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The changing face of the PLP: Labour women in Parliament

17 Feb , 2014  

Labour activist and National Policy Forum member Emma Burnell compares the progress political parties are making in terms of women’s representation.

Recently, Ed Miliband succeeded in dramatically showing up the Conservative Party for the unrepresentative body they are, pointing out at PMQs that there were no women on their front bench.

Already one in ten of the Conservative Women MPs elected in 2010 have announced they are standing down at the next election.

For me I think it highlights two things: firstly that Labour have more women in Parliament and in senior positions because we have been consistently working at it for many years. Secondly, culturally the Labour Party is a place where women feel more comfortable working through long careers.

We also made it easier for all women in Parliament – in fact for all Parliamentarians full stop. When we were in Government we changed the way Parliament worked to make it more family friendly, with a dramatic reduction of late night sitting. The cultural changes we were able to implement made things better for what few Tory and Lib Dem women there are, but we can’t change the culture of their parties.

Solidarity is a Labour word – a word derived from the Labour movement. Our sense of comradeship and the societal obligations we feel we owe each other means that women in the Party support and nurture each other. The Labour Women’s Network has had extraordinary success in training hundreds and hundreds of exception female candidates who are now running for parliamentary and council seats up and down the country. We do this because it is our party’s spirit to lift each other up and to fight inequality wherever we find it.

Are we perfect? No we are not. And I’m the first to call us out when we get things wrong. But we should also celebrate our successes. All Women Shortlists work. We have some incredibly women elected to parliament as a result of our determined effort to use the tools at our disposal to change the face of the PLP. Not for us the handwringing and inaction of the other major parties. We got on and got it done. We continue to get on and get it done.

Emma tweets @EmmaBurnell_

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