Saturday 10 February 2018

Labour's glass ceiling

Jeremy Corbyn is the nineteenth substantive leader of the Labour Party, and all nineteen have been male. On three occasions Labour has been led by a female, and each time was temporary, a short interregnum whilst a new leader was being elected. Thus, Margaret Becket and Harriet Harman (twice) have had the reins of power, but only as a short-term solution to either the death or resignation of a male leader.

We have our second female Prime Minister at the moment, and regardless of the merits of their leadership, the Conservatives have been more progressive than Labour in this aspect; two female Prime Ministers, both Conservative.

The argument about choosing the best person for the role not only belittles the ability of woman MPs, it also misunderstands how our democracy works. We have a representative democracy, where our representatives are meant to be like us, the electorate. Yet, over the half the electorate is female. Labour only having women leading in a caretaker capacity just is not good enough.

Don’t get me wrong, Labour’s record in getting more women elected is admirable; but without doubt there is a glass ceiling. I hope I live to see that change.

Locally, in Southend-on-Sea, the situation is not much better. I do not know all the leaders of the local Labour Group on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, but here is a list of the most recent (please correct me if there are errors or omissions here):

Ian Gilbert
David Norman
Kevin Robinson
Stephen George (acting leader for three months owing to the ill health of the substantive leader)
Chris Dandridge
Nigel Smith
Alan Hurst
Bert Dunn

This, as you will have noticed, is an all-male list. I hope our next leader is a woman, because it is time that Labour, both nationally and locally, was led by a woman, was able to demonstrate a commitment to equality at levels within the party.

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