Sarah Palin: now a credible threat?

Financial disclosure report reveals Republican ex-candidate is now supported by a well-financed poli

Sarah Palin's team filed its Federal Election Commission disclosure report last night, and it makes for very interesting reading.

It shows that her political action committee (known as SarahPAC) has know become a sophisticated and well-funded operation. The committee, which was founded in January 2009, raised $866,000 in the last quarter, more than it has ever raised before. Its expenditure is also greater, with $742,000 going out over the same period on activities such as list-building and travel.

The most striking figure in the report is "Cash on Hand at Close of Reporting Period", which stands at a little over $1m. She also made significant contributions ($82,500) to other political candidates, contributing no doubt to the success of anti-incumbent and Tea Party candidates.

The details of her expenditure are intriguing -- for instance, she spend $1,500 on dinner at Mother's Restaurant in New Orleans, an eatery where the online menu shows the most expensive dish to cost about $23. Another $3,800 reportedly went on caribou jerky from Alaska for the delegates at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

Thousands of dollars at a time are spent on consultants and speechwriters, and $11,000 went on scheduling assistance, indicating that a real strategy is emerging, replacing her rather ad hoc communications through Facebook and Twitter.

The net operating costs for SarahPAC for these three months were $65,4584, a bill that clearly denotes a professional operation, rather than the piecemeal outfit that previously followed her around the country. Together with the launch of her "Mama Grizzlies" video last week, what these figures make clear is that Palin is gearing up for a tilt at the presidency, and she's getting started early.

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Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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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.