Labour Women’s Network Political Day

The conference opened with a gutsy and uplifting speech by Barbara Follett, who urged us all to ‘get on with it’, not to give up in the face of structures and aggression which was designed to put us as women off from political life, to use the game in order to change the game, and to in general, be persistent. At some point during this speech, Kirsty McNeill tweeted something along the lines of ‘There is a baby crawling along the back of the hall. This, my friends, is what a feminist space looks like.’ It got 20 retweets and summarised the uplifting and positive mood of the day

Seema Malhotra MP and Director of Fabian Women’s Network delivers speech on how Labour can best reconnect with the public

Angela Mason of the Fawcett Society, Rowenna Davis, Southwark Councillor and Mandy Telford caught smiling…

There were a range of fantastic panels – notably the one on Labour’s relationship with the press chaired by NEC member Johanna Baxter, as well as the working lunch which included a panel on the successes of Barack Obama’s campaign trail. There was plenty to take away from this panel; the way in which a tool might be used to identify particular voters and would tie into a broader campaign strategy, the shift in demographic change and the impact that was having on politics in the U.S (especially the rise of Hispanic voters), and again – the importance of having an authentic, and approachable personality in politics which seemed essential to Obama’s brand. We were told that Obama’s advantage over Romney was that he had a better ‘ground game’ (i.e field offices), and getting resources into the homes that were most likely to vote for Obama. This is an interesting issue – for those who’ve an interest in how technology can change political outcomes please see this article which suggests that actually, the advantage Obama had was a better integrated data system and back office that told them where best to allocate resources and to run that ground game with limited resources.

But let’s not get sidelined into all of that.

I thought that Deborah Mattinson spoke particularly compellingly on the need to work harder to target the women’s vote, which was increasingly alienated by the current coalition government’s policies on a number of issues, including childcare; and on the need to take high-level policy, especially macroeconomics and to translate that issue for our voters so that they are understandable. We also heard from some excellent grassroots campaigns, such as EverydaySexism on what work they were doing on the front-line to challenge  and tackle misogyny.

Although I couldn’t stay for it, Suzy Stride no doubt delivered a fantastic and inspiring speech in her capacity as Harlow PPC candidate and gave a range of tips to women seeking selection. See the transcript of that speech here, where she talks about how important it was that candidates be themselves.

Lunchtime workshop on Obama’s campaigning: best practice. Fieldwork, not just funds.

A particularly striking feature of this event – which I am now convinced that others should follow as best practice, was the large projector screen where you could see the speakers, along with  a rolling Twitter feed. This was really effective – and made hearing/following the speakers a lot more accessible. Much appreciated, Labour Women’s Network – and a job really well done!

I’m looking forward to their Christmas party.


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