2017 Labour Women’s Conference


Elaine Bewley reports…

Elaine Bewley 1This year was the first time I have attended the Labour Women’s Conference as the constituency women’s delegate and I would like to thank the GC for nominating me. I was one of 1000 women who attended the conference.

Delegates were allowed to choose two topics for debate from a list of eight set by the National Policy Forum Commission. I chose International and Housing, Local government and Transport and submitted two statements on each, showing their relevance to women (see Policy Discussion below).

In the morning we heard from Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Inequalities, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP and Rosie Duffield MP. There were policy debates on the NHS and Social Care, Housing, Economic and Business Policy, Foreign Policy and Brexit.

In the afternoon we had break out discussions on different topics and I attended the session Ending Violence Against Women. We reconvened to hear the result of the elections to the Conference Committee held earlier.

I took copious notes throughout the day and will share with you some of the more striking observations/content and useful information.

The morning session

Dawn Butler

The first black woman to become a government minister

  • “We need to be a friend to women” To help the woman coming behind – you build a ladder, an escalator, a lift to help them
  • We need a gender equality charter on all Labour Councils including better BAME
  • “No more period poverty”. Women spend £5000 over lifetime for sanitary products. Products to be free for secondary schools, homeless shelter and food banks. Paid for by scrapping grammar and free schools. Working with Scottish MP to table a bill on period
  • Intersectionality – multiple deprivations e.g. young, black, female, disabled
  • “We are phenomenal women” quoted at length from poem by Maya Angelou as encouragement and invitation to all

Jeremy Corbyn

He “kept it short and got to the point”

  • Labour has 119 female MPs = 45%, compared to Tories 21%, Lib Dems 33%. He is determined Labour will increase this to 50%.
  • Will seek a gender balanced shadow cabinet and in government that is also the most
  • 61% of all marginals have women only short
  • Commends Jo Cox leadership mentoring programme for inspiring and giving confidence to young women such as Rosie
  • Condemns disgraceful abuse of women MPs and in public office and says it has got to
  • Need for greater representation of women on local councils, currently running at 17% in England and 33% in
  • Condemns Tory austerity for hurting women and for not standing up to the misogyny of Donald
  • Wants to challenge austerity politics with a different agenda and a fresh look at education to inspire and support girls across all
  • WASPI women have been treated appealing and will champion them.
  • Need to close the gender pay gap and create a tough legislative framework to make it
  • Approves Stella Creasy’s work on ensuring free abortions for Northern Ireland
  • Internationally, more needs to be done to support women refugees and supports Emily Thornberrys condemnation of Saudi bombing of the
  • We need “peace, justice and democracy around the world”

Emily Thornberry

A lively speech from Emily, delivered with perfect timing and humour, which is sadly not reflected in these bullet points.

  • She paid tribute to Jess Phillips who is in the top five of most abused MP and is a major champion against
  • All 119 women MPS will be pushing the concerns of women

EG –           pay day loans

child refugees contaminated blood scandal

stop training the Myanmar army education and STEM

justice for WASPI women

  • Equality – the time of incremental polite asking is OVER. Now we are demanding it and we draw on the examples of past women; we hold faith with them and draw on their

EG –          Beatrice Webb and modern slavery

The Pankhursts and why millions of women didn’t vote in 2017 Mary Turner and pay equality

Jo Cox and global poverty and maternal mortality Barbara Castle and integrating health and social care.

  • Social care and women:-

65% of dementia sufferers are women 85% social care workers are women 60% of unpaid carers are women

By 59 1 in 2 women will be an unpaid carer

  • All social care burdens are getting heavier and this is a crisis overwhelmingly effecting

EG –          1.1 million women are social care workers

3.3 million women are unpaid carers

  • Need to prioritise old people – loneliness, pensions, transport

Rosie Duffield

In June 2017 Rosie won a Tory safe seat held by them continuously for 160 years and became the newly elected MP for Canterbury West on a 187 majority.

  • Acknowledges Jo Cox as a Labour feminist and give thanks to the leadership training programme with
  • 1000 women applied to the programme and only 57 were
  • The training was uplifting and inspiring, and helped participants gain in confidence and solidarity with each
  • Women need to overcome imposter
  • In 2017 10 of these candidates stood for election and 2 were returned as MPs.

Note: In the past all trainings for Labour leading women as potential councillors or MPs was outsourced to LWN.  Today this work is also being carried out by a programme called Leading Women run directly by the Labour Party.


Policy discussions

I attended the NHS and Social Care and Foreign Policy and Brexit discussions. My notes in the second discussion become a bit sketchy, I think because I was trying to get the attention of the chair to speak.

These are submissions to policy I made on behalf of Pavilion:-

TURKEY (follows GC motion passed 29 June 2017)

Labour Women’s Conference condemns the Turkish Government’s actions suppressing democratic opposition to it from political parties, unions, journalists and others, including women being silenced and pressured to dress more conservatively.

