25th May 2018 Update: Jennie Formby has replied to the open letter below.
8th May 2018
Dear Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby,
The Labour Party has announced a policy on All-Women Shortlists (AWS) that seriously threatens women’s rights and is in breach of the Equality Act (2010). This has happened with no debate having taken place and before Jeremy Corbyn has met with women’s groups as he promised. The Labour Manifesto in 2017 said (p109) “A Labour government will gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.”
It was Labour’s awareness of the under-representation of women in political life that led to the establishment of AWS and Women’s Officers in the first place. We have therefore found the decision on AWS deeply troubling in asserting gender identity over sex-based exemptions.
We fully understand the frustration felt by many Labour women that their voices are not being listened to. Many women Labour Party members are so concerned about this that they are leaving the Party.
We want a Labour government to improve the lives of women but we are concerned at the disregard with which women have been treated and understand that many of us feel alienated and afraid.
We fully support the rights of those who have undergone gender reassignment not to face discrimination as transgender people as is their right under the Equality Act (2010). However, women are also a protected group under the Equality Act and we are concerned that groups, including the Labour Party, are unwilling to uphold our right to sex-segregated spaces.
Sexism and misogyny are still endemic in society and no organisation is immune from it, including the Labour Party.
Recently too many men have not been reprimanded for using sexist obscenities as insults or defamatory caricatures of feminist debate. We will not tolerate women being slurred with the misogynist insult TERF or being called ‘cis’ against their will. Where sexist obscenities against women are used to silence debate we expect the Party to deal with these matters appropriately through the disciplinary process.
We expect the Party’s membership to understand the need for vigilance and to challenge sexism and misogyny.
However, we also believe there are signs of a growing awareness in the party that these issues of concern to us must be addressed. As grassroots members of the Labour Party, we pledge ourselves to ensuring that Labour is pro-active in the fight against women’s oppression and sex discrimination.
To this end, we have decided to stay as members of the Labour Party for now to make sure that women’s concerns are taken seriously within the party and its many structures.
We call on Jeremy Corbyn to meet with women, as promised, to discuss our concerns. We call on Labour women to redouble their efforts to make the party fit for purpose and to remain in the Party with us, not with illusions, but with spirit and determination to make women’s lives better and to increase our political representation.
Kiri Tunks (Walthamstow), Glynis Millward (Central Cardiff), Helena Coates (Salford & Eccles), Judith Green (Cambridge), Ann McTaggart (Tottenham), Denise Bennett (Women’s Officer, Blaydon), Lucy Masoud (Tooting), Diane Jones (Newcastle Central), Bronwen Davies (Cardiff North), Laura Oakley (Tottenham), Rebecca Lush (Winchester), Lisa Bishop (Maldon), Shonagh Glen (Dundee), Alice Bondi (Penrith & The Border), Annie Thomas (Bristol West), Ruth Serwotka (Carmarthenshire East), Emma Dolan (Leeds NE), Shani Kara (Tottenham), Amanda MacLean (Tottenham), Emma Wilkes (Stalybridge & Hyde), Dianne Vine (Bournemouth East), Louise Hersee (Hastings & Rye), Gill Parke (Bournemouth East), Pilgrim Tucker (Vauxhall), Emma Barraclough (Bristol South), Jan Pemberton (Bristol West), Ruth Conlock (Manchester Withington), Cllr Sue Lent (Cardiff Central), Sona Mahtani (Tottenham), Julie Armstrong (Gateshead),Paula Dauncey (Cardiff Central), Sarah White (Worsley & Eccles), Sarah Johnson (Cambridge ), Ceri Williams (Tottenham), Jennifer James (Garston & Halewood), Catia Freitas (Esher & Walton), Rebecca Heath (Brent), Lisa Bishop (Maldon), Emma Salmon (Bexhill & Battle), Ruth Gordon (Tottenham), Debbie Epstein (Cambridge), Kay Green (Hastings & Rye), Shani Kara (Tottenham), Julia Richards (Hornsey & Wood Green), Cathy Devine (Withington), Pam Isherwood (Tottenham), Holly Brewer (Oxford East), Lisa-Marie Taylor (Brighton), Selina Todd (Manchester Withington), Helen Soutar (Stafford), Paula Boulton (Corby & East Northants), Therese O’Meara (Tottenham), Gill Parke (Bournemouth East), Kay Green (Hastings & Rye), Hilary Adams (Tottenham), Marjorie Caw (Bristol West), Kate Jerrold (Bristol East), Hayley Mullen (Tottenham), Prue Plumridge (Maldon), Marta Garcia de la Vega (Tottenham), Janet Holden (Cambridge), Heather Downs (Rochester & Strood), Ruth Todd (Newcastle Central), Sohayalla Wilson (Manchester Gorton), Eleanor Tristram (Stafford), Sarah Cave (Tottenham) Tania Ziegler (Winchester), Matesa McKeefery (Rossendale & Darwen), Rebecca Pennington (Lewisham Deptford), Laura McGrath (Walthamstow), Sylvia Dobie (Tottenham), Anna Hillier (Camberwell & Peckham), Amanda Lesiatoi (Bristol West), Susan Matthews (Dulwich & West Norwood), Fiona English (Tottenham), Frankie Rickford (Shrewsbury & Atcham), Nicola Kerry (Thornbury & Yate), Pamela Beamish (Bristol North West), Karen Kruzycka (Romford), Cathy Love (Ilford South), Naomi Fearon (Salford & Eccles), Senia Paseta (Oxford West & Abingdon), Lynn Walsh (Twickenham), Lizzie Bartram (Bristol East), Jess Goldie (Bury North), Ann Sinnott (Cambridge), Catherine Bjarnason (Ealing), Charlotte Delaney (Waveney), Gwenan Richards (Chair, Bishops Ward, Vauxhall), Catherine Muller (Vauxhall), Jen Izaakson (Richmond), Cathy Boardman (Manchester Central), Esther Giles (Bristol North West), Lynne Caffrey (Blaydon), Jan Baxter (Leeds Central), Li Doran (Haringey), Bridie Norton (Corby & East Northants), Gwenda Owen (Cardiff Central), Becky Vaughan (Brighton Pavilion), Helen Martlew (Stafford), Fiona Leggo (Norwich South), Shanthie Wild (Bristol East), Cllr Louise Nixon (Stafford), Ornella Saibene (Bristol West), Beth Aze (Stretford & Urmston) Philipa Harvey (Coulsdon South), Samantha Scott (Corby & East Northants), Daisy Lee (Manchester Withington), Katherine Rutter (Corby & East Northants), Emma Aynsley (Cardiff Central), Jackie Hartley (Stafford), Helen Dickson (Wavertree), Lorraine Robinson (York Central), Sheila Spencer (North Tyneside), Pam Smith (Coventry South), Jane Galloway (Sidcup), Nicola Clements (Stafford), Mara Leverkuhn (Salford & Eccles) Nina Houghton (Women’s Officer, Wavertree), Katharine Cotter (Stafford), Ann Morch (Calder Valley), Madison Plumridge (Ealing), Andree Jamileh Beida Ryan (Ealing), Melissa Briscoe (Stretford & Urmston) Maggie Wellington (Stretford & Urmston), Lynn Alderson (Totnes & South Hams), Alison Morris (Rochdale)