This is Darren Williams’ response to the questions put to NEC 2012 Candidates by LWN and Lead4Women.
As a candidate to the NEC we hope you’ll find time to answer the following questions so we can share your answers with our members and supporters:
Will you ensure that more Labour women are elected to parliament, including requiring that a minimum of 50% of Labour’s parliamentary by-election candidates should be women?
Yes (or, at least, I would support measures to achieve those aims, if elected to the NEC – clearly, I couldn’t guarantee that it would happen).
Will you commit to supporting the continued use of all women shortlists and to their application in seats with a strong Labour majority as well as Labour’s target seats?
What will you do to ensure equal and transparent application of AWS policy across the regions, including in Scotland and Wales?
I agree with your suggestion that clear criteria should be published. I also think that the use of AWS should be supported by greater efforts to educate party members about the need for positive action to eliminate structural inequalities (not just those affecting women but all underrepresented groups). CLPs should be encouraged to facilitate discussion about making the party more representative of the general population. This might help to overcome the lingering suspicion, in some quarters, that AWS is either the result of ill-founded dogma or a means of promoting candidates favoured by the party hierarchy, against the wishes of ordinary members.
Would you support the formulation and publication of clear criteria for the application of AWS policy and what would your favoured criteria be?
Yes. I won’t pretend to know what all the criteria should be, without more detailed study of the issues, but they should include a presumption in favour of AWS in winnable seats that fall vacant and a commitment to even geographical distribution of AWS (e.g. in a town or city with more than one parliamentary constituency, the aim should to have at least one woman MP).
What will you do to ensure we have a 50:50 PLP and 50:50 Labour administration in Scotland, Wales, London and local government?
Wales achieved gender balance among its Assembly candidates in 1999 (leading eventually to gender balance in the Assembly as a whole in 2003) through twinning constituencies and ensuring that there was a woman candidate in one seat within each pair. Since then, the position has slipped back somewhat, suggesting that it could be time to revisit twinning. This would, however, be much more difficult under the current candidate selection procedures, which build in a presumption that a sitting member should be re-selected. I would favour a return to mandatory reselection of candidates before all parliamentary or Assembly/Scottish Parliament elections, thereby creating more opportunities to increase the selection of women candidates. In addition, I think that women candidates should always be in the no. 1 place on regional top-up lists in Scotland and Wales, and gender balance should be a requirement in multi-member council wards (or as near as possble, in wards with an odd number of seats).
What will you do to ensure that the proportion of women in the PLP does not decrease as a result of boundary changes?
While boundary changes (and specifically the reduction in numbers of MPs) are a negative step in general, they do provide an opportunity for opening up the parliamentary selection process. There should be AWS selections in most, if not all, essentially ‘new’ seats (i.e. those not based primarily on the expansion of one pre-existing seat).
Will you support our Refounding Labour proposals for changing the party, including implementing a proper complaints process and building a fully funded and organised Women’s organisation in the Labour Party?