Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Owen Smith at the first Labour leadership debate [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].

Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Owen Smith at the first Labour leadership debate [Image: Ben Birchall/PA].

The decision by both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith to ensure that a woman fills either the leader or deputy leader position in the Labour Party is sure to have a major effect – on Tom Watson, at the very least.

It seems likely that Jeremy Corbyn would use it to remove Mr Watson from the position, which it seems he has used to undermine the Labour leader – most recently with claims of ‘Trotskyist’ entryism into the party to support him.

Owen Smith’s camp appears more circumspect, saying that he would impose the necessary changes before any future leader or deputy leader contest.

This heel-dragging is noteworthy. Remember, Mr Smith shouldered Angela Eagle out of the way so he could challenge Mr Corbyn for the leadership; his pro-female credentials are more than a little tarnished.

This Writer is happy to see this promise, which should have been enacted much sooner, by at least one previous leader. Maybe Ed Miliband was working up to it, once his ‘one member, one vote’ change had bedded in.

I voted for a female deputy leader last year, having backed Mr Corbyn for the leadership, not only because I wanted equal gender representation but because I thought my choice might actually be good at organising the party – certainly in a way that Mr Watson has proved not to be.

One wonders how the arrangement would work. It seems preferable to keep the leadership open to all comers, so would future elections be staggered, with the choice of deputy leader restricted to people of one sex, dependent on the result of a leadership election?

On the boundary changes, anti-Corbyn MPs of both sexes should not feel safe with the promise to ensure the number of female Labour MPs will not be reduced.

Constituency Labour Party members are up in arms at the behaviour of their MPs, which they consider to have been atrociously disloyal to the party during the attempted coup in June and July and the current leadership election.

At a time when Labour should have been challenging the Conservative Party on some of the biggest political failures this country has seen in the 21st century, these MPs chose to turn inward in a highly destructive attack on both Mr Corbyn and the new members he has attracted into Labour.

Members are certain to demand the right to make every MP stand for re-selection as Parliamentary candidate prior to any future general election.

Already, some are saying MPs who were ‘parachuted in’ to constituencies are going to find themselves flat on their faces, with new candidates chosen from amongst the local membership.

But being a long-term local resident won’t make up for bad faith.

This means it may be very hard to predict the number of candidates – of either sex – standing for election next time around.

Perhaps there is a formula to keep such matters straightforward. I certainly hope so.

We have excellent people in the current shadow cabinet – both women and men – and measures to increase their ranks are to be welcomed.

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have promised to change [Labour] party rules to ensure that in future there will be at least one woman in post as the leader or as a deputy leader of the party.

Both leadership contenders have also guaranteed that the number of female Labour MPs will not be reduced by boundary changes which are expected to be announced next month.

The pledges have been made to the Labour Women’s Network, following an outcry about the domination of men in senior positions in the party.

With the Conservatives having now produced their second female prime minister, both candidates for the Labour leadership appear to be moving to establish their credentials on the issue of gender equality.

A source close to Corbyn’s campaign said the argument for a woman as deputy leader could in future be used to replace Tom Watson as the elected deputy. “The argument for a female deputy leader is one that has a lot of support. It could be alongside or in place of Watson.”

A spokesman for Smith said he would ask the party’s national executive committee to bring forward changes within a year of his leadership and before any future leadership or deputy leadership contest.

Source: Corbyn and Smith promise to have woman at top of Labour party | Politics | The Guardian


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