Labour MP Caroline Flint’s exact quote back in 2009, before resigning from Gordon Brown’s government was..
“Several of the women attending cabinet – myself included – have been treated by you as little more than female window dressing,” she wrote. “I am not willing to attend cabinet in a peripheral capacity any longer.”
Recently week Flint supported Angela Eagle who challenged Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of the Labour Party.
Eagle proclaimed “It’s time Labour had a woman leader”. But within days Eagle had a change of vision said “I am supporting Owen (Smith) with all my enthusiasm & might” for leader.
With another Tory female -Theresa May – Prime Minister in Downing Street:
- Does Labour have a problem recruiting and developing dynamic female leaders to represent the party?
- Does Labour have a problem attracting and showcasing effective leaders male or female?
- Is the Labour parliamentary group filled with too many activists and very few with leadership qualities?
When Ed Miliband resigned as Labour leader in 2015, there was a chance for a female leader to come to the fore. Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh all stepped forward but none could convince enough Labour members to support their respective campaigns leaving Corbyn the easy victor.
Given Corbyn’s initial leadership aspirations were half-hearted before winning; what does that say about Labour’s leadership philosophy over the past 20 years?
Harriet Harman – who for 8 years – was deputy leader under Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown has never run for leader. In the deputy leadership race last year Flint, Stella Creasy decided to go just for the deputy leader post and lost out to Tom Watson.
Labour were in government between 1997 and 2010. You would think during that period of continuous power PMs Tony Blair and Brown would develop their ministers’ leadership credentials.
But the stranglehold that Blair and Brown had on their male and female ministers restricted most of them to cameo appearances with departments.
When you look at the background of Blair’s Iraq War push, were there any senior female Labour politicians really involved in the decision making?
Last week, Tory MP Theresa May moved seamlessly from Home Secretary to Prime Minister. Which makes sense since being in one of the most important cabinet post should be an ideal platform for national leadership.
Jacqui Smith was Home Secretary (2007-09) in Gordon Brown’s government. Smith’s time there was not easy and close-up you realised quickly that she was never in total command of that portfolio. Gordon Brown was.
Smith in her own words
“When I became Home Secretary, I’d never run a major organisation. I hope I did a good job but if I did it was more by luck than by any kind of development”
Is the Labour Party recruiting the right cross section of people to be their representatives?
Over the years the recruitment trend new MPs has been study at Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxbridge, become a researcher or policy adviser for MPs or enter journalism then wait to be parachuted into a safe parliamentary seat. Being a union official can fast track an member to become as candidate for parliament.
If Corbyn wins then he and his senior members must put in programmes and initiatives to transfer MPs from just activists into leaders.
In March 2015 some former Labour female government ministers and MPs were asked to list some of their achievements. Below are 2 examples that show the little impact they really made as ministers despite their length of service.
- Dawn Primarolo, (former Financial Secretary, Paymaster General, Minister of State for Public Heath and Minister of State Children and Young People)
“One thing that makes me smile and I know that, because of the work I did there, it may seem like a small thing, but it was the reduction of VAT on sanitary protection, followed by contraception. It was important to women and it was also symbolic.
- Hazel Blears, (former Minister in Public Health, then Minister of State for Policing, Crime Reduction and Counter terrorism & Secretary of State Communities & Local Government)
“I was promoted to public health minister, and we did ‘five a day’, so people who get fed up with eating five a day, it is my fault. And we banned tobacco advertising too.”
I am disappointed that a leadership challenge has been mounted now by Labour MPs to get rid of Corbyn. But now that it’s out in the open I wanted to see which MPs would step up and seize the moment. Especially female MPs. Potential leaders that could appeal to all wings of the party.
Caroline Flint was critical of Gordon Brown’s leadership and she has been equally vocal about Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure. As a former minister of 5 different portfolios shouldn’t Flint be one of those to break Labour’s self inflicted glass ceiling and run for leader?
In the words of former PM John Major – when he had his own leadership issues – “put up or shut up”.