There is a suggestion that the Labour Party rules should direct that where the Leader is male, the Deputy Leader should be female, and presumable vice versa. It makes me want to howl at not only how unfeminist it is as a proposal but how anti-feminist the effects could be.
This is a notably warped proposal that circumvents the dilemma that as a party we always elect men to the leadership and they do all they can to discourage subsequent elections.
Should I just rant or would it just be easier for everyone if I put this in bullet points?
- You don’t have equality when the position likely to be male is the one with all the power and the position likely to be held by a female has no power.
- If you present to the party and the country your team, gender balanced in this manner, you are not displaying a less sexist party, you are duping people into thinking it is a less sexist party and so reducing the will to change.
So what does need to be done to make the party less sexist? It’s a very long list (though I am at least proud to be in a party that is trying to do something about it). Sticking to the question of leadership, there are a few issues.
- Have a maximum length of term in which a leader can hold office without seeking re-election. This would increase the number of opportunities women would have to seek the top job.
- Arrange the party rules so that the leadership shortlist is 50% female.
- Mandatory reselections for MPs each election so that women get more opportunities to get on the first rung of the political ladder.
But saying that, it’s clear that the party and leadership won’t consider these ideas – so what might be a sticking plaster to make the “mandatory gender balanced leadership” a slightly less regressive move? I think merging the deputy leadership with the elected party chair role would be the answer. And specifically, that role should have some actual powers, for example that person should choose the parliamentary members of the NEC or could be the actual line manager of the General Secretary.
By giving the position some power, it actually makes some sense of having a gender balanced team, because the power too will be balanced.
But a fully functioning internal democracy might be better.