Latest post on Left Futures

Mayoral candidates: a manifesto for London’s women?

Joe Quimby, Mayor of Springfield, from the Simpsons by Matt GroeningOne of the most interesting fringes at Labour conference was a Demos fringe on London after Boris. Given the speaker list (Andrew Adonis, Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan and David Lammy), I was fully expecting it to be the first hustings for London’s Labour Mayoral candidate in 2016.

And given the large numbers queuing to enter a small, dark, sweaty room fifteen minutes before kickoff, I wasn’t alone in the supposition. Thankfully chair Ben Rogers quickly dispensed with any pretence that the fringe meeting was intended to be anything else.

I asked a question of the panel during the Q&A debate, although I only got a response from two panel members as both Jowell and Khan had to dart off to other commitments halfway through. (Clearly the frontrunners, then!)

I had been struck by the lack of debate on issues affecting London’s women. Labour continues to poll better among women than men, and given the national emphasis on addressing women’s employment, the impact of the cuts and squeezes on living standards and issues of safety, I was surprised not to hear more discussion of how this is reflected in the next London manifesto. There are about four million of us in London after all, and we do have the vote. So I asked what they felt the big issues for London’s women were and what they would do as the Labour Mayoral candidate to tackle them.

David Lammy talked mostly about childcare and ensuring safety for women and children – there was a definite conflation of “women” and “mothers” in his answer, which I fully expect will be rectified ahead of a Mayoral bid. He did, at least, identify a couple of issues that are very important to female Londoners, with reference to his constituents, so not a bad start. Andrew Adonis, on the other hand, started off his answer by saying that he would not support putting out a manifesto for women in the 2016 election campaign. Let’s be honest, I probably wasn’t going to back him anyway, but here’s why I think he’s wrong on this point.

Of course women care about the big-picture issues impacting London; transport effectiveness and affordability, housing supply, policing and fire services and economic development, and party policies in these areas will be key determinants in women’s votes. But there are a number of issues which specifically or disproportionately affect women in the capital. As a young woman, and as a London Assembly candidate last year, I spoke to women across the city who had concerns about safety at night, about funding for rape crisis centres and about the Tory Mayor’s attitude towards women. There are issues where the Mayor has power and can make a real difference to the lives of London women.

Given that both Mayors of London have been older white men, there seems to be a real appetite for a Labour candidate who breaks that mould – particularly a woman or an ethnic minority candidate. The success of Siobhan Benita as an independent last year owes something to the fact that the three main parties stood middle-aged white men.

I very much supported Ken Livingstone as Labour’s Mayoral candidate, because he was clearly passionate about our city and the best person for the job. But I’d like to see a candidate who reflects more the diversity of London. Andrew Adonis, as another middle-aged, middle-class, white man, is particularly vulnerable to accusations of being a candidate who doesn’t represent London’s incredibly diverse population. So if I were him, I’d think seriously about what issues really matter to women in London. I’d admit a lack of expertise in the area and consult women across the capital on what matters to them. And I’d publish a document outlining my pledges to London’s women, informed by the views of women across classes and communities.

Don’t discount the idea, Andrew. It may make the difference between winning and losing.

3 Comments

  1. Rod says:

    Quite right, Ms Quigley.

    The problem with this line-up is that they’re better suited to representing the Labour elite than the diverse population of a modern city.

    You can’t really blame them – they’ve done their best to conform to whatever requirements New Labour demanded for career advancement.

    And now they’re left high-and-dry, marooned on the shores of irrelevance and holed beneath the waterline – no rising tide will float their prospects as popular figures.

    Surely, as Ed might have said, Labour can do better than this?

  2. swatantra says:

    Lets just have an AWS Shortlist and have done with these male pale and stale candidates. I’m sure there are plenty of women out there that can do the job better. But they have to come forward.

  3. John says:

    Well I backed Oona last time

© 2021 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma