Progressive Alliance? Women must take the lead



Jo Cox – she would have been a major player of the future had her life not been taken from her

Last night I attended a very interesting and thought provoking meeting arranged by Compass on the subject of establishing a ‘Progressive Alliance’. It was a very useful and interesting meeting so thanks Compass for setting it up.

I came away optimistic that people of good spirit could work together but not absolutely sure that it will happen. My optimism came from the speakers and my pessimism came from those who contributed from the floor.

The first two speakers were absolutely first class. The first speaker was John Harris of the Guardian who talked about his experience of going around the Country not asking people how they were voting but how they were thinking. He did this in both the General Election and the referendum.

It was clear from his talks that there are a vast number of people who feel alienated from society as a whole. They think politics is for an elite and that there is little that they can do to alter things. In many cases they have given up hope for change in any meaningful way. They have accepted the Victorian dictum, “The poor will always be with us” and that they are part of the poor. They didn’t care about risking things during the referendum because effectively they had nothing to lose.

Lisa Nandy the Labour MP from Wigan echoed this in much of what she said about campaigning within her own constituency and elsewhere. She spoke with passion about the need to help good people in her area who were falling behind in so many ways for reasons outside their control. She talked about the need to work together on a new politics in which people could both maintain differences BUT work together whenever possible.

This was followed by three speeches from community representatives who spoke, again with passion, about the problems that their community were facing in these difficult times. A Pole; a young person and a Kensington resident spoke about the alienation that their people were finding and the need to bring them back aboard mainstream society.

Then there were three local councillors, Me, Tom Crone and Jane Corbett. People other than me should say what they think about our interventions! I spoke about the need to define criteria for creating a Progressive Alliance and the offer that the Lib Dems in the City Region had made to work with Labour to make a success of the City Region. I also made clear that in my opinion unless people did work together there would be a Tory Government for the foreseeable future.

So far so good! Then we had 14 interventions from the floor. I thought 10 of the interventions were very reasonably put and none-sectarian. I didn’t always agree with the positions posited but I could understand the reason for the question or suggestion and could sympathise with the answers. But 4 interventions showed just how difficult it would be to create an alliance of any sort. Two of them were from members of Momentum and two from other Corbynite supporters in the Labour Party. What all 4 of them had in common was a desire to talk about just the Labour Party and in particular just about Corbyn. In doing so they attacked others in their own party including Lisa Nandy.

Let’s face it. If the Labour Party cannot form an alliance within its own ranks then the likelihood is that they will never (as one bloc) form an alliance with anyone else. To be blunt I do not see Jeremy Corbyn as being progressive but regressive. He has a lot in common with UKIP supporters. They dream of a new destination for our Country which can loosely be defined as 1960! Of course they would have different policies if they got our country back to 1960 but they love the certainties of that age.

That does not mean that a progressive alliance is impossible but has to be achieved in a different way than might clearly be currently on the table. Step forward please the women!!

The most intelligent and rememberable thing Hillary Clinton has ever asked is, “What if it had been Lehman Sisters!” Spot on. In business as in politics we have too much testosterone. Too many men show a particular type of leadership which is, quite frankly, the root cause of many of our problems locally, nationally and internationally. I am as guilty of this as other men. Perhaps it’s just with age that I have seen the error of my ways?!

Women listen more, have more empathy; are better team builders; are more concerned with doing and building than talking and gesturing. They have double or treble handicaps in a society where the structures have been established by men and maintained by men for men. I listened with care and concern whilst Lisa Nandy spoke movingly about the problems that she faced as a woman in politics. The casual threats which had been made to her and other women. The appalling things that are said about women who fail to toe the line which have led to politicians like Luciana Berger having to seek police protection against some of the crackpots who haunt and taunt them.

This is not what politics should be about and it is not what politics would be about if more women were involved. Interestingly there is a report in today’s Independent about women graduates and their employment prospects. It says, “Despite women making up 54% of the student population, only 47% apply to graduate schemes…. However they are relatively more successful at getting job offers than men averaging 49% of hires”.

In business and politics we need to understand the reasons for this. Are women concerned at the systems in which they will be required to operate? Are they just better at making life/work balance choices? Have they been subliminally trained to feel lesser than men in the educational system? I don’t know the answer to these and other pertinent questions but we need to find out.

What I do know is that there are in almost all the political Parties more women coming through the system and we need to ensure the maximum help for them. As I listened to Lisa Nandy last night I thought of some of the bright young women such as Daisy Benson and Daisy Cooper who have been selected by the Lib Dems for winnable parliamentary seats in the past few weeks. They are the future. Cross-party alliances of women across the parliamentary and political divides would be a much more important change than a progressive alliance from what are still male dominated parties.

So I, a mere man, am now proclaiming that it is time for women to take over. Will they listen or will men share the analysis? I don’t know but I do know that in everything that I do in my Party and outside it I will be seeking to maximise the role of our women members and move them into positions of firstly influence and then power. Then I can retire!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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1 Response to Progressive Alliance? Women must take the lead

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