Corbyn is fighting for a change to the Labour leadership election, and his reason is beautiful

Tracy Keeling

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Labour Party to move the proposed date for the Labour leadership election result because it clashes with another important event: the Labour Women’s conference.

The Labour leader’s demand reinforces his pledge to “strengthen the role of women within the party” and shows that, at least in relation to the leadership election, he’s eager to put women on an equal playing field.

On 7 August, Corbyn confirmed that he had written to the party’s General Secretary Ian McNicol requesting that the announcement of the Labour leadership contest results should be moved to 23 September, so a “deeply regrettable clash” with the Labour Women’s conference could be avoided. At present, the election results are scheduled to be made public on 24 September, which is the same date as the conference.

Corbyn posted the letter he sent to McNicol on Twitter:

As Corbyn states in the letter, he fears the clash could lead to diminished attention to one of the events:

The announcement of the winner of the current Labour Party Leadership contest is, of course, not just a huge focus for those within our Party, but also across the nation as a whole and will attract much attention from both national and international media.

It is extremely likely therefore that the concurrence of the two conferences will result in attention being solely focused on the Leadership result, which will massively detract from the Women’s Conference.

He notes that “as a Party, we rightly place huge importance on women’s rights and equality”, and that it is therefore essential that the conference is not “completely overshadowed” by the election results. He acknowledges that his party, and the nation as a whole, has “much further” to go in advancing gender equality but asserts that changing the proposed date for the election result will allow:

both the Conference itself and the importance of women in our movement to get the recognition that they deserve.

The annual conference brings together female politicians, members, and speakers to discuss issues facing women in the country.

Corbyn’s intervention follows the first leadership hustings in Cardiff, where the Labour leader spoke about the challenges women face in Britain, and what he plans to do to tackle them:

we also have to drive down the gender pay gap, but also end the idea that certain jobs and certain professions are reserved for one gender, not for the other.

you have to start at the beginning, in schools, making sure nothing is debarred to the girls as well as the boys

The challenger for the Labour leadership position, Owen Smith, also laid out his plans for tackling gender inequality at the hustings, including ensuring that 50% of Labour MPs and members of the Shadow Cabinet are women. Smith pledged to “fight day and daily” for women, but has faced criticism during the contest for past comments that made light of domestic abuse and, more recently, for saying he wants to “smash her [Theresa May] back on her heels”.

Corbyn created a Shadow Cabinet of over 50% women when he became the Labour leader in 2015. And his latest effort to ensure the Labour Women’s conference is not overshadowed by the election suggests consistency in his approach to women and the important role they play in society.

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