Statement on meeting with Dawn Butler

Statement from Woman’s Place UK on a meeting with Dawn Butler on 28 March

Some representatives from Woman’s Place UK attended a short initial meeting with Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, with some other feminists on 28 March, to discuss the concerns of women about the status of women in the Labour Party and the proposals to ‘self-identify’ one’s sex.

We are extremely alarmed to see that details of this meeting, including the names of attendees, have been leaked to Pink News, a news website that has been hostile for some time to women campaigning for their rights to be upheld.  One of the concerns raised at the meeting with Dawn Butler was the intimidation, threats, physical violence and harassment that women face when campaigning on this issue.

The leaking of the names of women to Pink News is an act of gross irresponsibility, and a huge breach of trust.

This was a tentative start of a dialogue with women about legislation that affects women, which has now been misrepresented by Pink News as an ‘anti-trans’ meeting. We believe the leaking of the details of the meeting, and the names of attendees, is an attempt to wreck this dialogue.

There must be an investigation into the source of this leak, and an immediate apology to the women who participated in good faith.

Background

Woman’s Place UK were invited by the Leader’s Office, with 10 other women, to an hour long meeting with Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities. Initially we declined the invitation because we had been promised a personal meeting with the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, not a meeting with a shadow minister who has repeatedly stated her position as fixed, and diametrically opposed to ours. We felt it wasn’t a serious response to months of asking for a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn. We believe this issue goes beyond the women and equalities brief. This is not a side issue and has an impact across all government departments wherever there is sex segregation and sex discrimination. It requires the engagement of the leadership, but also senior shadow ministers from key departments such as justice, prisons, economy, work, education, and health.

Jeremy Corbyn promised to personally meet with women on the Andrew Marr Show on 28 January and again at a Labour Party meeting in Newcastle 17 March.  So we were extremely disappointed to be invited to what looked to be a very short one-hour meeting with one shadow minister responsible for one area. Further, we lacked confidence in meeting with a shadow minister who has so clearly and confidently stated positions in opposition to the concerns raised by many women.

After talking with our supporters, we reconsidered and indicated our interest in attending this meeting, whilst continuing to seek a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, as promised. We were given less than 20 hours notice of the details of the meeting. We attended the meeting on 28 March, hoping that it would not a ‘tick box exercise’ to give a veneer of ‘consultation’, and that this is the first step of a more serious engagement with women’s concerns. We are extremely disappointed to see that the meeting and the names of attendees has already been leaked to Pink News. Our trust that this a genuine attempt at consultation has been further eroded.

At the meeting, a discussion took place regarding All-Women Shortlists (AWS). Woman’s Place UK representatives made it clear that AWS can be defended by the Labour Party, by asserting their basis as being for the promotion and protection of the female sex in politics. This is how the Equality Act 2010 defines AWS and we expect the Labour Party to defend the original intention of securing greater numbers of women in political life. Currently just 32% of MPs are female.

Sources

Jeremy Corbyn’s promises to personally meet with women:

Jeremy Corbyn on the Andrew Marr Show, 28 January 2018:

“I am very happy to meet and talk with them, and we said that at the NEC a few days ago”

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the East Newcastle Labour Party meeting, 17 March 2018:

“What I have done is I have agreed to meet with people who are campaigning in both directions on this… I want to obviously listen to all sides in this debate. We don’t have to fall out about it. There has to be a way of achieving some degree of consensus on this, and I am determined to achieve that. I will listen to all sides in the debate”

 

Dawn Butler’s assertions that transwomen are women and should be allowed to stand on All-Women Shortlists:

Dawn Butler stating that her belief that trans people should be allowed to stand on All-Women’s Shortlists, and that women’s concerns are simply a “big fuss”, The House Magazine, 11 January 2018.

After the NEC failed to agree a statement on trans people being allowed to stand on All-Women’s Shortlists, Dawn Butler emailed all Labour MPs on 30 January, incorrectly telling them that the NEC had made a decision and setting out a formal ‘policy’ that has never been agreed by the Labour Party at any democratic level, that trans people can stand on All-Women Shortlists: Guardian, 1 February 2018.