Boris Johnson has confirmed his intention to stand in Uxbridge. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Boris Johnson intends to stand in Uxbridge and South Ruislip

The Mayor of London, who surprised no one earlier this month by announcing he'd return to parliament, will seek to stand in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The Mayor of London, who announced earlier this month that he would – in spite of denying it at least 17 times in the past four years – stand to be an MP in 2015, has confirmed his target seat: the west London suburban constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

He told the Evening Standard:

“I am sure there will be plenty of excellent candidates and I look forward to making my case to the association.”

It was widely assumed Uxbridge would be one of Johnson's choices upon announcing his intention to stand again, so the news is not really surprising. The incumbent, Conservative MP Sir John Randall, is standing down in 2015, and it is a safe Tory seat, with a 11,216 majority.

The Standard reports Randall's comments from earlier this month discussing Uxbridge as Johnson's potential seat:

“If he got into the final three or four he couldn’t rely on just getting in because he is Boris. He will have to give a good speech...

“He will have to prove he is not just coming to use it just to get into Parliament. I think he understands this.

“If he just turned up and made a not-thought-about-it-much sort of speech that wouldn’t go down well.”

Assuming Johnson's selected as the constituency's Tory candidate, it won't be an easy ride for him. As my colleague George Eaton pointed out following Johnson's decision to stand, Heathrow airport is one of the west London constituency's biggest employers. It is also the airport Johnson has called on to be closed down. He said last year that the closure of both Britain and Europe's largest airport would be a "fantastic opportunity for London" to develop a new garden city or royal borough. Johnson has spoken repeatedly against Heathrow, championing for years his alternative plan, based in the Thames Estuary, for expanding the UK's airport capacity expansion: "Boris Island".

Residents have already started voicing their fears about their potential future representative's negative stance towards what is not only a world-renowned airport, but also their main local business and employment hub.

However, Johnson's ability to bounce back, at zip-wire speed, from his past stances is one of his (rather dubious) political qualities, and it may be the same with Heathrow. An insider at the airport's HQ told me that the Mayor and Heathrow's bigwigs sat down for lunch together in a sort of act of unity against their common enemy, Gatwick and the airport "constellation" model, before the Howard Davies airport commission was about to deliver its aviation expansion shortlist at the end of last year. I'm sure Johnson will employ his skills of diplomacy with equal aptitude, and disregard for his former beliefs, this time round.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

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.