This year, Labour’s Women Conference saw Harriet Harman take to the stand to describe Theresa May as ‘no sister‘. Hoping for a bigger platform next year for their feminist message, party members have since called for the event to be integrated into the main conference.
While Mr S wishes them luck with this, the ladies of Labour can take heart that things have at least improved since the conference first returned in 2010. Speaking at a Progress fringe event this week, Ayesha Hazarika — Harriet Harman’s former chief of staff — recalled the struggle they came up against when Harman was acting Leader:
‘In 2010 when we had just got kicked out of government, we didn’t even have a women’s conference. Harriet reinstated the women’s conference because she was acting leader so we voted it through – against like all the pushback from senior people in the party.’
Hazarika claims that the hostility they faced from party officials was so great that they were banned from using the word ‘feminism’ at any point in the conference:
‘And let me tell you something, we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘feminism’ in the whole of the conference, in all the schedules we were doing in all the planning of it. And the party said to us you can have this conference because of Harriet but we’re not inviting any media to it and we’re not going to staff it for you.’
With Hazarika going on to recall how ‘very senior Labour men’ had recently suggested Theresa May’s director of communications would not do a very good job as she is a woman who has kids, it seems the party’s women problem runs deeper than the Leader’s Office.