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Kate Green MP: Jeremy Corbyn still doesn't get our concerns about sexist abuse

Promising a Women's Advisory Board isn't enough.

One thing I've learnt in six years as a member of parliament is that choices you have to make as a politician are rarely straightforward. That's not about lack of principles. It's that the consequences of the decisions you take can be complex, unpredictable or unwanted. Apparently "obvious" solutions to problems aren't always the best ones.

Extensive and thoughtful discussion in shadow cabinet and the wider Labour Party mitigate the risk of poor decision making. Careful debate of an issue enables us to share different perspectives, weigh up competing factors, and reach a collective position. But, as a number of my colleagues have already said, too often Jeremy Corbyn has failed to do that.

On 3 March this year, a few months after he appointed me to his shadow cabinet, Jeremy argued that the sex industry should be decriminalised. He made this announcement in front of students at Goldsmiths University, without any discussion or consultation with his shadow cabinet, with me as his shadow minister for women and equalities, with women in the PLP or, to the best of my knowledge, with anyone in the wider Labour Party.

Of course, it may represent his own belief - or that of John McDonnell, who had booked a meeting room in parliament for the English Collective of Prostitutes, who campaign for the decriminalisation of prostitution, weeks earlier. And I agree that prosecuting vulnerable, coerced, abused, sometimes trafficked women (and men) is neither morally right nor sensible. But any notion that we should consider decriminalising pimping or brothel keeping, or that we should legitimise the purchase of sex, or that sex work dignifies the women and men engaged in it, is to many campaigners reckless and offensive. Too often, sex workers experience violence, brutality and abuse. The evidence on how to prevent that is complex and contested.

So it was hardly surprising that the response of my colleagues, especially those like Jess Phillips, with long experience of working with women who've experienced abuse and sexual violence, was one of angry protest. Had Jeremy taken the trouble to ask their opinion, he'd have understood that his comments were ill informed, ill-judged and irresponsible.

Another view: Jeremy Corbyn's secret with women? He's so much better at listening

I went to Jeremy to explain the concerns, and the careful, thoughtful research into the subject that was being carried out, including by the Home Affairs select committee. He didn't seem to understand the problem. He wouldn't accept that he'd oversimplified a difficult and controversial issue. He couldn't see how his remarks might be interpreted.
 
It left a nasty taste in the mouth. It left many of my female colleagues mistrustful and sceptical of his understanding of sexual violence, abuse and coercion. It told them he didn't understand or care to inquire into the complex and gendered nature of abuse and intimidation.
 
Sadly, this is part of a pattern  - of carelessness, indifference and ignorance. Even when Jeremy gets that there's a problem, his solutions too often reinforce rather than address the root causes of gender inequality. So his crass suggestion during last year's leadership campaign of women-only carriages on the tube, to offer women passenger protection against sexual harassment, overlooked the fact that it's not the women who experience such abuse who should have their freedom curtailed when they travel.

Just before the summer recess, more than 40 women Labour MPs wrote to Jeremy about intimidation and bullying of women in our party. This reflected a pattern of online and sometimes physical intimidation they'd experienced, or had reported to them. It followed correspondence and communication a number of my colleagues had had with Jeremy personally,  or with his office, about gender-based abuse in our party, to which they'd either had a dismissive response, or received none at all. There was also concern about reports McDonnell had suggested shutting down the Compliance Unit that should be investigating such cases.
 
Though Jeremy responded to that letter, it's still not clear he understands the depth of women's concern and anger about gender-based abuse and harassment. There was consternation when he suggested just a few days ago that those who experience abuse should ignore it.
 
To be clear, I don't for one moment accuse Jeremy personally of sexist behaviour or misogyny. But I also don't think he gets the gravity of his ill-thought out responses to issues of gender-based abuse and intimidation, whether that's inside our party, or in wider society. Instead, he puts the purity of the tenets he's always held ahead of evidence, complexity or consequence. He listens only to those who share his world view. He defends them even when others, more thoughtful and better informed, present him with an alternative opinion.
 
That isn't the mark of a leader. It's the mark of a lazy thinker. There can be no half-heartedness, no oversimplification or ignoring of facts, when it comes to taking a stand against gender based-abuse and violence. Yet too often in the past year, women have seen Jeremy as being weak, pusillanimous, unwilling to question his own half-baked views, or to challenge the behaviour of his allies. Warm words, and the promise this week of a Women's Advisory Board, won't be enough. Women in our party expect better of our leader. Women's safety and dignity depend on it.

Kate Green is Labour MP for Stretford and Umston and was shadow minister for women and equalities before resigning in June 2016.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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