Report on Gender Equlity: Labour and Greens in Brighton doing OK but could do better

The comments left on this blog by Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, or RLD as we are getting to know her, has provoked a defence of the records of both Labour and the Greens but no response, alas, from the Stepford One, Jason Kitcat.

RLD responded to yesterday’s post by writing: “Your correspondents aren’t so hot on gender politics are they? I thought the Greens would know all about equalities. Stephen Wood says Jason’s comments were “good natured self deprecation”. I don’t think so. What he said was patronising nonsense. Ania got more votes, not because she is good looking, but because she’s a good candidate and because the voters like women candidates. They also like seeing women in positions of authority. That’s why I’m concerned about the make up of the cabinet. Fifty per cent of the city’s population is female. We need fair representation. Come on Bill. Sort it out.”

Neil Harding rallies to the defence of the Stepford One: “I did think Jason’s comments were a bit dopey and sexist. But give the guy a break, it had been a tiring 24 hours and he was probably knackered. I am sure he meant it as a bit of self-deprecating banter.”

Warren Morgan highlights Labour’s record on gender equality: “As you have raised equalities RLD, well over half of the Labour Group 2007-11 were women, and over 40% of our candidates at the recent elections were women. Two of our five new councillors are women, so six of the 13 Labour councillors are women. Our Group Leader is a woman, the Chair of our Group is a woman and our new Mayor is a woman. We’ve been pushing equalities and representation in the Labour Party for a long time.”

Allie Cannell responds to RLD’s call for Bill Randall to “sort it out”: “One of the main reasons I am in the Greens is because Bill cannot sort it out! He may be convener of the Green Group and leader of the council but he has no constitutional power over the party.”

Allie reflects more widely on gender in politics: “I think the lack of women in politics is a big problem though (partly because the reasons for it probably put many people of all genders off politics). I would say that the Greens are generally pretty good at attempting a balance though (I think the leader and deputy leader of our party have to be different genders for example). It is a shame that this group of Green councillors has a slightly lower proportion of women then the last one but its still at 40%, which is pretty good for party politics. I don’t know how the make up of the cabinet happened but I would be very supprised if it happened in any sort of discriminatory atmosphere.”

Stephen Wood sums up the position for Labour and the Greens: “So in effect, Labour and the Green Party are broadly comparable locally with our representation of women in elected office, albeit with us ahead on seats.  Around 40% is good, but as RLD says, this can and should be better. In my experience of it, the Green Party nationally is takes gender equity seriously as an organisation and is held to it’s principles by our membership.”

Stephen says that there is still much to do for all parties around equalities in general, such as broadening the demographic base of our supporters, “something which I am particularly keen upon the Green Party engaging more pro-actively with. If the wrong impression has been given in a throwaway comment about our commitment to this, then I would apologise – and hope that recognition is given to the fact that we aspire to represent the rich diversity of Brighton and Hove’s population in how we conduct politics and open up political spaces.  I’ve never thought that we had the monopoly on good ideas – if others are more successful at this, I’d love to collaborate to improve representation in public life.”

I conclude with a question posed by Allie Cannell: “What do you think are the reasons that less women get involved in politics? I’ve never seen someone really analyse that but surely those reasons need to be identified so that we can put the gender balance right.”

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11 Responses

  1. Why don’t many Women get into politics? Because they are oppressed left right and centre. Oppressed by capitalism… oppressed by the “glass ceiling” in jobs, oppressed by being left alone with children… the list could go on and on.

    I am a keen bean on gender equality.

    I actually have had an inspiring story of the a woman who had been left as a single mother at a young age, who joined the labour party and who has a position with the eastern youth committee!

    • I learnt at a Council meeting yesterday evening that instead of “single mother” one should say “Woman Headed Household” though, to my mind, that conjures up Morel home in which the wife holds the place together while husband slumbers exhausted and bitter by pit work.

      As for “gender balance”: a key concern, and there is no easy answer, is that women give time to bringing up children. Then again, I gather that Caroline Lucas took round infants while first canvassing to get on Council, and I am very impressed by the showing made by Ruth Buckley, who topped the poll in Goldsmid and has recently had a baby. So did Ania Kitcat, whose little daughter said to me a year ago that she best likes the meetings at which all the opposition councillors get up and attack her dad, and he fends them off. And she’s only five.

      An interesting factor is children/teenagers who cannot yet vote but persuade their parents to vote Green. Many of those in Patcham last year. Influentrial in getting boards in front gardens. Green boards are the new conkers in the Patcham High playground.

      Meanwhile, outside Hove Library, a teller who did a stint was a friend with two-month-old baby in a sling and at her feet an elderly collie who had made a miraculous recovery: the latter must be the envy of the LibDems.

      No one factor decides an Election, but I’d say that in Hove children are crucial. It is amazing to find how many are born into small flats, and that means that the outlying areas are all the more interesting next time around.

      There has to be thought about schools provision.

      • I think more still has to be done for women who are mothers, especially young single mothers.

        I bet you they receive such abuse about being scroungers (this is the young mums who are in council housing or on benefits) when they are encouraged to stay at home and bring up their children, but when they want to go to work they are called terrible mums for leaving their children! Bloody shameful. Personal experience there! Very unfair and needs to be changed… any suggestions?

