Labour, for women

Labour’s women’s manifesto sets out measures to:

• Tackle low pay, by increasing the minimum wage to more than £8 by October 2019.
• Tackle the gender pay gap with new pay transparency rules for all large employers.
• Extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours a week for working parents of three and four-year-olds.
• Guarantee access for parents of primary-age children to 8am-6pm wraparound childcare through primary schools.
• Protect the Sure Start budget and open up an additional 50,000 childcare places.
• Double paid paternity leave from two to four weeks, and increase pay to the equivalent of a full weeks work at the National Minimum Wage so that more families can take up their entitlements.
• Support healthy relationships by introducing age-appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education.
• Tackle violence against women and girls by appointing a new commissioner to enforce national standards on tackling domestic and sexual abuse, strengthening the law and providing more stable central funding for women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres.

Travellers

It is fundamental to human nature to dislike people, even to hate people. Individually. It is bigotry to dislike or hate people collectively – to judge someone because of the group they belong to rather than their individual merits.

If you dislike all Jews or all black people you will be labelled a racist. If you take a dislike to travellers then that equally displays prejudice.

I am writing this because of a particularly depressing round of emails from some of my fellow councillors. The thought of travellers coming to Southend-on-Sea, and of us being at all welcoming, gives a number of them the jitters.

Do not get me wrong – I take a zero-tolerance approach to criminality (despite my admiration for the Howard League for Penal Reform) and do expect the full majesty of the law to be visited upon any wrong-doer. But ban them? No.

The travelling community has its fair share of ne’er-do-wells, but then so does the settled community. I have been burgled twice in my current home; it could have been gypsies, but it is far more likely to have been an indigent local.

I do not like litter, yet regularly follow motorists who discard all sorts from their moving vehicles – shall we ban them too?

I do not know whether there is a suitable site for travellers to set up a temporary home whilst visiting the borough. I doubt there are enough traveller sites anywhere (there are twelve in Essex).

I would not want to live next to law-breaking and littering people – but actually, I already do. I get enough reports about fly-tipping, dog poo, drug dealing, etc to know that Southend-on-Sea already has people who ought to be behaving better. Are travellers actually any worse?

I received an email as follows (from a council officer):

We have had a number of incidents of Travellers potentially scouting sites around the town over the last couple of days.

Today we have been advised that Travellers have been evicted from Rainham, are heading along the A13 and could be on their way to Southend for the Easter Weekend.

The Council’s Emergency Planning Officer, XXXXXXXX is liaising with Essex Police on the matter.

Perhaps I am also guilty of a knee-jerk reaction, but I do not recall receiving any emails when others sorts of people come to visit our town.

My one-line response was: Do we have somewhere they can stop, rest and enjoy our hospitality?

This was the cue for some quite silly comments.

I make no apology for attempting to defend travellers, as I would anyone who I thought was being unfairly treated. This is not my first writing on this subject – see The T-word.

#powerpledge

I have signed the Labour Women’s Network’s #powerpledge

Here’s the #powerpledge in full:

The Labour Party has a proud record when it comes to women’s rights, but the battle for equality is not yet won.

Women aren’t held back by a lack of skills or a lack of confidence, but because our society and our institutions systematically withhold power.

All parts of our movement have to play a part in changing the balance, so I/we pledge to share our own power and campaign to ensure more of it ends up in women’s hands.

I will:

1. Defend the principle and active implementation of All Women Shortlists and other positive action measures to reach and maintain equal levels of representation in the PLP, local government and other bodies and assemblies in which Labour contests elections;
2. Support 50:50 membership of Labour’s cabinet/shadow cabinet and Labour cabinets/shadow cabinets in local government;
3. Refuse to organise or appear on an all-male panel (defined as a discussion with more than one speaker plus a chair);
4. Support the institution of comprehensive policies against sexual harassment in the Labour Party and wider Labour movement, covering staff, elected representatives, activists and members;
5. Recognise and act on the specific barriers facing LBT, BAME, disabled and working class women and work to create a Labour Party which does even more to draw strength from our diversity;
6. Join or support Labour Women’s Network and women’s organisations across the movement;
7. Encourage others to sign the #powerpledge.

YOU CAN SIGN TOO

Labour candidate talks politics at Project 49

Julian and Steven discussing why it is important that those with learning disabilities also have a voice in the coming election

Julian and Steven discussing why it is important that those with learning disabilities also have a voice in the coming election

This week the Labour Party candidate for Southend West, Julian Ware-Lane, visited Project 49, a facility for adults with learning disabilities. He had been invited as the customers are an often neglected set of voters, and this was an opportunity to engage with them, and for them to find out about Julian and the Labour Party.

Project 49 is named after its address in Alexandra Street in central Southend-on-Sea. This falls within the town centre Milton ward, which Julian represents on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

Julian answered a range of questions about politics in general, and the Labour Party in particular. Julian explained why he was Labour, and why he believes Labour served the greater good.

Julian said: “It was a very good session and I was very impressed with the range of questions. The idea that there is such a thing as society, and that society means everyone, is intricately entwined into my political DNA. We are all interdependent. Adults with learning disabilities have a place, and I want to encourage them to express their opinions through the ballot box.”

“I have suggested that Project 49 repeat this exercise in the run-up to the 2016 local elections – people with learning disabilities also deserve a say in how their town is run.”

A warm reception

A warm reception

Women

Labour’s Record

Women in work

  • In Government Labour reduced the gender pay gap by a third – women went from earning 72p for every male pound to 80p.
  • Introduced Britain’s first ever national minimum wage, which helps around a million people a year, the majority of them women.
  • Labour gave part-time workers the same statutory employment rights as full-time workers, helping to shrink the gender pay gap
  • We introduced laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, extending and strengthening sex discrimination rules.

