In the week that David Cameron failed to promote any more women to the cabinet it’s great to see Ed Miliband giving more women places at the cabinet table and the reintroduction of a full-time Women and Equalities role at Cabinet level.
Whilst we’re still not at the 50% of women in the Shadow Cabinet that Ed pledged during the leadership election (44% of shadow cabinet attendees will now be women) the progress from the 2010 election where Labour women where firmly in the background and the contrast with the Tory-led government is clear.
However we’re concerned with the lack of women in junior shadow positions as it will not only have an impact in achieving a gender balanced Shadow Cabinet but risks making some policy areas men only spaces. The number of women in traditionally male dominated areas like the Treasury and Defence is welcome but with only one woman in the Shadow FCO, Justice and DFID teams and no women in the Northern Ireland team we risk silencing women in some of the most important policy areas.
We share the concerns voiced by many Labour women that an all male team running the general election campaign could see us slip back onto the pattern of the 2010 election, where women politicians where sidelined. We look forward to working with the election team to make sure the mistakes of 2010 aren’t repeated.
The public face of politics is all too often a male one and the increased number of women in the Shadow Cabinet isn’t just good for Labour but for politics as a whole.
But the new look Shadow Cabinet isn’t an end in itself and we can’t allow the presence of more women on the front bench to make us think the job is done. This government has shown what happens to equality when women aren’t at the decision table and it’s essential that Labour gives women at all levels of the party an opportunity to make their voices heard in the run up to 2015.
A large part of this means women being front and centre in creating the ideas that will form Labour’s manifesto and laying the foundations for what the next Labour Government does in power. This is why Labour Women’s Network have invited women from across the Labour Movement to our second national political day, Foundations for Victory, to discuss how Labour can win the next election. We’re putting women front and centre and we hope comrades across the party do the same.