Luke Akehurst

1. How will you increase women’s representation as council leaders, metro mayors and police and crime commissioners? If the PLP falls below 50% women at next GE will you implement positive action and push for a manifesto commitment make AWS legal until unnecessary?

I would push for a manifesto commitment to make AWS legally possible in all circumstances, whether or not we end up with a PLP that falls below 50% women. We can’t have a situation where every time we hit 50% women in the PLP or a Labour Group we are then banned from using AWS and risk bouncing back down in women’s representation at the next round of selections and elections. We should be able to use AWS whenever we decide as a party that we want to.  We could use the same round of legislation to give us powers to use AWS as and when we judged it necessary because of lack of women being selected and elected in “single position” roles such as council leaders, metro mayors and PCCs. In the meantime I would support guarantees of 50% women shortlists in selections for metro mayors and PCCs, and Labour Groups having standing orders that mean they have to have at least one woman in their leadership team (Leader + Deputy/deputies).

2. Will you support and promote the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Scheme and other evidenced ways of accelerating the advancement of diverse Labour women across the country?


3. How will you reduce male harassment, assault and misogynist abuse within the Labour Party and ensure women activists, staff and representatives are safe on Labour’s watch?

The new independent aspects of the disciplinary process when cases regarding protected characteristics are heard should have increased confidence that when cases are reported they will be dealt with objectively, independently and free of political interference or bias to protect allies or friends. We can always do more to make it easier to report incidents straight to the national party and to provide additional resourcing so that cases are investigated faster, and increase support provided to victims to help them through the process. Culture in a large organisation is often set by the example and rhetoric coming from the top. Swift action in high profile national cases where the perpetrator is seen to have political power and “protection” will send a signal of zero tolerance down to every other level of the party. Sadly, even in a progressive political party education and training are needed to help people, particularly local leaders and office holders, recognise the different manifestations of male harassment, assault and misogynist abuse and how they affect victims. Again this requires resourcing by the national party.

4. How will you ensure women are front and centre of Labour’s manifesto development and General Election campaign?

I’m not sure that as a backbench member of the NEC I will be able to directly influence the personnel choices on this made by the leadership, but if I spot there is a problem I will raise it at NEC. My impression is that Keir is promoting women MPs to key roles in this regard as he has appointed Anneliese to head the policy process and Shabana to chair the election campaign, as well as Rachel and Yvette as Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home Secretary. If we are serious about winning, we need women to switch to Labour in large numbers and ensuring our policy platform and our frontbench resonate with women voters seems obvious.

5. After over a century of male Labour Leaders and likely 3 female Conservative Prime Ministers, what steps will you take to ensure Labour’s next Leader is a woman?

I think this is about political will on the part of the PLP to support, politically protect and push forward our best women, to ask men to step aside, and to nominate women candidates, and then political will on the part of the membership to vote for a woman leader. I proudly campaigned for a woman candidate for leader in 2015 but sadly the membership had other ideas.

6. For male candidates only, name a time you have stepped aside to ensure women can advance, acted as an ally or otherwise shared your power?

Whilst I have been a parliamentary candidate and councillor myself, my primary political role has been as an organiser getting other people selected and elected. I have helped run selection and election campaigns for dozens of women parliamentary candidates and hundreds of women councillors. I’m not 100% comfortable with making claims about “stepping aside”, as there is a possible implication there that me, or another man who decided not to run, somehow had a claim on a seat or role, and that the woman who got elected was the beneficiary of an act of political altruism, when they are likely to have deserved to be the candidate on their own merits from the start. But yes, I have withdrawn from selections and internal elections because I thought there was a woman candidate who could do the job better than me, and then gone on to organise and campaign for them.
Best wishes,
Luke Akehurst