Having a statue of the formidable campaigner Mary Wollstonecraft in London is long overdue and I fully support the campaign to commemorate the first public feminist in this way. It is, of course, true that Mary Wollstonecraft had been ignored by history. Her ground breaking book Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792 is nothing like as well- known as it should be. Mary deserves much more recognition than she gets.
I was, therefore, pleased to see Labour’s Leader Jeremy Corbyn endorsing the campaign for her to have a statue, citing the statistic that 90 per cent of statues in London were men. I even thought Jeremy may have been converted to the cause of women’s rights.
Then I stopped to think. Jeremy is, to say the least, lukewarm about Britain’s membership of the EU. This matters as for the past seven years most of the official work relevant to the UK on women’s rights has been done by the European Parliament Women’s Rights Committee of which I am Vice-Chair. (I do not mean to take away from the excellent work done by sisters such as Harriet Harman, Stella Creasy and Jess Philips, but most of their contributions have been their own work not that done by the Government or even the Opposition).
The European Parliament Women’s Committee has worked on the gender pay gap, violence against women and sexual harassment, stereotypes of women in advertising and the media, as well as sexual health and reproductive rights and work-life balance.
Since its founding treaty in 1957, the EU has maintained a commitment to gender equality. As we celebrate the centenary of women gaining the vote in Britain, we would do well to take stock of where we are now. The UK is not in the forefront for gender equality across the EU and were we to cease to be in the European Union British women would be worse off, possibly even losing maternity pay and leave, the right to equal treatment between women and men at work and the EU legislation that means the burden of proof for cases of sex discrimination lies with the employer not the female victim.
Jeremy Corbyn, if you really believe in equality between women and men you need to come out strongly in favour of Britain staying in the EU. If you fail to do so, millions of women in Britain will suffer.
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.