At the 1987 General Election just 21 Labour women MPs were elected. This prompted 4 women – Barbara Follett, Barbara Roche, Hilary De Lyon and Jean Black – to form the Labour Women’s Network in 1988.They were disappointed and frustrated at the low number of women elected in the recent election and wanted change.
After just 10 years of campaigning, the 1997 General Election saw a large increase in the number of women in the House of Commons, with 101 Labour women MPs elected. This was also a victory for Labour Women’s Network, who had played a crucial role in getting more women selected, then elected as MP’s. Booklets on Labour’s selection procedures had been published; telephone helplines initiated; subscriber newsletters mailed; fringe meetings organised; and a stand staffed at major Conferences….
When LWN was founded, fewer than 10% of Labour MPs were women. Women now make up a third of the Parliamentary Labour Party with a total of 86 MPs, which is more than all the other political parties put together.
Compare Labour to the other political parties and the figures are quite damning.
At the 1931 general election there were 13 Conservative women MPs – and at the 1997 general election, there were still only 13 Conservative women MPs!
The Conservatives now have 48 women MPs – but that is still only 16% of their total parliamentary seats.
The Lib Dems are even worse with only 7 women MPs – making up only 12% of their total parliamentary seats!
Overall there are still only 147 women MPs out of a total of 650 – that’s less than 23% of the total number of MPs.
These figures prove that the Labour Party is working harder than any other political party to encourage women to enter politics and stand for a parliamentary seat – but there is still more to do.
Although I am very proud to be the Labour party candidate for Weetwood in the upcoming council elections this year, I am the only female candidate in Leeds North West. Still more needs to be done to encourage women to come forward and stand as Council candidates and MP’s seats. Younger women need to be encouraged to stand along with women who have families.
Labour Women’s Network exists to do just this – to secure the election of more Labour women to public office at every level and to support Labour women to play a full part in the Party.
What is Labour Women’s Network?
LWN is a broad-based enabling organisation – they don’t make policy, or seek to represent the views of women in the Party. They have members from across the Labour spectrum. They exist to encourage, assist and support all women in the Labour Party who wish to stand for public office. They seek to break down the barriers (in the Party, and in wider politics) that exist to women realising their potential in the Labour Party.
LWN wants to see 50:50 equal representation at every level of the Labour Party – in Parliament, in Europe, in the devolved nations and in local government. And they want to see equal representation and an equal voice for women within the Labour Party – from local constituency committees to the shadow cabinet table.
The Network is a membership organisation. LWN members are women who are members of the Labour Party. The LWN also welcomes trade unions and socialist societies that are affiliated to the Party to join as affiliated organisations. They invite men who share their values to join as supporters.
Labour Womens Network campaigns for change within the Party, and provides top-quality training for women who want to stand for Parliament, or get more politically active.
Click here http://www.lwn.org.uk/training to find out more about their training – especially the Intensive Residential Course for Aspiring Candidates.
I’m proud to be standing for Labour in Weetwood. And I look forward to joining other women – like Janette Walker, our councillor for Headingley – on Leeds City Council in May. I’m proud, too, of Labour’s record on gender equality here in Leeds – around 43% of Labour councillors are women, compared to only 20% of LibDems and 22% of Tores.
But, like LWN, I’m looking to the day when we’ll be 50:50 women and men.
It’s up to you to come and help that happen!
Julie is Labour’s candidate for Weetwood ward in the May Council elections. You can read more about her – and what she’s been doing, on her page on our website – Leeds City Council Elections 2014 – Julie Heselwood for Weetwood
If you want to help Julie – and our other candidates – or just to get more information from us,sign up here