Response from Anas Sarwar MP
Anas Sarwar MP has responded to LWN’s letter to him, and this is what he said:
Dear Marie and Melanie,
Thank you for your letter on behalf of the Labour Woman’s Network and for
giving me the opportunity to address your points.
Equality is a central tenant of the Labour Movement and I strongly believe
that in order to represent society effectively we must reflect it. The
Labour Party must strive for true equality and to do this we need
representatives from ethnic minorities, the disabled community as well as
reaching gender balance.
Increasing women’s representation is important because of the positive
impact it has on the policy-making agenda. Having more women in elected
office ensures that issues predominately affecting women remain high on
the political agenda and at a time when women are bearing the brunt of the
UK Government’s savage cuts programme, this is now more relevant than
We must keep up the pressure to achieve equal pay for women; promote the
living wage, not just the public sector but into the private sector
through procurement and best practice; strive to end child poverty;
improve universal access to childcare; and champion gender equality at the
top of business.
The Scottish Labour Party has shown real leadership on gender balance in
the past, but we must acknowledge that we faltered at the last Scottish
Parliament elections, failing to ensure an equitable distribution of
candidates in winnable seats.
The historic 50/50 campaign that resulted in Labour standing an equal
number of women and men in the first Scottish Parliament was something
that we are rightly proud of as a movement. I welcome the recent decision
by the STUC Women’s Conference to re-launch the 50/50 campaign ahead of
the next election.
We made positive strides in 1997 with the election of 101 female MPs but
we must do more. I support the continued use of All Women Shortlists for
We should have done better and if elected as Deputy Leader, I will work
closely with the SEC Constitution Working Group’s current review of
equality structures and selection procedures to develop a mechanism to
correct this; we must restore gender balance in the Scottish Parliament
and work to increase the balance at Westminster.
This means considering all the options currently in place, such as
‘twinning’ in constituencies and ‘zipping’ on the regional lists. It is
also time to look at introducing All Women Shortlists for Scottish
To be truly representative of society, it also means that we must do more
to encourage candidates from other under-represented groups, by looking
closely at the barriers faced by potential candidates in terms of ethnic
minority, disability, LGBT, age and also social background.
During my campaign I have been speaking to Labour council groups across
the country and while is it positive that there are more women candidates
than ever before, we still have a striking lack of female councillors. We
must be active in encouraging female representation in local Government
where we have too few women standing and ask the important questions about
why this might be.
As a Party we must do more to encourage women to come forward as
candidates at all levels. There is no shortage of talented female members
in our Party and one of the key promises of my campaign is to identify and
invest in the talent we already have in our movement.
We must provide greater support to talented women candidates by offering
training – such as the Future Candidate Programme, promoting them into
important Party positions to help ensure that the next generation of
female Labour politicians are equipped to overcome many of the obstacles
that stand in the way of equal representation.
However, whilst training and mentoring are crucial for all candidates, I
reject the idea that this alone will have the desired impact. Our history
shows that we need to be proactive in utilising positive measures to
achieve real change.
If elected Deputy Leader I have pledged that prominent Parliamentarians
will periodically visit our Constituency Labour Parties as part of an
effort to reconnect the party with our grassroots members. I would also
seek to use this as an opportunity to raise the profile and prominence of
women in our party by using a higher proportion of female
One thing is certain – if we fail to achieve gender balance we will fail
to be the Party of equality.