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WOMEN in the Labour Party are increasingly concerned about apparent attitudes and decisions within the party concerning the forthcoming Labour women’s conference.
The fact that searching for “women’s conference” on the Labour website brings up nothing seems indicative of the lack of importance given to our conference among party “high-ups.”
Searching hard brings up contradictory information, such as three different versions of the requirements for Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) selecting delegates.
The announcement for CLPs and women’s forums/branches regarding selection of delegates and motions to put forward was timed so that the process was extremely rushed and interrupted by the elections.
Deadlines were unclear, and were changed. CLPs either did not know or did not communicate the rules and procedures for electing delegates to conference and to the new national women’s committee, and regional offices also seemed either uninformed or unable to explain.
CLPs voting in the priorities ballot for the topic groupings of motions that would be discussed were not made aware of the four topics already voted for by the trade union group.
Hence, many women voted for a topic already safely “in the bag.” This means that topics of extreme importance to women were lost and will not be discussed at the women’s conference.
If the TU ballot were held a week before the membership ballot, this could have been avoided; we can only hope this happens in future years.
The way certain motions have been allocated within the chosen topics is concerning and does not serve the best interests of women.
We have not been made aware of the process, nor seen the minutes of any meetings where this issue was discussed.
Women’s health issues have been fragmented, making it impossible to formulate holistic policy.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) has been stripped of its arguments by omitting pornography.
Sexual harassment in schools has been filed under “education,” rather then being understood in its context with VAWG.
One agreed motion seems to have disappeared and not been included in any grouping.
Menopause, maternity/midwifery, abortion, the commissioning of domestic abuse refuge services by Labour councils and sexual abuse in schools alongside sex education — none of these crucial, one might even say “traditional,” women’s issues will be included.
There seems to be little transparency and accountability for the women’s conference arrangements committee; it gives an impression of manipulation to fulfil a preset agenda.
The refusal of a motion on exceptionally flimsy grounds that do not meet the threshold of reasonableness is a cause of considerable concern.
Adding insult to injury, both Labour Women’s Declaration (LWD) and Lesbian Labour have been refused the chance to hold fringe events.
The email telling us we would not be permitted claimed that “[d]emand was high and, as such, priority has been given to affiliated organisations and constituency branches.”
Many affiliated organisations are not composed even largely of Labour Party members.
LWD represents a large tranche of women in Labour and Lesbian Labour is the only organisation representing lesbians in the party.
It is hard not to have a suspicion that this choice was a deliberate way of excluding us.
Such a suspicion is given considerable force by the fact that the chair of the women’s conference arrangements committee retweeted an attack on LWD, saying that we should be boycotted and denounced as “Terfs.”
She then blocked not only LWD but anyone who “liked” the responses we made.
If the chair of the women’s conference arrangements committee cannot be inclusive of women members, it is hard to believe that the women’s conference will hear our voices.
All this is extremely worrying in a party which once was the champion of women’s rights.
Labour appears to be actively discriminating against women members of the Labour Party who hold the EA2010 protected belief that sex matters with regards to women’s rights.
LWD working group has an entire dossier of mistreatment of, and discrimination against, women in Labour.
The party’s general secretary, David Evans, promised to read this but has not done so.
If Labour wants to retain its women members and engage the enthusiasm, creativity and activist energy we can bring, it will have to start taking us more seriously.
We really want all women to be able to play a full part in Labour.
To help address the problems, we hope that the four candidates who support the LWD will be elected to the new national women’s committee: Morgan Fackrell, Jennifer Smith, Claudia Sorin and Ruth Woodhall.
For more information about Labour Women’s Declaration visit labourwomensdeclaration.org.uk.
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