Fabian Women’s Labour leadership hustings
“It’s the famous five of Britain,” said Mary Riddell, columnist and a political interviewer for the Daily Telegraph, and chair of the Fabian Women’s Lead4Women hustings in Westminster this evening.
With just a few weeks to go before the winner is announced, the leadership candidates came together on a panel to tell us what they would do for women.
Mainly focusing on women in parliament – increasing numbers and changing the culture – all five talked about their support of quotas and ideas for helping to encourage more women to enter politics.
Diane said: “In the 1980s, I campaigned for all-women shortlists and we are now ahead of other parties.”
All five have voted to support the call for between 30 and 50% women in the shadow cabinet by 2012. Ed Balls wants to see 40% right now (indeed; why wait?), while being more cautious about the prospect of job shares.
David has a brave and admirable plan to introduce job share into shadow ministerial team.
Job shares will send out the right message to men and women, he said. “We want to be human beings as well as politicians.”
Culture is an important factor which is damaging to female politicians. Andy Burnham said: “We got shortlists, but didn’t change culture.”
(He also said that his wife told him she was put off politics because of the late hours culture, and I wondered why it hasn't occurred to Andy that he should do some of the childcare too, and that's where the culture needs to change.)
So how do the others think culture can be improved? Ed Miliband wants to get rid of factions – the Blairites and the Brownites. Diane wants young women to see women at the top of the party. “We have to smash the notion that it’s only men in suits at the top.”
And she should know.
As the division bell signalled their departure, all the Fabian Women in the audience smiled for the camera, proudly wearing our Labour Lead4Women sashes.
After all the promises we've heard, let’s hope the candidate who wins does that too.
Summing up soundbites (shouted over the 7pm division bell):
Andy: “I want to fight for a different type of Labour party: a fairer spread of health, wealth and life chances.”
Diane: “I have always stood out [on what I believe is right]: ID cards, Iraq. (Pointing to herself.) This is what the future of the Labour party looks like.”
David: “I scare the Tories. I will make us not just an Opposition, but a credible Government too.”
Ed Balls: “I want my daughter to have as many choices as possible.”
Ed Miliband: “We have to change radically.”