Theresa May had a pretty bad start to the year with resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the European Union. It was unfortunate for her that his email to all staff was leaked to the media. His warning about ‘muddled thinking’ should be a theme that the Labour leader – were he to comment on such matters – should pick up on and repeat over and over. May has now made Tim Barrow pretty much unsackable as he takes up his new post in Brussels. The prime minister is due to make a big speech on Brexit in the coming weeks. The Guardian’s cartoonist Ben Jennings sums up her known position extremely well. (more…)
Tomorrow is the autumn statement. It is the first economic intervention by the new chancellor since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. But this is not the statement of a new government. This is the sixth year of this Tory government. What is unclear is if it is George Osborne’s apprentice or outrider that will be delivering the statement in the House of Commons at 12.30pm. There is little now that Philip Hammond can blame on the last Labour government. What he inherits is from Osborne, not Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling.
The sad reality is Britain goes into Brexit in a less than perfect state. The shock still to come to the economy means the fiscal framework will not be met pre, during nor post Article 50 being concluded. Britain’s ability to weather the storm to come is not what it should be. It might not all be of the Tories making, but they have hardly left us in the best place to go it alone. (more…)
‘No one does it in my name’, says our dear leader over and over again. But it simply is not true. The Twitter feed and Facebook pages of Labour MPs are filled with people making horrid and threatening comments towards those who speak for Labour in parliament. Not just MPs. Sadiq Khan gets booed at Corbyn rallies – showing no respect for the mandate given to him by the people of London. People like Ayesha Harazika, Sonia Sodha and Johanna Baxter, who appear regularly in the media and are not total adherents to the dear leader, get told they should be deselected and face a torrent of abuse. In an interview coming out in the next edition of Progress magazine Hazarika tells me it only bothers her when she wakes up and finds they have been ‘at it all night’. She tells me her best friend would rather she ‘step back’ it has become so unpleasant. (more…)
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. (more…)
Labour was founded, not to bring about socialism – that came later with the 1918 Fabian-authored Clause IV, but to put working-class people into parliament. Initially groups like the National Union of Miners stayed with the Liberal party, hoping for scraps off the table. Soon it was clear that only Labour was committed to this first fundamental aim; the NUM and the working-class voters in the new franchise switched accordingly.
Labour led the way for women’s representation. Not the first women member of parliament, but the first in the cabinet and soon by far the largest group of women MPs in the House of Commons. The party stands on the shoulders of giants who entered Westminster in tougher times. Harriet Harman joined parliament in 1982 and was quickly derided for raising issues then deemed non-political, such a childcare. In 1997 a huge breakthrough took place and over the 13 years that followed most big offices of state was headed by a woman at some point. We had the first black woman in the cabinet and appointed Britain’s first woman European commissioner; Valerie Amos now heads up a United Nations agency and Cathy Ashton last year completed her term as first vice-president of the European Union. That government transformed women’s lives and these women transformed the policy environment we now live in. When Labour wins, women win.
Research by Progress shows that, had Labour won all its target seats in England and Wales in May this year, the party’s ranks would have been boosted by an additional 35 women. If it had not lost any seats to the Tories, it would have been 39. The House of Commons, with an overall net gain of 30 women, would now boast over a third, 34 per cent, of its membership as female. Instead women make up just 29 per cent of the famous green benches. This would have transformed our international standing. Currently the Commons is 38th in the league table. Under Labour it would have been 26th, joint with Serbia and one place below Uganda. This would have seen the United Kingdom leapfrog three European Union member states – Portugal, Italy and Austria – and seen us ahead of New Zealand – which remains one of the few countries to elect a woman Labour prime minister. (more…)
The race for the Labour leadership is now under way. Much of it, as it has in recent days, will be fought out under the media spotlight. That is entirely right: the ability to perform well before the television cameras is crucial for any would-be leader of the opposition.
Moreover, especially now that the leadership contest will – for the first time – rightly provide an opportunity for those who support Labour, but are not members, to participate, it is vital that the public get to see the men and women who want to be the country’s prime minister in 2020. (more…)
Yesterday John Woodcock and Alison McGovern signed the Labour Women’s Network #PowerPledge on behalf of Progress. We are very proud to be among the first signatories and we will be framing it for the office, but it will not be sitting on a shelf gathering dust. This pledge, as Jacqui Smith wrote on our site on Monday, is not only important in its own right in seeking to protect hard-fought wins like all-women shortlists and a shadow cabinet en route for 50-50 representation, it offers a challenge to organisations like ours to always do better.
As a start, I call on all Progress members, in fact all Labour members, to sign it. Even better would be if some Tories or Liberal Democrats would sign it too. They are both parties desperately in need of AWS systems and a big increase of women in their cabinet-level representation. Saying what we want the world to be like is an important first step, but the action that follows counts tenfold. (more…)