Saturday, 19 January 2013

Women in the Labour Party

On Thursday night I was invited to attend an evening organised by  a few ladies from Broxtowe Labour Party. Entitled ‘Women in the Labour Party’, the guest speaker was Gloria De Piero. Gloria is the Labour MP for Ashfield. Having met her on a number of occasions, I think she is one of the best allies women in the party can have. Second only to Harriet Harman.

Recently, Gloria has embarked on a journey taking her up and down the country to ask voters, ‘Why do people hate me?’. Not as her as a person, but because of her job. I doubt any of us would have to go far to find someone with negative views towards politics and those who represent us in Parliament.

During the evening she talked about this journey and how she feels women in particularly feel devalued and under represented within the party. Many feel that their circumstances such as having a job full time or bringing up children, stop them from progressing within the party and making changes to the their communities. Some even feel that without a university education, they will never get to be an MP. Gloria set out to dispel this myth, she believes that all you need to be an MP is a passion for the community and for helping others.

The evening was attended by women from various groups, some district councillors and some county councillors. Each spoke about their experiences within the party, what got them involved in the first place and what they feel prevents other women from doing the same.

I really enjoyed the evening. There was plenty of cheese and wine doing the rounds. I refrained from any of it to avoid a hangover the next morning at work. As things worked out I woke up with a headache anyway. Not so great.

At work yesterday morning I thought about the women there and how many of them would make great councillors and maybe even politicians. Discussing this with them the same responses kept coming through. Women can’t make a difference. Having what they classed as ‘normal people’ wouldn’t change the broad picture of the Labour Party. They even felt the system of who gets into Parliament was a fix. Some said that if they did join the party, they wouldn’t be taken seriously enough to progress up to the ranks of MP. I myself feel that the level of support for those who did wish to grow through the party is too low. If you want to find something out you almost need to know the answer first before you can look for it. It’s ridiculous.

Young women who work full time, don’t have children and didn’t go to university feel like there’s nothing in the party that concerns them. There aren’t the major issues that they can feel personally interested by. Of course, that doesn’t entirely stop them fighting against child benefit or housing benefit cuts. They still use the national health service and would be at an extreme loss if this was to be lost. As much as they feel angry about tuition fee rises for their friends who attended a university, it was probably for this reason that they didn’t want to go anyway. They would rather get a job and prosper in life as much as possible this way. So what can the Labour Party do for them?

Female MPs aren’t always allowed to carry out the job they started out to do. They have their private family lives dragged through the press and are helpless most of the time to stop it. When speaking to one friend who was undecided about a party she would swear allegiance to, she felt the only MP close to someone she could relate to was Louise Mensch. Enough said.

Unfortunately even at grassroots level the way in which the party is run means people feel disengaged and interested in joining. They don’t want to keep having to attend meetings. They may be ‘doers’. They want to get out on the streets and find out what people want from their party. Meetings about meetings aren’t going to pull anyone in soon. They aren’t going to progress a party who stands a good chance of putting things in this country right. They need the working classes to feel represented at work and at home. It needs to be financially viable for someone to take their passion for helping others and make a difference.

We have a long way to go but we need to engage our fellow female. The Labour Party is the party that can interested thousands, even millions. We aren’t going to achieve this without change.
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