This is Lynda Rice’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:
Labour should aspire to have more women in parliament, ideally reaching the threshold of 50%. A minimum threshold of 50% for female representation should be the case for all committees convened in the name of the Labour Party. Moreover, each ward should have at least one woman standing for local councillor and, where possible, Labour controlled councils should have at least 50% women on the cabinet.
Mums, including those with younger children, should be encouraged to apply for more positions within the party. Their knowledge and experience is crucial when formulating and scrutinising policies around childcare, education policies, safeguarding of children, child poverty, etc. It should not be assumed that mums, particularly working mums, are too busy or do not have the “right skills” to hold positions of high responsibility within the party.
• I agree with All Women Shortlists (AWS) and to their application in seats with a strong Labour majority. I hope in the future, however, that grassroots members will receive the training and support that will enable women to have an equal chance of standing for a parliamentary seat without an AWS (I tend to believe in a bottom-up, rather than top-down approach). However, I do believe that, as things currently stand, AWS are needed and should be implemented.
I agree with Lewis when he states that, the purpose of AWS are to increase the overall amount of elected women, not to advantage certain favoured women, or to ‘stop’ certain non-favoured men. If a CLP is demonstrating gender equality, for example at least 50% of it’s officers and executive are women, then CLP members should decide who should stand as their parliamentary candidate, regardless of their gender. AWS should primarily be utilised where a CLP does not have proven track-record of gender equality, in order to try and meet the 50% threshold for a region.
I support the formulation and publication of clear criteria for the application of AWS policy. This is essential to ensure that members do not feel that their parliamentary candidate has not been imposed on them. AWS should, in my view, be primarily applied to those CLPs that do not have a track record of attempting to meet a 50% threshold for their officers and their executive committee. Every CLP should have a Women’s Officer. Part of their prescribed remit should be to ensure that at least 50% of their CLP officers and executive committee are women. If not, they should report it to their regional officers for further action to be taken. I think that an informed decision should be made over which CLPs have an AWS. This could be based on criteria such as the gender of previous MPs for that constituency; their track-record of equal opportunities for women within the CLP/council chamber; the gender of surrounding Labour Party MPs; rather than having a random ballot to decide which CLPs have an AWS.
I agree with nearly all of the Refounding Labour proposals by Lead for Women, including implementing a proper complaints process and building a fully funded and organised Women’s organisation in the Labour Party. I also agree that CLP meetings should be more inviting for parents, being more family-friendly. The ambience of CLP meetings should not be so formal, with the Chair creating a more relaxed atmosphere. However, I do not agree with your suggestion that holding meetings in places such as a café is best, nor having them in the morning. This excludes working people, including working mums. As a part-time working mum myself, I would also be worried about the constant whereabouts of my children. I have often asked for a crèche, or other child care facilities, to be available at council meetings and even at school governor meetings. I have had no success with this so far and it is frustrating when parents are unable to attend meetings because of child care issues. The Labour Party could do more with regard to it’s own meetings. Moreover, I do not agree with your suggestion that canvassing and leafleting is the work of “merely foot-soldiers”. Door-knocking, based on a well thought-out campaign strategy and excellent communication skills, is the most effective way of engaging with the community. I believe it is work of the upmost importance and integral to a successful campaign. I think that all men and women should be expected to do their fair share of leafleting and door-knocking if they expect to progress in the party. Of course, barriers such as childcare, disabilities, etc, should be taken in to consideration. Talking and listening to residents was the cornerstone of how my CLP (Barking CLP) won it’s historic victory over the BNP in the local and parliamentary elections of 2010.
I have so far been aware of two slates going around the country. There are 6 names of candidates for the NEC on each slate. Although I assume this is within the party rules and I know that there are equal numbers of men and women on each slate, I believe that every candidate, regardless of their gender, should have an equal opportunity to further their political aspirations. In my view, slates are not in the spirit of Refounding Labour.