This is Ellie Reeves’ 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?
For the past 5 years I have served as a member of the Organisation Committee which oversees selections, and the Equalities Committee which promotes diversity. 50:50 gender balance is a policy which I have consistently advocated and supported. I will continue to do so.
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?
I am a strong supporter of all women shortlists. When Labour was unable to use AWS in the 2001 general election, we saw a significant decline in the number of women in parliament. It is not enough for women only shortlists to be used in seats that are marginal or unwinnable. In order to ensure greater representation for women in Parliament they must also be used in safe labour seats. On the organisation committee I have tried hard to strike the right balance, for example but ensuring strongholds like Wigan and Makerfield were AWS.
What will you do to ensure equal and transparent application of AWS policy across the regions, including in Scotland and Wales?
The use of AWS is Labour Party Policy, decided at Labour Party conference, not just of England but for the entire country. It is crucial that the policy is rolled out consistently across the country.
When I was first elected to the NEC there was no clear criterion for how the policy was rolled out. Regional offices would make a recommendation and NEC members would have very little to base their decision on unless they had been lobbied by local members.
Along with others I have spent a long time calling for more detailed information to be provided to the NEC so that we could make informed decisions. Now, when considering whether to make a seat AWS, we are presented with a range of information including regional balance, gender of any neighbouring Labour MPs, gender of previous MPs, the views of the local party and the likelihood of winning the seat. Looking at objective information in this way makes it easier to ensure consistent application of the policy.
Would you support the formulation and publication of clear criteria for the application of AWS policy and what would your favoured criteria be?
As set out above, a great deal of progress has already been made in relation to the application of the AWS policy. However, I would be more than happy to work with Lead for Women and the Labour Women’s Network to see what more could be done.
What will you do to ensure we have a 50:50 PLP and 50:50 Labouradministration in Scotland, Wales, London and local government?
Although the fair and consistent use of AWS has an impact on reaching 50:50 gender balance, there is a still a lot more that can be done.
For some time now I have called for a cap on spending for parliamentary selections.
Many candidates spend thousands and thousands of pounds on glossy leaflets and other promotional material. This often discourages women, particularly if they have families to support, from putting themselves forward.
Selections are also still too long. For women who may be juggling jobs with childcare commitments, a selection process that lasts many months can be really off putting.
It isn’t just women who are affected by the way our selection processes work. 27% of the Parliamentary Labour Party have a career background in politics, reforming the system would help lead to greater diversity.
What will you do to ensure that the proportion of women in the PLP does not decrease as a result of boundary changes?
The boundary changes will create a number of political challenges for the Labour Party at is important that when addressing these challenges the issue of women’s representation is not marginalised.
I support the Labour Women’s Network and Lead for Women in calling for a commission to be set up to look at the effect the changes will have on women’s representation. The commission should report to the NEC so that we can make clear decisions about how best to ensure that women’s representation increases rather than decreases after the next general election.
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?
A clear and transparent complaints process is an excellent idea and something which I am more than happy to raise at the next meeting of the Equalities Committee. As a trade union lawyer who frequently represents people in discrimination claims, I’ve seen first hand how effective complaints and reporting procedures can help to resolve disputes at an early stage.
A fully funded Women’s organisation is not only important in relation to ensuring gender equality within our party, but it is also a crucial stepping stone to winning the next election. We must win back women voters whose trust we lost at the last election. A strong women’s organisation, hosting meetings with women in local communities, working with organisations such as mumsnet and leading the way on policy issues such as women’s pensions, cuts to child benefit and the closure of children’s centres, is more important than ever before.