Morning call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. The Tories have the answers, but not the strength to deliver (Observer)

David Cameron and George Osborne are creating a new Tory philosophy, says Will Hutton, without drawing on any great thinker. They are doing some things right, but are ultimately unconvincing.

2. A jittery January -- but the Tories need some perspective (Sunday Telegraph)

Meanwhile, Matthew d'Ancona looks at the problems in the Conservative camp from the right, arguing that although the Cameron team's nerves are easy to explain, they need to take a reality check.

3. U-turn if you want to -- they certainly do (Sunday Times)

Martin Ivens says that both Labour and the Tories are engaging in frequent U-turns. Cameron must show a firm political purpose that can withstand events.

4. Cameron, the Houdini of Westminster (Independent on Sunday)

John Rentoul weighs into the debate, too, saying that it looks like Cameron is shackled by a falling poll lead, policy muddles and photoshopped posters, but in reality he is still poised to glide into power.

5. Parliament is finally cleaning up its act? Don't count on it (Observer)

Optimists in politics hope that public trust can be regained, says Andrew Rawnsley. But it'll take more than a few MPs in the dock and an election.

6. MPs' expenses: Our MPs still aren't getting the message (Sunday Telegraph)

The editorial argues that the Rotten Parliament, as future historians may know it, must be replaced by one whose ethos is different from those of its predecessors.

7. The sisterhood is costing us our jobs (Sunday Times)

Eleanor Mills argues that working mothers want very different things, and it is women who suffer from a law that forbids employers to ask them about their intentions.

8. Sceptics have their uses (Independent on Sunday)

Taking an unexpected stance, the leading article says that climate-change sceptics have done us all a favour -- their challenges have tested the flabbier assumptions of that consensus and forced proponents of the majority view to sharpen their arguments.

9. Libel tourists will love the tales of Lord Hoffmann (Observer)

Nick Cohen bemoans the hypocrisy of England's libel courts, saying that judges are now using slogans coined by the left.

10. Anti-Semitism is at the limits of irony (Independent on Sunday)

Racism against Jews is on the rise, writes Anne Karpf, but some of it masquerades as comedy, and that makes it complex and difficult to address.


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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.