses and lending irresponsibly, who allowed the housing market to let rip, to become a casino and put thousands of families into debt?’

“Who was whispering in Gordon Brown’s ear budget after budget creating a huge fiscal deficit? The answer to all those questions is Ed Balls.” Asked Clegg. This kind of rhetorical questioning would suggest a party (coalition) whose leaders and senior figures are clearly nervous of how well Osborne can perform against the experienced and capable Balls.

Harriet Harman spoke very well, I thought, this morning on Dermot Murnaghan programme about Balls’ appointment (you can see her interview here).

She insisted that it is right to reduce the deficit over a period of four years. There is no split over the party’s economic policy she said.

Also this week education secretary Michael Gove said we had to go ‘back to basics’ with regard to History and Geography lessons. He believes we need to teach more facts and figures to our school children.

But what will we achieve exactly by going back to a 1950s style of education where you learn on rote and without question?

Another review of the curriculum will not solve the issue of children not learning enough key fats. Instead it is likely to create an extra burden for teachers who are already stretched to breaking point.

Another review will further knock their confidence. You can read more on the story here.

I will be speaking about this in my very first vlog which I shall post here on my website early next week.

Ed Miliband at Labour Party Conference

Labour Party

Here’s the third and last of the videos from the London Labour Party reception at Labour’s Conference in Manchester earlier this year. Ken Livingstone is available here, and Harriet Harman here. After the formal announcement of the Leadership election result Ed was due to speak at the London Labour Party reception. Hundreds of people piled into the room in anticipation. The demands of the media meant that Ed was diverted to do interviews.

The room eased a little, but as soon as Ed arrived after a little delay the room was the place to be. The fervour at the beginning of the meeting shows how keenly Ed’s speech was anticipated. The video is just over 6 minutes long and covers, Ken, Harriet and London of course.

Honeyball’s weekly round-up

Labour Party

One week into Ed Miliband’s leadership and he’s announced his shadow cabinet. The biggest surprise, of course was that Alan Johnson rather than either of the other favourites Yvette Cooper or her husband Ed Balls who are now Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Home Secretary respectively, is now the Shadow Chancellor.

The  choice of placing experienced characters in the shape of Harriet Harman and Hilary Benn alongside some of new and emerging names provides an exciting and formidable opposition.

The greatest achievement, however, is that this shadow cabinet has one of the greatest balances in its gender equality, something which female politicians have worked so hard to achieve, and most recently this has been driven by Harriet Harman.

Eight female representatives elected into the shadow cabinet and a further three who, because of the jobs they do, mean that the shadow cabinet almost reaches Harriet Harman’s objective of an even gender balance.

Anne Perkins in Saturday’s Guardian explores the long story of how change (in refference to gender equality) was slow, hard-fought and a result of the determination of a handful of women. You can read Anne Perkins insights here.

We ALL will of course be following Ed Miliband this week when he takes to the despatch box for the first time as leader of the party and battles it out at PMQ’s.

On the other side it was announced this morning that the Business Secretary’s plan for a graduate tax has been abandoned. What his party will think of this remains to be seen, but judging by initial reports, they will have much to say, nd it won’t be wholly supportive.

In an email to party members and on the eve of the publication of a significant review of party funding he has conceded the case for higher tuition fees. The report is expected to reveal that  the current cap on fees, £3290, should be lifted.

The full story is in today’s Observer, which you can read here.

The season of calendar buying is upon us- but calendars being used as a tool of political activism is not something I’ve come across before. Last week a group of Russian journalism students posed for a birthday calendar for Russian PM Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile six students from the same university (the Moscow State University) posed for an alternative calendar in which they symbolically taped their lips together and speech bubbles provided awkward questions, such as ‘Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?’ 

This is a brave and savvy way to challenge the Russian government and is not a form of activism we have seen before.

As Stephanie Merritt points out in her article (which you can read here, see the third story) perhaps a British offering may have Alan Johnson, mouth gaffer taped while asking: ‘Who killed the recovery?’ Any more thoughts on what the other 11 months could depict?

Why are there not more MPs, MEPs and elected representatives using new media?

Labour Party

I don’t often post about using the web, being web-savvy to use the jargon.  However, I was inspired to write something today by this excellent post on LabourList

 As a web user – blogger and Twitterer with a serious Facebook operation – I believe strongly in the power of the new media. 

 There were two main reasons why I started blogging almost three years ago.

  •  to reach both constituents and Labour Party members in London.  The regional system of representation introduced in 1999 made MEPs remote, some would say even more remote, from their electors and the activists and members of their political parties.  New media offered a solution.  Meeting your MEP online may not be quite the same as doing it in person and it certainly doesn’t get the reach of traditional media, especially TV and radio, but it does work.  My thanks to all those who read the blog, follow me on Facebook and look at my tweets.
  •  to provide news and views on what happens in the European Parliament and the EU in general as well as politics more generally.  Since a large part of the written media in the UK is anti-EU, much of the news reflects that particular perspective.  Perhaps more worrying is the general lack of interest in EU matters across the board, both in the press and the broadcast media.  My blog seeks to fill some of those gaps, albeit in a very small way.

 New media has most definitely arrived.  The Labour Leadership candidates are using websites, blogs and Twitter with varying degrees of success.  Harriet Harman made full use of new media in her successful campaign to become Deputy Leader.  My only real question is why don’t more elected representatives make use of what can be a very useful tool?

I’d be genuinely interested in your views.