This is Joanne Milligan’s 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 our questions so we can share your answers with our members and supporters:
Thank you to members of Labour Women’s Network and the Lead for Women campaign for adding a valuable layer of candidate scrutiny to the 2012 NEC election process via the candidate questionnaire. I’m delighted to respond to the issues raised and would be very happy to hear from any party members, via the contact details below, who wish to discuss any of these issues, or any others, in more detail.
The party leadership, including the current NEC, needs to reassert its commitment to the selection and election of more Labour women at every level of elected office.
I support the establishment of clear and transparent criteria which details the circumstances under which mechanisms like All Women Shortlists (AWS) will be used to help deliver a culture of genuine equal opportunity in candidate selection, in order to ensure that Labour women’s representation in elected office is reflective of the electorate we seek to serve.
I would be supportive of a policy which details plans to ensure that in each region or nation of the UK there is an equalisation of the number of male and female Labour MPs, with mechanisms such as AWS used to achieve that outcome. There should also be consideration of how such a policy would impact and be applied when there are sub-regional or sub-national clusters of candidate vacancies. Concerns about situations like this, however, can be addressed in the selection process framework without diluting the intended effect.
Most importantly, policies adopted on the use of AWS, or other mechanisms, need to be implemented as intended, with no room for the application of the policy to be utilised as a convenient mechanism to either promote a favoured candidate or exclude an ‘undesirable’ candidate.
Abuse and inconsistent application of AWS, by the party leadership, in the run up to the 2010 General Election has fundamentally damaged the cause it purports to serve – leaving advocates of AWS weakened and staff attempting to implement it exposed to misdirected criticism. There should be much greater transparency from NEC members involved in any decisions affecting whether AWS will or will not be used for any candidate selection process – accountability of NEC reps representing members is vital, especially where their role involves decision making in selection processes.
Boundary change proposals will present a significant challenge for the party. There is a real danger that progress made in the last couple of decades in advancing the number and proportion of women Labour MPs will recede. Specific measures should be introduced by the party leadership to mitigate against a disproportionate effect on women Labour MPs.
A separate and distinct approach is required in respect of Parliamentary by-elections. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary consideration given the uniqueness of each Parliamentary by-election. I am, as yet, unconvinced that the application of a crude 50% quota centrally imposed across the UK on Parliamentary by-election candidate selections would serve the purpose of achieving greater women’s representation, which is, afterall, the goal of positive action. It is possible that this kind of crude initiative could result in a lesser proportion of women Labour MPs in the PLP.
I agree that there needs to be consideration given, at a leadership level, to how the party’s process for selecting Parliamentary by-election candidates can better reflect the commitment to increasing women’s representation and would be happy to advocate for this.
I am also in favour of specific policies being adopted and implemented by the NEC which detail mechanisms that can be utilised in pursuit of greater Labour women’s representation in local government. As Chair of Croydon Local Government Committee in the run up to the 2006 elections, I implemented measures which ensured that at least one of the three candidates in every Labour ward we held and every target ward was a woman. This increased the proportion of women members in the Labour group. These actions were not without some local controversy – two wards at the time were each served by three male Labour councillors – but they had the desired effect of achieving greater gender balance. Effecting outcomes like this requires more than a policy on paper, it takes the ability to make and implement tough decisions, transparently, in the knowledge that criticism will feature.
I am generally in favour of proposals which would bolster the current support given to Labour women’s organisation at a regional and constituency level, and it is of particular concern that the Refounding Labour process has resulted in the removal of CLP Women’s Officers as one of the ‘must have’ roles in each CLP. I am also generally supportive of initiatives which encourage individual women to become more involved in all of the party’s activities especially in harnessing and developing knowledge, skills and experience.
As a member of the National Policy Forum (NPF) and the Joint Policy Committee, I know that women’s voices are heard loud and clear in the policy process and that the requirement for minimum 50% female representation from members’ reps in every nation and region, elected by one member one vote, is an effective mechanism in ensuring Labour women’s views are expressed in every policy issue. While it is of vital importance that women members’ experiences and views are encouraged in the party’s policy process, I don’t believe the most effective way of realising that is, as the LWN submission to Refounding Labour suggests, to establish another centralised body.
Please do contact me if you wish to discuss these or any other matters in more detail. I hope you’ll consider giving me one of your votes in the NEC elections when you receive your ballot paper in the next few days. Please remember to vote before the June 13th deadline.
m: 07798 891637