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The House Live All
By Ben Guerin
Press releases

EXCL Harriet Harman says men should sit out next Labour leadership contest so Jeremy Corbyn is succeeded by a woman

3 min read

Harriet Harman has called on male MPs to sit out the next Labour leadership contest so that the party can finally elect a female boss.

The party grandee said the "men can jostle amongst themselves to be deputy" when the time comes to choose Jeremy Corbyn's successor.

However, Ms Harman admitted she was not "making a huge amount of progress" in her attempts to persuade men with their eyes on the top job to stand aside when the time comes. 

In an interview with The House magazine, the former Labour deputy leader also said she would “consider” standing to replace John Bercow as Speaker when he steps down.

Ms Harman, who is the longest serving woman MP in the House of Commons, said she had confronted male “would-be leaders” in the Labour party encouraging them not to stand in the next leadership contest.

She said: “I don’t think there’s going to be a leadership election any time soon in the Labour party.

“But next time I think we have to be quite clear about this and basically say there are lots of fantastic men in the Labour party who would be more than capable of being leader – there’s no doubt about that - and there are also lots of women who are more than capable of being leader and we’re going to choose one of the women.

“The men can jostle amongst themselves to be deputy.”

When asked whether she wanted men to sit out the next contest, she said: “More than that, actively support a woman to be leader. They’ve got to be holding themselves and each other back in support of the Labour party getting a woman leader. Because the Tories have had not one but two women leaders. So, it’s becoming a bit of a thing.

“At the moment, I’m advancing this argument and I’m not saying I’m making a huge amount of progress with it. I’m startling a lot of the would-be leaders and they think I’m joking and peel away with laughter and I’m like, deadly serious.

“You’ve had women saying there should be a woman leader. You’ve had men saying there should be a woman leader, but we haven’t yet had the men who are potential leaders saying, ‘this time it’s a woman’. That’s the next step.”

She added: “The next generation of men need to be those remarkable men who actually support women leaders.”

Ms Harman served as deputy leader of the Labour party from 2007-2015 and was acting leader on two separate occasions. 


The Mail on Sunday reported that Ms Harman was considering standing to become Speaker, with John Bercow currently facing allegations of bullying.

Asked whether she fancied a tilt at the role when it becomes vacant, Ms Harman said: "People have been asking me whether I would be prepared to stand. But I think that that’s something that I would have to consider when there’s a vacancy, and there isn’t one at the moment.

"Actually, I do think when you have a Speaker you’ve got to support the Speaker. And therefore, as I say, people have said it to me but there isn’t a vacancy. And so, I would consider it at the time.”

Also speaking to The House, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock said he would be “delighted” if Ms Harman went for the top job, while Tory MP Nicky Morgan said the Commons is “ready for a second female Speaker”.

Elsewhere, Ms Harman supported calls to end the use of gendered terms such as the Honourable Lady in parliament; said Labour’s women members must organise and put forward “big demands” and criticised male politicians who leave politics after entering Opposition or departing the Cabinet.

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