This is Lewis Atkinson’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:
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 to the overall point – we need to re-double efforts to reach the 50:50
gender balance of our MPs. For by-election candidates, I support ensuring
AWS is implemented within each region to get to that 50:50 balance, so
by-elections need to be treated in line with this (though depending the
distribution of by-elections, that might not mean that 50% of by-election
candidates are women).*
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?
Yes, because AWS is the only mechanism that has been proved to improve
gender balance. We can only achieve a 50:50 gender balance on a sustainable
basis, parliament to parliament, if we have equal gender representation in
all types of seats – e.g. we do not lose disproportionately more women if
we suffer a general election swing against us. Therefore AWS should be
applied in equal proportions in Labour majority seats and in Labour target
In addition to AWS, we need take other initiatives to tackle the root
issues of gender imbalance within the party. Therefore I support the idea
contained in the Lead for Women Refounding Labour Submission about creating
Regional Women’s Officers to sit on every Regional Board and help act as a
spur to tackling issues of gender imbalance within all CLPs, not just those
with an upcoming parliamentary selection, for example by carrying out
targeted membership-recruitment drives among female supporters to address
the gender imbalance in our membership.
What will you do to ensure equal and transparent application of AWS policy
across the regions, including in Scotland and Wales?
I support achievement of 50:50 gender balance separately in each region and
nation of the UK, because Labour women need to have an equal voice in every
part of the country. I would expect the AWS policy to applied evenly across
all regions and nations, and the NEC should monitor adherence to this. I
feel using clearer criteria for AWS (detailed in my answer below) would
ensure more transparent and consistent application of the policy in every
Would you support the formulation and publication of clear criteria for
the application of AWS policy and what would your favoured criteria be?
The purpose of AWS is to increase the overall amount of elected women, not
to advantage certain favoured women, or to ‘stop’ certain non-favoured men.
To maintain backing for AWS within the party, the criteria for its
application needs to be clear and transparent.
I would be minded (but interested in consulting on others views) to make a
presumption in favour of AWS for CLPs which cannot demonstrate their own
steps to progress gender equality in their normal operation as evidenced by
statistics from local party activity – e.g. CLPs which have male:female
member ratios that have not improved over a number of years; CLPs which
have poor records of electing women councillors from open council selection
Over and above these criteria (which could be determined using non-fixable
statistical data), I would be minded to apply a random ballot system, as
suggested by Luke in his response to you, within each region to determine
the seats that should be subject to AWS.
What will you do to ensure we have a 50:50 PLP and 50:50 Labour
administration in Scotland, Wales, London and local government?
As above, I support the consistent application of AWS policy to reach 50:50
in all elected bodies, including the ‘zipping’ of candidate lists in
What will you do to ensure that the proportion of women in the PLP does
not decrease as a result of boundary changes?
If the proposed boundary changes go through, we need to carefully monitor
the effect this may have on the proportion of women in the PLP. I am happy
to support Lead for Women’s proposal that there should be a commission
set-up to look into this and recommend appropriate remedies, including
consideration of whether there might need to be a greater than 50%
application of AWS in post-reorganisation open seats.
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?