Westminster, according to De Piero, is a closed shop to women, ethnic minorities, and working class people. Photo: Getty
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Gloria De Piero MP on social mobility: "parliament still operates like a closed shop"

As the news emerged today that Britain remains deeply elitist, the shadow women and equalities minister discusses her own experience, and how Labour can boost social mobility.

"Britain remains deeply elitist". That's the conclusion Labour’s Alan Milburn and the Social Mobility Commission have arrived at after analysing over 4,000 leadership roles.

For all the progress we’ve made, it’s still the case that the best pathway in public life is to be white, male and from a private school. And that’s the case at the top table of politics too. There are more privately educated members of David Cameron’s cabinet than women; just 7 per cent of the population go to private school – women make up over 50 per cent of the country.
 
But just look at the pool he has to choose from - over half of Tory MPs and 41 per cent of Lib Dems went to private school, whilst both parties are over three quarters male.

This is a problem for politics just as it’s a problem across the whole of society, not because people from private school shouldn’t get good jobs, but because at the moment no one else seems to be getting a look-in.
 
I was the first in my family to go to university, but even with a good degree I couldn’t get a job in politics when I first graduated. The reality is, this place still operates like a closed shop - to people from working-class backgrounds, to women, to ethnic minorities. It’s unfair and it’s bad for politics because if parliament doesn’t look or sound like Britain, it can’t hope to understand and address the concerns of the whole country rather than just the privileged few.
 
The Labour party is the Party of working people. We have more women and more ethnic minority MPs than all other Parties combined. But when the number of MPs who’ve come from manual jobs has plummeted from one sixth to just four per cent in the last forty years we all need to do more to build a representative politics.
 
Over the last year I’ve been travelling around the country meeting women from many different backgrounds, jobs and perspectives to find out what women in Britain want from their politicians, and what would change their lives for the better. On one of these trips I met a woman called Tracey. Tracey, who works in Morrisons, told me she hadn't voted for years because she'd lost faith in politics - but when I asked the group of supermarket workers I was talking to if anyone would consider becoming an MP, Tracey was the first to put her hand up. There are people like Tracey everywhere.
 
Tracey cares passionately about her community, she stands up for her colleagues at work through membership of a trade union and she'd make a great MP. But until we build the routes in to politics for women like Tracey, it will remain an elitist affair.
 
Ed Miliband’s Party reforms are central to this. Rebuilding the link between trade union members and our Party is how we provide a route in for women like Tracey, and strengthen our links with working people. And for the first time we’re going to give people who register their support for the Party but aren’t members a say in who our Party leader is and our policy too. Many people might not be joiners of political parties but as a first step into politics which doesn’t cost anything, the people who are signing up now could be the councillors and MPs of tomorrow – it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water.
 
We've launched a future candidates programme too, to mentor the next generation of politicians from backgrounds we don’t see enough of in Westminster. And looking at the group of candidates we have standing at the next election gives me cause for hope. People like Lee Sheriff in Carlisle who worked in Jaeger on the shop floor and Lisa Forbes in Peterborough, who’s a school governor and Amina Lone in Morcambe, a single mum and running an organisation to tackle poverty in her local community, all voices Westminster will be a better place for having.
 
At the very heart of Labour's vision is enabling people to be the best that they can be - talent has to be the only thing that matters when it comes to getting to the top. And that’s not just true for politics - it matters in the law, journalism, medicine. It matters in all of our professions and the Labour party will never forget it.

Gloria De Piero is Labour MP for Ashfield and shadow women and equalities minister

Gloria De Piero is Labour MP for Ashfield. 

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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.