Labour Women had a good Conference.
It started with the Women’s Conference on Saturday – aptly flagged as ‘Amplify the Voice of Labour Women’. There childcare, equal and low pay and domestic violence were major concerns.
Labour’s shadow team contains several women – and they were also very prominent in Manchester.
Angela Eagle was widely praised for her speech and for her NEC chairing. Caroline Flint introduced well-received policies on Green issues, Mary Creagh on railways, Maria Eagle on the new deal with the water companies, Rachel Reeves – with her promise that the first thing she’d do in May 2015 is repeal the Bedroom Tax and so many more – including Lisa Nandy, shadow minister for Civil Society. on a fringe platform with our own Alex Sobel.
And, of course, Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for Women and Equalities and Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary.
Gloria spoke at the main conference on Better Politics – including on the need for gender and other equalities – and at the Women’s Conference.
There she stressed the strengths of Labour as a party in which women are well represented – more so than in any other UK political party.
‘more women MPs than all the other Parties combined and forty four per cent of our Shadow Cabinet. Over half of our candidates in target seats are women.’
As a result of this, Labour is a party in which women’s issues are taken seriously:
Children and childcare
‘Labour will deliver breakfast school and after school clubs and provide 25 hours free childcare a week for working parents with 3 and 4 year old children.’
‘It’s 44 years since Labour’s Barbara Castle passed the Equal Pay Act. Yet today women are still earning just 80p for every pound a man earns.
Women working as carers face up to £100,000 in lost earnings over the course of their lifetime. A woman teacher will lose £166,000.
The Labour Government closed the pay gap by a third. We passed the Equality Act but the Tories and Liberals ditched the bit which would have helped us make progress on equal pay.
Companies with more than 250 staff will have to publish pay figures so women can see if all the jobs at the top of the organisation are being done by men or if they are doing the same jobs as their male colleague for less pay.’
Labour is a party in which fairness and justice are central – for women AND men.
Only by ending the scandal of low pay can the inequalities of women – and men – be addressed.
But only by ending the scandal of women’s pay inequality can we fully address inequality.
‘Equal pay isn’t just an issue for women. It’s an issue for families, for fathers and husbands too. We’re all poorer because women don’t have equal pay.’
Yvette Cooper turned her attention to the questions of women’s safety.
In her keynote speech she addressed many of men’s and women’s concerns – safety is something for all of us.
But some of what she had to say addressed women’s concerns in particular.
The protection of particular groups of women
‘A Labour Government will bring in new powers to help prevent Female Genital Mutilation.’
But in the context of ALL women
These powers will be ‘part of a new law on violence against women and girls.’
Women – and men – need the security of a law-abiding society. And Yvette had proposals there, too
So ‘the next Labour government will abolish Police and Crime Commissioners and put the savings back into frontline policing instead.
We can make other savings through a National Procurement Plan and ending the absurd £17m taxpayer subsidy for gun licences that David Cameron is desperate personally to defend.
With the savings we have found, we can help our police, our communities and victims. Theresa May wants to cut 1,100 police officers next year. Labour’s plan will give forces enough money next year to save all those officers from being cut.’
But women need some special protections – and women’s refuges have been a crucial part of providing that – until the cuts closed so many of them.
‘There is one other area, where we believe some of those savings should be used.
We heard at the beginning about violence against women and girls, yet Theresa May has failed to support victims of violence and abuse.
Across the country under this Government refuges are facing imminent closure. Entire cities and counties have no refuge provision left at all.
So we will bring in new laws, new standards, a new commissioner on domestic and sexual abuse and a Labour government will use some of the savings to fund a national network of refuges, because those fleeing abuse should always have a safe place to turn.’
The next Labour Government will support women and their families with policies from tackling low wages to extending free childcare that will disproportionately benefit women, and equal pay will once again be a priority. It will take women’s safety, and domestic violence, very seriously.
And it will do this because of the women who now play such a big role in it, but also because of its fundamental values.
Yvette Cooper again
‘Because that’s what we in the Labour party believe in. Fighting against abuse. Fighting for justice. Standing up for those whose voices aren’t heard or who get left behind. For those who don’t feel safe or live in fear.
Standing up for our values – equality, community, liberty justice and unity.’
She reminded us of those heroes – and heroines of the Labour past who incarnated just these values
‘ Nye Bevan knew the importance of standing together as a Welshman who founded our National Health Service.’
Including Labour men who have long campaigned for women’s rights
‘Keir Hardie . . . .a Scot struggling for universal women’s suffrage.’
And Labour women who have worked for equality
‘Barbara Castle . . .a Yorkshire woman who worked with Dagenham trade unionists to bring in the Equal Pay Act.’
The next Labour Government will be a Government for women – but that doesn’t mean it won’t also be a government for men. That’s the great strength of equality as a core value.
Britain Really Will be Better under Labour.
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