This is a guest post from Darrell Goodliffe, who is standing as an independent left candidate for Labour NEC. I asked him to write about why women should vote for him in terms of what policy he will put through in terms of party equality.
Recently, I was asked as a candidate for Labour’s National Executive to reply to a survey conducted by the Labour’s Women’s Network. At the time of writing, I am the only male candidate to respond and two other female candidates have. On top of this I have had certain anecdotal experiences locally which have shown me that we still have a long way to go when it comes to putting the theory of equality into practice. I believe in equality not just between genders but also between different ethnic groups and those of different sexual orientations. I conduct my politics in the same way, whoever I happen to be dealing with and I can honestly say that when it comes to selecting candidates I am blind to any other factors apart from ability and the politics of the candidate in question, however, sadly I can see this is still not true of all of the Party.
I am still weary of All Women Shortlists though my recent experiences are chipping away at my conviction they are wrong. I am instinctively hostile to top-down, bureaucratic measures to solve problems whose causes ultimately run much deeper than the number of people who are elected. I do think it remains a valid criticism of AWS that they do not address deep-seated cultural problems. They gloss over them and declare them ‘effectively’ solved through the arbitrary fulfilment of a quota. Furthermore, they run the risk of ingraining these problems further by discriminating ‘positively’ and encourage mutterings that candidates get seats ‘only because they are a women’. This encourages the patronising of women candidates which is wrong because I know for a fact that of my current crop of local councillors; many of the most-able of those elected and those who just missed out, are all women.
I think measures like having women’s-only conferences with no participation allowed by men are downright counterproductive. How does it make sense to exclude men from ‘women’s issues’? This only encourages ignorance and self-segregation when what we need is integration, enlightenment and education; not to mention the fact it is deeply problematic on democratic grounds. We need men to understand women’s perspective on issues that affect all genders and those that specifically affect one.
As such, I am more receptive to the suggestion that we need equality training and increased equality awareness across the Party. Local parties are still not conducive to female participation as far as I can see and this has nothing to do with ‘macho’ ‘adversarial’ attitudes. I know many women in politics who just as politically combative as men and I respect them for that; because I am a passionate and committed activist who gives as good as anybody can get. It more has to do with ‘placism’; some amoung us obviously feel women have no place in politics and although most conceal it, some don’t. This is a view encouraged by arrangements for meetings that are not ‘family-friendly’ or remotely sensitive to the demands placed on women when it comes to family life. It is those we need to look to change if we are serious about making a difference.
Other measures we need to consider are more general. Democratising the Labour Party, giving it back to the members is a central focus of my campaign and indeed the reason I decided to run in the first place. The more power and greater stake that all members of this Party have; the more our culture will change of its own accord. Democratic socialism, which is what I am committed too, is a programme for advancement of us all, especially those who find themselves on the margins of this society, as so many women, cast down into poverty, ignored, and unrepresented do.
As a Constituency Representative on Labour’s National Executive I am fully committed to putting equality into practice and fully recognise we have a long way to go along this road. I am under no illusions as to the depth of problems we still have in this area and it is something I continue to problematize in my own mind and seek representations on; my experiences in the last few days have troubled me and it should worry us all. Our ideal of equality is a long way from being realised but that means merely that rather than abandoning it we need to redouble our efforts to fight for it. As your representative I would like to be part of that fight.