Personal statement by Elaine Bewley, standing for election as women’s officer of Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party at its annual general meeting at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton BN1 1YD at 10.30am on Saturday, February 4.
“I have been a long standing member of the Labour Party and have worked at grassroots level in numerous elections, local and national. Our defeat in 2010 has propelled me into greater activism and I have taken to the streets in numerous marches since 2010 including the Paris Climate March and the Women’s March in London last week. I actively campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn in both leadership elections, and support his 10 pledges for a fairer, kinder and more equal Britain. As a single mum bringing up three teenage boys on my own I can claim to understand many of the pressures that women are increasingly subject to in these times of austerity.
“I am standing as Women’s Officer because I am firmly convinced that in order to win the next election we have to find a different way to engage with women voters, particularly women 50 and over, just under half of whom vote Tory. And we need especially to reach out to younger women, who are voting for the Labour Party in ever greater numbers, but who need to be encouraged to engage in political activism in local and national level.
“Since the Tories came to power with their slash and burn approach to the Social Settlement, the NHS and many of Labour’s previous initiatives, we have seen 85% of the burden* of their austerity policies falling onto the backs of the women of this country and many of the hard won rights of women are under threat. We cannot be complacent and we have to facilitate women to find their voice and tell their stories.
“Reports and articles maintain that women are discouraged from political engagement, because they find the atmosphere too “shouty” and confrontational; they are deterred by the context and the bureaucracy and because nobody asks them.**
• seek a party wide agreement to a more respectful engagement between members, based on communication, not confrontation — that we encourage a climate of mutual tolerance and openness.
• assess what provision has been made already within Pavilion CLP and build upon it.
• ensure all branches have a Women’s Officer and set up a women’s forum.
• ensure that all new women members are welcomed and set up social events to encourage networking and skills exchange.
• support women to greater direct involvement as branch officers, delegates etc. and taking part in demonstrations and public speaking.
“We are living in dynamic and troubling times, with the rise of intolerant and misogynist right-wing parties and attitudes close to home and further afield. As a party we have to be more than just ‘better than the Tories’. We have to be distinctive, and we have to have an innovative and inclusive socialist plan. And women must be encouraged to participate and believe in their ability to effect change.”
* Women’s Budget Group Report, November 2016
** Electoral Commission Report, April 2004