      • I don’t know much about the secondary situation but Hove certainly needs another infant/junior school. The problem, I think, is that growing families who would have moved out of flatland in the centre to more outlying areas now find that, due to property prices, they are stuck where they are. A huge proportion of my daughter’s 7 year old classmates and friends are in exactly that situation – as is she.

        Children at 5 in central Hove are, if unlucky, being offered places in West Blatchington and Portslade, which poses severe problems for parents who work in Brighton and dashes hopes of a vibrant after-school social life for the kids.

      • The secondary school problem will increase as these children grow older.

        I am keen to be looking beyond the four-year time of a Council.

  2. @Harris Fitch Citizen’s Income

    • Women are usually more sensible than men; any political system that produces such oddities as “Meat Free Mondays” will likely deter most ordinary sane people from active participation in politics.

      Of course capitalism is the source of gender inequality and the immediate blame for all forms of discrimination can be directed at various sections of our undemocratic media, and an obsequious political elite who are so desperate to parrot them in order to inflate their own sense of self-importance.

      The new council will not be able to do very much about equality. Since the ruling Greens have no roots in the labour movement and their primary concern is electoral politics, they will be qualitatively incapable of resisting austerity from wreaking ruin on the city.

      Cuts are on their way, and they will not be popular. The Greens will lose a lot of support amongst middle – low income workers, and it’s Labour’s job to speak up for them while this council charges ahead with a shocking array of ludicrous and unnecessary policies.

  3. absolutely agree with young hawtree – faciliating a space where women can be mothers and polltically active is a key issue in modern gender equalities – I’m proud that the green party was being true to its values to support Ruth Buckley to be a new mum and successful candidate for local government

  4. As others have said, the comment was made in a light hearted way after a fairly sleepless week and a long count. Sorry if it caused any offence.

    I’m very aware of the challenges we face in defending equalities in the city and reflecting this in council representation. We have lots of work to do to improve women’s representation at all levels of politics. That includes changing the working practices and terms and conditions for councillors as well as challenging the local and national male dominated political culture.

    The city council needs to be more representative of the city as a whole and there are a whole range of groups who don’t have much, if any, direct voice on the council. That’s a challenge for the Greens and for all political parties.

  5. Anyone who takes offense at Jason’s comments has clearly suffered some kind of humour bypass. Ultimately though he is right: Ania was probably elected because she looked attractive and, of course, had the Green sticker attached to her. All the Green leaflets I saw said very little about her background, nothing about what she had done in the local community other than she was Jason’s wife. How then would your average voter determine that she was a “good” candidate, as RLD maintains? Most people have no clue who their councillors are, let alone candidates standing for election. This is in no way meant to criticise Ania or her potential, merely the observation that with the absense of hard data to evaulauate performance an attractive picture on a leaflet goes a long way. Furthermore Jason was quite right that she was the more attactive of the pair (sorry, Jason).

    Sadly anti-sexism people often fail to realise that they are being the sexist ones. Look at the Green Party’s national manifesto from the last election: it said that it would introduce legislation to force all large companies to have 40% women on their board of directors. How short-sighted and insulting. It means that is there is a vacancy in the board of directors and they don’t have 40% women that they would BY LAW have to hire the woman. The issue of qualifications and experience would slip away and the woman would be hired simply because she was a woman. Your gender would become your qualification. That is the very definition of sexism.

    Allie raises a good question – are all these jobs where women are under-represented through ingrained sexism or plain old free choice? This goes for men too, to a lesser extent. I know of lots of female primary school teachers, but not many male ones. Then again there are lots of male oil-rig workers but not many female ones. I too would like to see some better research on this issue before just blindly believing the “equalities” brigade.

    Tony Davenport

  6. Rosas daughter is thrilled to learn of Cllr Jason Kitkat’s contrition…. But Is Ania OK with it??

    Did you see BPB, how Jason was keen to get the debate onto other forms of inequality? We girls are all too familiar with the sort of feller who, when we are trying to get some focus on women’s inequality, shimmies sideways and tells us to focus on another social group, usually one that makes him feel a good chap and doesn’t challenge him.

    I noticed that all of the comments were from men. Were the women in their lives too busy picking up their socks?

    Have you noticed BPB, how few women go on this blog? Do their men hog the computer? Are they too busy wiping noses and bottoms and keeping food on the table? Have they got more sense?

    Many of your correspondents ask the reasons why more women aren’t involved in politics. It’s surely pretty obvious. Apart from lack of time and machinery…. it’s sexism Stupid. Young Harris fitch comes closest to an understanding (so like his uncle Brian!)

    Neil Harding thinks the blog should focus on more important things (equality for women obviously isn’t serious politics). Trouble is that the real power on the council is held by the cabinet and not full council, so it really matters that only 3 out of the 10 members are female. Particularly when you remember that women are the people who will be most affected by job losses and government cuts and are already most liable to live in poverty or experience violence.

    Alexander craven thinks gender equality started with capitalism. Read some pre-capitalist history Sandy, m’boy. In fact, read some Engels. Like Marx he had some terrible attitudes to women, but at least he tried to understand women’s subordination.

    By the way, you’re right that the greens need a better base in the labour movement. But then the labour movement needs a better base among the people.

    This is all a bit serious. Tell us a joke BPB.

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