Women in the Uk are increasing turning to the Labour Party, aware of the hollow promises from Coalition parties (made up in 2010 MPs of 16% (Con) and 12% (LibDems), whose austerity policies have really hit women hard. If Labour are elected, there is much work to be done and it is imperative that Labour’s agenda for women is radical and Labour’s straight-talking is heard by the electorate.
The report makes six recommendations:
– Political parties should take immediate action to increase the number of women candidates at all levels of election with a view to fielding as many women candidates from as wide a variety of backgrounds and communities as possible in winnable seats in 2015. This should include active consideration of positive action measures in selection processes.
– In order to enable everyone concerned to develop a much better understanding of the issues, a monitoring form similar to that used in recruitment for public appointments and applications for funding should be introduced. It would be completed and submitted to returning officers by all candidates together with nomination forms at all levels of election, and the results collated and published annually. This requirement should be implemented at the 2014 English local and European elections.
– Government should pilot a new government-wide scheme in 2014 to increase women’s presence, profile and participation in the 2015 general election and beyond. This could be done by drawing together experience from the UK and abroad which could be used to improve both the participation and the candidacy of women of all backgrounds in Britain.
– Government, political parties and others should act to implement the recommendations of the Speaker’s Conference Report published in 2010.
– In addition to adopting the proposals for cultural change in public life contained in reports such as the Speaker’s Conference, the Councillors’ Commission, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Pathways to Politics, steps should be taken to develop a much wider set of proposals for improving the culture of both politics at all levels and the media coverage of them.
– All organisations – public, private and third sector – should take steps to ensure that, at meetings and events, both women and men appear on platforms as speakers, and editors and broadcasters should also take responsibility for commissioning contributions from both women and men as commentators and experts. Individual citizens should be encouraged by to object to men-only platforms, panels and programmes.
Labour must also consider and implement the following policies addressing gender inequality.
o Recognising the impact of cuts affecting women, Labour must develop policies to reverse these effects. In opposition Labour should address the issues and ensure the Coalition government is held to account for their actions.
o Implement the policy proposed by Harriet Harman that either Party Leader or Deputy Leader must be female. A balanced team of men and women make better decisions.
o Set up consultation groups in areas of deprivation inviting women to put forward suggestions, which will help improve their lives.
o Alongside the move for the Leader of the Labour Party to choose the Shadow Cabinet, it is paramount that the voice of women needs to be maintained. A minimum of 40% of the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, should be women members; this percentage being raised to 50% over 5 years.
o Set up consultations with women within parties, workplaces, trade unions, women’s groups as to how to support them to further become involved in local decision making within local councils.
o Flexible maternity/paternity leave on full pay.
o In the workplace, ensure equal pay and conditions, including part-time workers, and a living wage to bring all low-paid workers out of poverty.
o All communities should provide good quality care and support for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill people, both helping them and relieving the burden of care from so many women.
o Continue with short listing of women candidates in selection of parliamentary candidates, until proportional and equal representation of women and men in the parliamentary Labour Party is met and maintained.
o There needs to be a reassessment of procedures and practices within local government and parliament and an investigation to ascertain how women could be included more and how they would like to become more involved in making decisions which affect them.
o Consult with women’s groups regarding issues for women, recognising women do not always engage with mainstream party political meetings, and set up workgroups with aims of addressing these issues.
o Respite for carers of one day a week to be funded.
o Playgroup Provision of free 5 hours p/w offered to every child from two years
o Nursery Education provision of free 15 hours p/w offered to every child from three years.
o Pursue universal affordable childcare policy , as proposed by Think Left.
o Amendments to the Equality Act should be reversed.
o Develop a Women’s Act that would enshrine women’s rights in policy-making and implementation.
o Increase benefit income in order to improve the lives of women living in poverty and support their families’ well-being;
o Reverse the cuts to SureStart Centres
o Women and girls must have equal access to education and training. That must include crèche facilities for parents returning to work or study, after time off to care for children. In our schools we must ensure an end to sex differentiation in the subjects offered to girl and boys.
o Improve access to education, flexible and varied methods of study and access to a life long Qualification Pathway so improving the quality of life for women and improving their employment prospects.
o Pursue an affordable housing policy so that women are not held in a poverty trap where they cannot work because of loss of housing benefits.
o Women must have the freedom to choose whether or not to have children without punishment for their choice. There must be free, safe and reliable contraception available. The access to the right to termination of pregnancy where there is agreement for two doctors should remain, within guidelines recommended by medical professionals. A woman who exercises her right to terminate her pregnancy should be offered counselling before and after the procedure. She does not do so lightly, and must be treated with respect and sensitivity.
o Safety from sexual/domestic violence. All individuals who are victimised should have access to safe rehousing if necessary.
o Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace creates misery for many women, and there should be active promotion of policies in the workplace to eradicate this.
o A 35-hour working week, and flexibility for part-time work.