Conference particularly condemns the arbitrary arrest of elected MPs of the HPD, which won 59 seats in the last general election with strong support among Kurds and other minorities.

Conference calls on Labour’s Leader, the NEC and elected Labour representatives to support any appropriate labour movement protest against the crackdown in Turkey, to write to the Turkish Government raising this matter, and to urge all UK governments to do likewise.

DRIVER ONLY OPERATION (follows agreed Women’s policy from IWD)

Labour Women’s Conference stands with railworkers and passengers in opposing the introduction or extension of driver-only operation (DOO) across Britain’s railways.

Conference agrees that DOO increases safety and security threats to railway users. People suffer more anti-social behaviour on DOO trains and DOO undermines access to train travel for vulnerable groups, including elderly and disabled people, mothers with children and anyone travelling alone. DOO especially excludes women too frightened to travel without a guard reassuringly present.

Conference believes that GTR should be stripped of the Southern Rail franchise forthwith and reaffirms Labour’s policy to return Britain’s railways to public ownership.

NHS and Social Care

What we are witnessing at the moment is privatisation of the NHS by the front door – slash, trash and privatise.

Labour will repeal the social care act and that the burden of care for those is in their 80s and 90s is unacceptable.

Privatisation is a selling off of what the taxpayer has already funded. Agreement that social and mental health care needs need to be paired and properly funded.

There is a £3.5 billion deficit in the NHS at the moment.

Re T May’s election repost to the NHS nurse during a TV debate :- “It’s not complicated. It’s a disgrace!”

Foreign policy and Brexit

During this discussion I was trying to get the attention of the chair in order to speak about the motion that was agreed by Pavilion on Turkey, but was unfortunately unable to do so.


Afternoon session

Ending Violence Against Women

Caroline Harries (Shadow Equalities Minister) and Rachel Krys director of The End Violence Against Women Coalition were on the panel, but I don’t have the full list of the panelists because I was late to the meeting.

My notes here are detailed because the content was so helpful and needs to be a matter of record against future need.

“We have to stop asking why she doesn’t just leave, we need to start asking why he doesn’t just stop

  • There needs to be a joined up action around perpetrators
  • At present many agencies are working in silos and not sharing information
  • Need to make sure that perpetrators are properly channelled – at present only 1% ever get any help
  • The End Violence Against Women Coalition is made up of 70 women’s and other organisations campaigning against so called honour abuse, FGM (135,00 women in England and Wales), domestic violence and rape
  • Two women every week are murdered, 400,000 are sexually assaulted and 85,00 women are raped every
  • In rape cases, only 15% go to the police and only 5% end up in

Context for violence against women

  • Vulnerable work contracts and hours will make a woman more likely to experience assault at
  • Close link between domestic violence and If a woman cannot access £100 quickly she will more likely remain in the abusive situation.
  • Sexual harassment on the street can quickly become racest if the woman doesn’t respond
  • Austerity has cut women’s services, refuges etc which help women leave violent
  • Freedom for women means being free from sexual

 Success in combating violence

  • Delivering sexual awareness and information on sexual violence into schools will help girls be more aware of
  • Safeguarding of girls in schools from harassment from fellow school boys – the DoE needs better
  • Responsible media reporting and the end to violent language against women e.g. George Osborne writing that T May should be cut up into little pieces. This normalises violence against
  • Tackling violence and harassment on the streets and online.
  • On line sites like Don’t Look Back on Facebook supports women escaping domestic

Q n A

I was able to raise a question about Family Courts, which has arisen out of the work I have done supporting a victim of family abuse.

I asked whether Labour would be willing to look at the miscarriages of justice that have taken place within the family courts and the work Justice Mumby has been doing around this, and the court’s lack of transparency.

The panel agreed that the Family Courts need an absolute overhaul. How they treat domestic violence cases needs to be reviewed, and also looking at how well resourced the courts are and what services they can access e.g. it is a 18 month wait for a child who has witnessed violence to get counselling through CAMs

There is genuine violence from the state towards women, who fear the courts, fear social workers and fear losing their children.

Labour must really stand up on this issue and create proper policies on domestic violence and not allow the Tories to steal a march on them.

What we can all do

  • Check if your local A n E department has an IDVO (independent domestic violence officer) and if not, why not
  • Ask your council leaders what they are doing to provide enough provision for sufferers of domestic abuse or vulnerable women
  • Survey your local area and see what provision there
  • Insist there has to be a structured joined up provision for changing offenders behaviour – social services and probation officer are not about profit, but paper provisions and should be suited for their


Results of election to Women’s Conference Arrangement Committee

Teresa Clark               82,000 votes

Jean Crocker              83,000 votes

Both elected with overwhelming majorities.