With Women’s Conference deadlines announced and delegations soon to be made, with Scottish Labour MSP selections looming, women members all over the country will be seeking advice from the official Labour Party site. Labour Women’s Declaration working group is dismayed by the NEC out of date statement on All Women Shortlists, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women. https://labour.org.uk/about/how-we-work/nec-statement-women-shortlists-womens-officers-minimum-quotas-women/ It is the text of the NEC statement from 22nd May 2018.
It is true that Labour had (past tense) a proud record of championing for women. This derived from a materialist understanding of women’s disadvantages within this culture, of the way discrimination works and how socialisation results in women’s and girls’ much lower expectations and ambitions.
The inclusion of self-identified transwomen makes a mockery of all the reasons behind these policies. It destroys affirmative action for women if any male person identifying as female is included in a group whose experience of discrimination is specific and different from that of trans-identifying people. This version of the policy has never been discussed or agreed democratically in the Party. To say that the Party will ‘deal with’ anyone subverting the intention of All Women Shortlists, women’s officers or minimum quotas for women is absurd when it is the Party itself which is subverting that intention.
We do not accept the claim that such policies are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Equality Act 2010, which quite explicitly speaks of the exceptions permitting single-sex provision as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Given the aim of building the Party’s empowerment of women in Party rôles and as MPs, it is not hard to see why the exceptions should be used.
We entirely agree that discussions should never take the form of abuse or intimidation. Sadly, the Labour Party has been entirely unwilling to act on any of the hundreds of abusive and intimidatory responses, in meetings and in online Labour forums, towards those who assert the need for women’s rights to be upheld.
The final part of the statement referring to reform not only of the Gender Recognition Act but of the Equality Act 2010 is misleading. It is not Labour Party policy. The 2019 manifesto stated the intention to “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.” It was that commitment that helped us to ensure that women did not leave Labour, seeing this as a clear commitment to our rights.
How is it possible to prevent the subversion of All Women Shortlists and have a policy that anyone can self-identify as a woman? When did it become Labour Party policy to reform the Equality Act 2010, which already protects trans people on the basis of sex as well as for gender reassignment and protects women on the basis of sex? The 2019 manifesto commitment was for the single-sex exceptions in the EA2010 to be “understood and fully enforced in service provision”. We don’t need reform, we need clarity and proper implementation of current law.
What is the NEC playing at? Surely this is out of date information (published in May 2018) and since superceded by the 2019 Manifesto. It should have been amended and not feature on the Labour Party website as a statement of current policy. It most certainly should not be foregrounded with the current Leader’s photo as some sort of ironic ‘Welcome’ statement, aimed at undermining women’s rights. In a week where Scottish Labour is producing zipped lists that are important for female representation in politics, it is important that old policy does not remain on the official Labour Party website. We demand that the website is updated to reflect 2019 Manifesto.