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Ed Miliband and the women

Joan Davies observes as 700 Labour women gather inside Manchester Town Hall.

Published on September 27th 2010.


Ed Miliband and the women

We’re in the Great Hall of Manchester’s principal building.

The main speakers are Yvette Cooper, confident and informative; Harriet Harman, confident, commanding and yet gentle at the same time; Diane Abbott, unusually yet understandably lacking a little of her usual lustre, and the ever-engaging Oona King. There are dozens of contributions from Labour activists, a real mix - young and old, new and veteran members, MPs, MEPs, assistants, researchers, councillors and a mass of regular members. All women.

He says the right things, thanks Harriet Harman for her impeccable stewardship of the Labour Party, accepts the need for change based on listening while retaining core values, and gives more than a nod to the importance of the key women’s issues.

Only one man has been invited.

Manchester, a city of pioneering political thought, has probably never seen anything like this.

It’s a fitting location for the National Labour Women’s Summit, this Sunday 26 September. Emmeline Pankhust, entrenched in Labour Movement politics, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in her Manchester home in 1903, rather too late for the event to appear on one of Ford Maddox Brown’s magnificent Great Hall murals depicting Manchester’s history.

It was a key event, and not just for Manchester.

We women now have voting equality with men as well as Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination legislation. What more could we want? Yet seven hundred of us are here for what is the biggest gathering of Labour Women in living memory. It’s a sold-out gig and many more couldn’t get tickets.

What pulls women in is the chance to share experiences, compare notes and assess progress, with a clear understanding that there are still basic injustices to be fought.

The man invited is of course Ed Miliband, Labour Party Leader for less than 20 hours. His arrival at the back of the hall creates a ripple. The standing ovation for the previous speaker becomes a standing welcome for Ed as he moves purposefully through the central aisle, shaking hands and receiving congratulations. He’ll be doing this in dozens of meetings over the next few days. But a welcome from seven hundred women must make him feel …..well at least a little like a film-star or rock-god.

He’s got the tan anyway, and a nice suit.

The reception is genuine and warm but not ecstatic. Ed speaks well and briefly. He knows that this audience will now judge him on merit, on achievement, rather than promise.

He’s more relaxed, massively so, than he appeared at the Manchester hustings months ago, and this improves the communication: he’s much easier to listen to.

He says the right things, thanks Harriet Harman for her impeccable stewardship of the Labour Party, accepts the need for change based on listening while retaining core values, and gives more than a nod to the importance of the key women’s issues. He does well. He fits. Then another standing ovation and he’s working the central aisle again with cameras once more in attendance.

There’s a feeling that the leadership contest was a long but useful campaign, giving the party some thinking time and attracting only minimal blood-letting. It may even have helped that the two leading contenders were brothers. Most siblings can disagree endlessly, but remain loyal to one another in the face of external opponents.

The women are fervently willing that to happen, ready to unite behind today’s winner and move forward. But they still have their own agenda, and plenty of evidence to support it.

Expect to hear much more about how research predicts women will suffer disproportionately from the Coalition government’s current and future cuts and about the continuing need to protect women suffering from violence or trafficking.

Ed Miliband will be given a fair honeymoon period, but he won’t now be able to forget the women’s agenda, even if he wants to.

After all we have just met in Suffragette City.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

EARL OF DIDSBURYSeptember 28th 2010.

THE UK IS 900 BILLION IN DEBT , CUTS ARE ON THE WAY, WHAT DOES LABOUR DO ? ELECT A LEFT WING UNION MAN! ,,, AHA AND I SEE HE WAS GORDON BROWN'S "SPECIAL ADVISER" FROM 1997,, I WANDER WHAT HIS ADVICE WAS??? REGULATE THE BANKS? NOPE ,,, PAY OFF DEBT(FROM VAST OIL TAX RECEIPTS) NOPE ,,,HIS ADVICE WAS TO SPEND SPEND SPEND WASTE WASTE WASTE UNTIL THE DAY LABOUR LEFT OFFICE AND OUTGOING TREASURY SECRETARY LIAM BRYNES LEAVES A NOTE SAYING "THERES NO MONET LEFT" WELL DONE RED ED NICE ADVICE !

PropagandaSeptember 28th 2010.

Is this an ad? The whole thing will vanish into obscurity once Ed's in power...just like Blair

Hero
Temporary HeroSeptember 28th 2010.

Is he attempting to ask for a writing instrument in this that picture?

JEFFSeptember 28th 2010.

ED MILLIBAND AKA OWN GOAL!

deafened in dentonSeptember 28th 2010.

Is that the 'droit de seigneur' that the Gentry use to SHOUT at us? But Monet was a pretty good Impressionist, so if he'd still been alive maybe he'd 'do' a good Miliband with a bit of practice.

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