The next Labour leadership contest should have only female candidates, the party’s former deputy leader has said. MP Harriet Harman said it is becoming “a bit of a thing” that Labour is yet to have its first female leader.
In an unprecedented intervention, the Camberwell and Peckham MP Harman said that male Labour candidates should sit out of the next leadership contest in order to ensure that a female is elected. The once-acting leader of the party said she was “deadly serious” about her remarks.
“Next time, I think we have to be quite clear about this and basically say there are lots of fantastic men in the Labour Party who would be more than capable of being leader – there’s no doubt about that – and there are also lots of women who are more than capable of being leader, and we’re going to choose one of the women,” she told House magazine.
“The men can jostle amongst themselves to be deputy,” she added.
Harman pointed out that while the Conservative Party has now had two female leaders, Margaret Thatcher and Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour is yet to see a woman take over the reins. Harman has served two short stints as acting leader of the party.
She said men should be “actively” seeking to support women as the party’s future leader. “They’ve got to be holding themselves and each other back in support of the Labour Party getting a woman leader. Because the Tories have had not one but two women leaders. So, it’s becoming a bit of a thing,” she explained.
“At the moment, I’m advancing this argument and I’m not saying I’m making a huge amount of progress with it. I’m startling a lot of the would-be leaders and they think I’m joking and peel away with laughter and I’m like, deadly serious,” the former interim leader stressed.
“You’ve had women saying there should be a woman leader. You’ve had men saying there should be a woman leader, but we haven’t yet had the men who are potential leaders saying, ‘This time it’s a woman.’ That’s the next step.”
In certain constituencies, Labour adopts an all-women shortlist to select MPs in a bid to increase female representation in parliament. The party has recently made the headlines after allowing trans women to feature on the lists, without the need of medical or other certificate to confirm their gender identity. Some feminist Labour members have fiercely opposed the decision amid claims it will actually undermine female representation in the party.
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