Jeremy Corbyn: Everything YOU Need To Know From The Women Closest To His Campaign

We Found Out All About The New Labour Leader And His Policies, From The Women Closest To His Campaign

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Hands up how many of us have felt disadvantaged as a woman at some point in our life, whether in the workplace, at home or on the street? That’s a whole lot of us, then. And sometimes it feels like the relentless tide of everyday sexism is never going to cease, especially when those in power seemingly do nothing about it.

But with a brand new Labour leader in position, could now be the time women finally get some of their concerns – about the gender pay gap, about maternity rights and sexual harassment, about extortionate childcare costs, to name just a few – addressed?

As Jeremy Corbyn’s first Labour conference as its new leader kicks off, what do we actually know about him? There’s the facial hair – he’s actually won the Parliamentary Beard of the Year contest five whole times – and the dodgy granddad shorts he’s just that bit too keen on, but who is Jeremy Corbyn? What does he stand for? And more importantly, why should we care?

For all his talk of the ‘new politics’ and his oft-tweeted attempts to bring more of us into the national debate, Corbyn has a huge fight on his hands to win back the electorate who swore off Labour during its woeful Ed Miliband phase. And that means suddenly a spotlight is being shone on the women of Britain – and what we want from these so-called new politics.

Grazia spoke to three of the women closest to his campaign to find out just what Jeremy can do for us: Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood; political activist, Shelly Asquith, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Labour MP for Salford and Eccles. Here’s what they think about Jeremy’s new direction.

**We need to talk about the shadow cabinet – out of 30 positions, 16 have gone to women. But why did all the main jobs go to men?


Cat Smith: “Politics now is far more about more domestic policies that affect people’s actual lives, so if you think about the last General Election, it wasn’t fought on foreign policy, it was actually more of a focus on the NHS and the health service, on education policy – and these are the briefs that have gone to women.

“The offices that used to be called the ‘great offices of state’ are increasingly outdated. It’s good to move on. I’m absolutely delighted that Jeremy has managed to get more women than men into his shadow cabinet. It sends a strong political message and it actually encourages more women to consider politics.”

Shelly Asquith: “Politics is dominated by men, and many talented women often aren’t given the same platforms that men receive. It’s great to see the portfolios for some of society’s most important issues – like health and education – be led by women in Corbyn’s cabinet. It is also very exciting to see a cabinet with more women in it than ever, but that's not just tokenistic: it is genuinely drawing on the multitude of strengths within the Labour party.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey: “It’s important to ensure that political parties truly reflect the communities they represent, and given that 50 per cent of the population is female, it is not unreasonable to expect that our government should be 50 per cent female as well. We have a long way to go to in terms of feminism and the last five years has caused immeasurable damage, which could take years to repair.”

**Grazia has been campaigning for equal pay for men and women – where does Jeremy stand on the gender pay gap?


Rebecca: [That] there should be no gender pay gap. Period.

Shelly: “I can’t answer policy specifics, though I know Jeremy has condemned the pay gap in the past and supported campaigns by women’s organisations and trade unions to close it.”

**What about his comments on introducing women-only carriages on trains – is that really something he’d bring in?


Cat: “Jeremy was the only candidate in the internal Labour party selection procedure to put together a paper about women. He didn’t do that by sitting down and writing what he thought women wanted – he actually spoke to women MPs, counsellors and activists who were supporting his campaign and asked them about the issues that affect their lives.

“The headline-grabbing thing was about women-only train carriages, which was suggested to him by women who have been harassed on public transport – which is probably not an alien concept to the vast majority of us. It might be that women-only carriages are not what women want. But Jeremy’s paper should be seen as a conversation starter.”

Rebecca: “There should be more opportunities for women to report sexual harassment on public transport safely and without the concern that they will be dismissed. Jeremy’s research also brought up suggestions like introducing crime reporting centres at train stations and a women-staffed help line.”

Along with street harassment, workplace discrimination and general everyday sexism, many women have experienced misogyny online. How would Jeremy consider stamping this out?

Cat: “A lot of it is about winning over attitudes – all we’re talking about is treating the symptoms at the moment, rather than the actual problem, which is that there are people who don’t view men and women as equal. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to tackle it in a five-year elected period. It’s going to be a generational thing.”

**Finally, with women making up just 29.3% of all MPs, how will Labour support more women getting into politics?


Rebecca: “Quite frankly, there is a feeling in all areas of work that women need to be better and this increases ten-fold once you have started a family. I often found myself working longer and harder just to prove I was as good as the men in my department. On numerous occasions I would work through the night and over weekends just to try and be at the top of my game but the same was not required of my male counterparts.

“There was also an entrenched view amongst men and women that as soon as you have a baby your heart isn’t in it. It’s a terrible state of affairs that we are still in this position today, and I know that Labour has a real fight on our hands to re-educate employers and society at large to ensure that these sexist and out-dated views are stamped out for good.”

What do you think of Jeremy’s chances of getting Labour into power in 2020? Have your say over at @GraziaUK or on Grazia’s Facebook.

Words by @Emm_Saunders.

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