Election 2010 Lookahead: Wednesday 5 May

The who, when and where of the campaign.

With one day to go, here is what is happening on the campaign trail:

Labour

Gordon Brown will visit 13 constituencies on the eve of the election, covering London, north Wales, the north-west and Yorkshire, before heading up to his home seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, where he will remain on polling day.

 

Conservatives

David Cameron will continue his 24-hour campaign tour of the UK, meeting people working night shifts and early mornings, such as bakers and florists. Earlier today he was at Darwen (12.45am), Wakefield (3.15am) and Grimsby (5.30am), and will later visit Calverton (9.15am), Dudley (11.45am) and Montgomeryshire (2.30pm), before finally addressing a campaign rally in Bristol (6pm).

 

Liberal Democrats

Happy birthday, Nick Clegg -- who was elected to parliament this day five years ago. He continues his series of early-morning press conferences at the Work Foundation in London (7.30am). He will then attend a public rally at Western Lawns on King Edward's Parade in Eastbourne with the local Lib Dem candidate, Stephen Lloyd (11am), before heading north to attend a Q&A with students at the University of Durham (Pemberton Building, Palace Green, 4pm). He will round off the day with an election rally at Barker's Pool in Sheffield (6.45pm).

 

Other parties

The Scottish National Party leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, will rally the troops at SNP headquarters in Edinburgh (10am). The SNP is hoping to win 20 seats in the House of Commons this year.

 

The media

BBC2's The Daily Politics: 2010 Election Debates will feature the deputy Labour Party leader and House of Commons leader, Harriet Harman, the Conservative shadow Commons leader, George Young, the Liberal Democrat equality spokeswoman, Lynne Featherstone, and the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price in "The Trust in Politics Debate" (2.15pm). Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn will be asking the questions.

 

Away from the campaign

Nominations for the five-year post of professor of poetry at Oxford University (annual salary: £6,901) close today. It's an election battle that surely makes the other pale into insignificance. Last year the process was disrupted when one of the nominees, Derek Walcott, pulled out over allegations of sexual harassment, followed by Ruth Padel, who admitted she had told the press about the allegations. Some of those hoping to make it this time are Geoffrey Hill, Paula Claire, Sean Haldane and Roger Lewis.

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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.