It is no secret that politics has a women problem. We may have a female Prime Minister but with 29% of Members of Parliament being women, equality has a fair way to go – and the Labour Party is still finding itself behind in this regard too. Much has been written about this, including by me in the last edition of this magazine, but it needs to be spoken about and challenged again and again. To end the Young Fabians’ executive year, and in time for party conference, I therefore wanted to put an issue I feel strongly about front and centre. So this edition of Anticipations is about looking at women in politics and in positions of power leading in their field.
Right now it’s a tough time for politics in the Labour Party, and it’s a tough time for women in politics. Never in my twenty years of Labour Party membership have I seen the kind of abuse and misogyny that our friends and colleagues are experiencing today.
The dismal state of centre-left politics worldwide left me in resigned despair. Charles Dickens inspired me to re-engage. Us Fabians are in dark days and hope is needed.
As a second, Corbyn victory might happen, it is time to consider where the Party goes from here if it does. Having held onto power, Corbyn now needs to find a way to weld the Parliamentary Party he has into an election winning force. In doing so it is important that Corbyn and his inner circle start to recognise the electoral mandates of individual Labour MPs. Labour is not an absolute monarchy, and power in the Parliamentary Party does not rest solely on the Leader’s office. I see only one way of satisfying this need without totally alienating the bulk of his supporters in the Membership. That is the partial reintroduction of Shadow Cabinet elections.
A highlight of the delegation for me was meeting Revolution Messaging, a digital campaigning company which has lived up to its name and been truly revolutionary this campaign season in their incredible work running Bernie Sanders social media campaigning.
In the grand yet homely setting of his living room, Thomas Frank embarked upon a discussion with the delegation about the hold Trump has over his supporters and the factors behind it. After the pleasantry of introductions and talk of his turntable and hiking to London for records, talk turned to Frank’s first book: What’s the matter with Kansas? The argument of the book follows the rise in the working class vote for the Republicans during the 1990s/2000s; the reason for this surge, the cultural backlash against the so-called ‘liberal elite’ who were an affront to American values – with their support for abortion, violence in films and evolutionism.
Rising before the sun the Young Fabian's US delegation set about getting ready for its fifth day. Departing for a breakfast meeting with the Arlington Democrats at Busboys and Poets, a community hub-come-trendy cafe where we experienced what can only be described as one of the most interesting and amusing meetings yet. Over numerous cups of much needed coffee, we found ourselves at a part-CLP meeting, part-social and part-election rally where we heard from delegates from the Democratic National Convention.
Day 4 of the Young Fabian Delegation to the United States started with a key meeting in the heart of the nation's capital: Washington DC. The HRC (Human Rights Campaign) represents the rights of LGBTQ people across America, and their allies. Founded in 1980, the history of the HRC is fascinating.
Anyone who knows me well will know that I love trains, so it was no surprise that I woke up nearly of my own volition on Wednesday to be there nice and early for the Amtrak to Washington DC. After coffee and more bagels, we grabbed our wheelie suitcases and trundled down to the bus stop. $3.50 was well worth the view of Manhattan.
In the rush to distance themselves from the New Labour era, many of the party’s brightest thinkers have failed to form a coherent analysis of the Blair/Brown legacy. It has become common parlance to criticise the last Labour government for overspending and to place the Iraq War at the centre of the party’s recent history. But in all the obvious finger pointing and distancing, more nuanced debates have been missed, particularly around Labour’s altering relationship with trade unions.
Having fuelled up on bagels and coffee, we set off to the centre of New York to join the Clinton campaign’s phone canvassing session. We were still amazed by the efficiency of the phone canvassing system, despite having used the system the previous day! Interesting anecdotes included some voters leaning towards Hillary and one voter who asked how Hillary could be President from jail. It seems that the allegations of Clinton’s email server misuse have left an impression on certain voters.
The Young Fabians delegation to Washington D.C. and New York kicked off with the delegates getting on the phones for Hillary Clinton's campaign and playing their part in talking to votrs across Pennsylvania about the upcoming Presidential elections. Many of the delegates were experiened Labour phonebankers, and drew important compatisons between the practices of both parties' telephone campaigning; we were particularly impressed by The Pennsylvania Democrats made good, efficient use of campaign technology.
We later made our way to an Irish bar near Broadway to have a chat with Richard Bruce, a member of the Labour International CLP. Each of the delegates pitched their research projects and engaged Richard in debate about their chosen subject. The delegates felt that it was interesting to hear from the perspective of a Brit observing US politics on the ground.