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Monday, October 14, 2019

Labour's Women problem

Over at The Times, there is an interesting comment piece from Clare Foges, who believes that, although the Tories are perceived as having a 'women problem', it is in fact Labour who have most to answer for on this issue.

Foges points to Labour attempts to paint the Conservatives as anti-women, pinstriped chauvinists, the party of misogynists and Alan Clark throwbacks who care nothing for the rights and troubles of women. She refers to Labour making mountains of hay out of Johnson using the phrase “girly swot”, Diane Abbott finger-jabbing at last week’s prime minister’s questions that the government was “letting women down” and Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti calling for a probe into allegations that the prime minister squeezed a female journalist’s thigh 20 years ago.

But Labour have their own problems:

In contrast to those wicked Tories with their wandering hands, we are meant to see a soft and cuddly political movement peopled by beta males wearing “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts, a movement that embodies diversity and equality and inclusivity and every other progressive buzzword known to man. Sadly for Jeremy Corbyn and co, the most gentle probing of the facts reveals the rank hypocrisy. There is only one party riddled with sexism and misogyny in this country, and it’s Labour.

In recent weeks five Labour MPs have been threatened with deselection by their local parties, and four of them happen to be women. Though the party has called allegations of sexism “baseless”, the shadow minister Tracy Brabin believes “an element of misogyny” is at play. One of those facing the chop, the South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, is threatening to take legal action against the party over the misogynistic bullying she has allegedly endured. Another Labour MP, Helen Jones, has said that given the “culture of contempt” for women, the targeting of Lewell-Buck and others comes as no surprise. “The truth my party ignores is that women Labour MPs, however well respected they are, often face bullying and harassment in their constituency parties,” she wrote last week. Since the earliest days of the Corbyn era, comrades on the hard left have been spewing misogynistic bile online, taking down any uppity women who threaten the coming revolution. During the 2015 leadership contest Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper were Twitter-spammed with “witch” and “c***”. Moderate female Labour MPs have become accustomed to a daily bombardment of rape and death threats from their socialist brothers.

To be fair to Corbyn, this issue long predates his leadership. The left has always had a woman problem, the sexism taking different forms according to the part of the movement it lurks in. There was the old-fashioned sexism of the old left: the swaggering, bullying trade union dinosaurs who felt that decisions should be made by men in smoke-filled rooms while women served the beer and made the sandwiches. Though things have come a long way since the days when Barbara Castle had to overcome the unions’ resistance to equal pay, it is still remarkable that the two biggest unions — Unite and Unison — have never been led by a woman.

On the hard left you find the out-and-out misogyny displayed by those keyboard Corbynistas: resentful, hateful, violent. It was displayed, too, in the fantasising about Margaret Thatcher’s death. The vitriol in all that “burn the witch” stuff could only be partly explained by the Lady’s legacy. It was her sex which really made their hackles rise. The hard left lionises men such as Julian Assange, who spent seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in the face of sex assault allegations in Sweden; Ken Livingstone, who as London mayor welcomed Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric who was accused of supporting wife-beating and the stoning of gays; Red Ken’s old mate Gerry Healy, leader of the Workers Revolutionary Party, who was accused by 26 women of “gross sexual abuse” (allegations dismissed by Livingstone as an MI5 conspiracy). How could so-called progressives have such blind spots? Because set against the great class struggle, sexism and misogyny are dismissed as bourgeois concerns. If all that matters is the revolution, then the (invariably male) heroes of that revolution must be allowed their handmaidens, their “peccadillos” and God-awful attitudes.

Labour remain the only major party not to have elected a female leader, their attitude to Labour women MPs stinks, but to be fair they are not the only party to suffer a 'women problem'.

All the major parties have had issues at one time or another. It is just that finger-pointing does not go down well, when those pointing have not resolved their own issues.
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