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Mon, 28 September 2020

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EXCL Labour MP calls on party to tackle 'culture of bullying and harassment' of female members

EXCL Labour MP calls on party to tackle 'culture of bullying and harassment' of female members
3 min read

Labour is failing to tackle the widespread "bullying and harassment" of female party members, according to a senior MP.

Helen Jones said there was a "culture of contempt for women", including elected politicians, and that it was time for the party to act.

She said it was "no surprise to anyone" that the first two Labour MPs facing full reselection ballots in their local constituencies were female - a reference to Diana Johnson and Margaret Hodge.

The Warrington North MP also claimed that complaints about the aggressive behaviour of male party members towards women go "nowhere".

Writing for PoliticsHome, the former frontbencher said: "The truth my party ignores is that women Labour MPs, however well-respected they are, often face bullying and harassment in their constituency parties and many of us feared that the new re-selection process would be used by some to try to get rid of women MPs.

"We have long put up with behaviour which would not be tolerated in any workplace."

Ms Jones, who has been an MP since 1997, said she had been targeted by male Labour councillors in her area, including having a "Wanted Dead or Alive" poster put through her door and poison pen letters sent by her tormentors.

"These incidents are not unique or even the worst examples of what some women have to put up with," she said. "There are plenty of examples of male council leaders who will work with male MPs in the borough but exclude a woman MP.

"I know of one who would not even speak to a woman MP when they were in the same station waiting room."

The MP went on: "I have one colleague who has been bullied unmercifully by the men who run her constituency, who shout at her in meetings, undermine her campaigning and refuse to contribute to funding the general election. 

"When she did a mobile surgery in an area where very little work had been done, the local councillor rang her office and said, without preamble, “Tell that f*****g b***h to keep out of my ward”.  Of course no action was taken against him."

In a plea for party bosses to take action, Ms Jones said: "Women are often asked what they have done to provoke such behaviour or else they are asked to sit down with the bullies for “conciliation”. Yet the Party should not be neutral between the bullies and the person being bullied.

"It’s time to call out this culture of contempt for women and for the Party to start by acknowledging it exists.

"If not, there will be more attempts at de-selection, fewer women wanting to stand and our attempts to achieve equality will fail."

Labour members in Kingston upon Hull North voted a month ago to trigger Diana Johnson, while Margaret Hodge learned she was facing the same prospect in Barking last weekend.

A Labour Party source said: "This is baseless. Of the three MPs who have been triggered, one is a man who has been widely condemned for opposing the Party's position on LGBT+ education. 

"There is nothing new about trigger ballots. They've happened before every general election since 2001. We're a democratic party and members have the right to have a say in who represents them."

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