Labour MPs raise sexism concerns at a stormy party meeting

Helen Jones

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UK Parliament

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Helen Jones said MPs were being targeted because they were women

Labour MPs raised concerns about sexism and misogyny at a charged meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

There was criticism that a number of female MPs are to face challenges to be selected as candidates for the next general election.

It comes after Jewish MP Dame Louise Ellman quit Labour, saying the party was “no longer a safe place for Jews”.

Labour has said if a female MPs is deselected, she will be replaced by another female candidate.

Labour MPs can be made to compete for selection as a candidate against all comers. Last year Labour’s annual conference voted to make it easier for local party members to deselect sitting MPs – reducing the threshold for so-called “trigger ballots”.

MP Helen Jones told the PLP MPs were being targeted because they were women.

MPs facing reselection battles include Margaret Hodge, Roger Godsiff, Diana Johnson, Emma Lewell-Buck, Kate Osamor and Virendra Sharma.

This issue has previously been raised by Jess Phillips, chair of the women’s parliamentary Labour party, who tweeted earlier this month that the group had asked to meet party bosses to discuss it.

She added: “We warned this would happen, I’m not glad we were right.”

Concerns were also raised about the inclusion of Salma Yaqoob on the shortlist to be Labour’s candidate for West Midlands mayor.

Ms Yaqoob was previously leader of George Galloway’s Respect Party and stood against Labour MP Naz Shah for the Bradford West constituency in the 2017 general election.

Ms Shah – who is challenging the decision – told the PLP Ms Yaqoob should be nowhere near the party.

A group of of Labour MPs from the LGBT+ PLP wrote a letter to the party raising concerns about Ms Yaqoob’s alleged behaviour when she stood against Ms Shah in the 2017 election and her record on LGBT rights.

The letter, tweeted by one of the signatories, Wes Streeting, states that Labour made “a terrible mistake when Ms Yaqoob was given her membership card”.

However Ms Yaqoob defended her position in a tweet saying she stood “in full solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community”.

Ruth Smeeth said the resignation of Dame Louise from the party undermined the leadership’s denials of institutional racism.

MPs were shown a series of social media messages reacting to Dame Louise’s resignation – describing the Liverpool MP as a creature and calling for Labour to “cleanse itself from the Zionist domination that plagued the party”.

A group of MPs are intending to pressure members of the shadow cabinet to demand action on racism and anti-Semitism.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We are proud that the Labour Party has more women MPs than all other political parties combined and we are committed to continuing to improve diverse representation at all levels of the party, including through all women shortlists, by introducing provisions for reserve places on shortlists for BAME candidates.

“In any seat where a woman is triggered the selection would only be open to women candidates.”

The spokesperson also said the reselection process had happened at every general election since 2001, except the 2017 snap election – and that sitting MPs were automatically included on the ballot paper.

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