Putting families first

  • Opened 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres, providing support for parents and young children in every community.
  • We extended total maternity leave to a full year and doubled maternity pay. And we established the right of dads to two weeks paid paternity leave.
  • We introduced the right to request flexible working for millions of parents and family carers.
  • Labour doubled the number of registered childcare places to more than 1.3 million, one for every four children under eight years old.

Putting domestic violence and sex crime on the political agenda

  • Under Labour convictions for rape increased by 45% and there was a 58% decline in cases of domestic violence.
  • Labour introduced specialist domestic violence courts, toughened the law and increased sentences.
  • We took action to ensure the police, courts and criminal justice system handle violence against women in a more sensitive and effective way.

Women’s voices at the heart of the decision-making process in Government

  • Labour has more women MPs than the Tories and Lib Dems combined and women candidates in 53 per cent of our target seats.

Julian Ware-Lane calls on the council to ensure access for disabled voters at the general election

Southend West Labour election candidate Julian Ware-Lane has written to the chief executive of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to ask what steps are being taken to ensure disabled voters are able to participate in the general election and exercise their right to vote.

Local authorities have a duty to ensure polling stations do not disadvantage disabled voters. A range of measures is also available to support disabled voters, including large print versions of ballot papers and tactile voting devices. Election staff should be properly trained to meet the needs of disabled voters

Julian has asked Southend-on-Sea council for a report on access to polling stations in Southend West constituency and what steps are being taken to inform disabled people of the different ways they can exercise their vote.

Julian said: “Ensuring disabled people are able to exercise their vote is an essential part of a healthy democracy and fundamental to their rights. The Electoral Commission has issued guidance on making registration and voting accessible to disabled people. I’ve written to Southend-on-Sea council to ask for assurance that every disabled voter in Southend West constituency will be able to get to a polling station and get the assistance they need if they want to vote in person, and to have information about alternative voting methods, such as by proxy or post.

“Disabled voters also need information about how to register to vote. If you want to register, or check whether you’re on the register, contact Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (01702 2150000) – whether you’re a disabled voter or not.”

Notes:

Local authorities have to take proactive steps to ensure that polling stations don’t disadvantage disabled people. Under the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, every local authority is required to carry out an audit of its polling places by 31 January 2015. In reviewing its polling places, the Council is required to consider any representations from local residents in its area, including any issues regarding access to premises or facilities for persons with disabilities.

All voters have a right to vote independently and in secret. A person who is registered to vote or who has been officially appointed as a proxy voter cannot be refused a ballot paper or the opportunity to vote on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity.

Polling station staff must ensure that disabled voters are not offered a lower standard of service than other voters and should be able to explain what assistance is available to disabled voters wishing to vote in person at a polling station.

Disabled voters are also entitled to:

The right to request assistance to mark the ballot paper

Disabled voters may request the assistance of the Presiding Officer to mark the ballot paper for them. Alternatively, they can bring someone with them to help them vote (this person must be an immediate family member over 18 years old or a qualified elector).

Tactile voting device

This is a plastic device that is fixed onto the ballot paper so visually impaired people or those with limited dexterity can mark their ballot paper in secret.

Large-print version of the ballot paper

A large-print version of the ballot paper should be clearly displayed inside the polling station and a copy can be given to voters to take with them into the polling booth. A voter can’t vote on the large-print version, but it can be used for reference.

Assistance to electors unable to gain access to the polling station

It is the responsibility of the relevant council to designate polling places within their area and to keep these under review. In designating polling places, the council must have regard to accessibility for disabled voters. If an elector is unable to enter the polling station because of physical disability, the Presiding Officer may take the ballot paper to the elector.

The electoral commission guidance can be viewed at www.electoralcommisison.org.uk

50 shades of trouble

50ShadesPremier004I have read nothing by E. L. James. Not a line of 50 Shades of Grey, or its sequels, nor anything else by this author. However, on this occasion I am not going to allow ignorance to stymie me from venturing an opinion.

Of course I have heard about it. Almost all opinion coming from women who, in my admittedly limited experience, appear to form the overwhelming majority of the book’s readership. The impression I am left with is that it is boring. This is little enough incentive to this lover of books; add in the subject matter and my continued avoidance is almost guaranteed. However, rather like the cat, my curiosity invariably trumps all.

It is a book about sex. Sex, and domination. Oh, and money. And a fine honed athletic male physique. Written by a woman. I have been told it is also juvenile, and debauched.

I have not tackled erotica. Not even D. H. Lawrence or Vladimir Nabokov. Well, not Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Lolita, anyway.

From what I have gathered though it is pretty clear that 50 Shades of Grey deals with a pretty dark subject. In of itself that is fine – I read a fair bit of crime fiction and this can be quite disturbing. What is different here, though, is that the male protagonist is becoming a hero, an ideal, almost a role model. In the novel he is abusive, and I wonder how this can be positive.

I know little about BDSM. My view has always been that what two consenting adults do is none of my business. The key word is consent; and this is where it gets troubling.

I have to defer to those who know their stuff: 50 Shades is Domestic Abuse pretty much self-describes itself – it is no fan page.

I would never want the novels banned, but I do wonder whether those who are chasing quick and easy big bucks have examined what they are selling – commercialising abusive behaviour cannot be acceptable, even to the most libertarian of souls.

At the risk of a terrible pun, very little in this world is black and white. However, woman all over do suffer, and if these novels at all trivialise or normalise that then it is very wrong.

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