Handing over the reins

First published on Progressonline

Progress has tried to lead the field on the representation of women in the Labour party. We were the first grouping to ban ‘all-male panels’ – long before my time, under the leadership of Jessica Asato – and pushed for the party to limit them at Labour party conference. The Progress strategy board is gender-balanced. John Woodcock, the then chair, was the first to sign the Labour Women’s Network #Powerpledge. When the Labour party has no women in leadership positions outside Scotland, Progress has Alison McGovern as chair. My predecessor, Robert Philpot, did lots of work with fellow thinktanks and party groupings on generating new women writers and speakers at events. We now regularly share the names of excellent writers and speakers we come across. Women-only training sessions on political writing and on standing for public office have become regulars in the organisation’s calendar. The first Winning With Women conference, with all-women speakers, was held in 2013. In recent months, the number of women writing for Progress magazine has leapt. But you just need to look at the gender balance of our staff team to see the distance we must travel. We must all do more.

So this month I step out of the editor’s seat and hand the reins to Ayesha Hazarika, broadcaster, stand-up comedian and former adviser to Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman. She will be the magazine’s first guest-editor and every contribution in March’s edition, due in time for International Women’s Day, will be authored by a woman. Ayesha has secured authors not seen before on the pages of Progress – Bonnie Greer, Miriam O’Reilly and Gaby Hinsliff. Every one of them is most welcome. I hope that this will not just be their debut but the start of regular appearances.

More importantly, if our women members and those active on the left take one thing away from what will be a brilliant edition, it is that if they have comment to make, an idea to champion or an argument to win, Progress is the place be published.

The Labour movement must draw its pool of talent from the most wide and diverse places. It is on the pages of Progress, Fabian Review, LabourList, Labour Uncut, Left Foot Forward and more that those people can come to the fore. It is incumbent on all of us who convene those platforms to constantly strive to deliver the representation modern Britain demands. Alison wrote for the Mirror on becoming the first woman chair of Progress that, ‘Politics is done better when it isn’t dominated by just a few. I believe in politics for the many.’ We will not always get it right, but as long as I am in the editor’s seat, we will be striving to make it better.

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