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30 August 2017

Kezia Dugdale’s resignation deepens Labour’s woman problem

The departure of the female Scottish Labour leader leaves the party with an all-male leadership team. 

By George Eaton

Labour’s most senior elected politicians are united by one thing: they are all men. The leader (Jeremy Corbyn), deputy leader (Tom Watson), the Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan), the Mayor of Greater Manchester (Andy Burnham), the Mayor of Liverpool (Steve Rotherham) and Welsh Labour leader (Carwyn Jones) are politically distinct but alike in their sex. 

Until recently, Kezia Dugdale, as Scottish Labour leader, was the one exception. But her resignation (which has been welcomed by Corbyn allies) creates a male monopoly. The three favourites to succeed Dugdale (deputy leader Alex Rowley, Richard Leonard and Anas Sarwar) are all men. For the party that has championed gender equality, and boasts the highest number of female MPs, the disparity at the top is a point of shame. 

Though the shadow cabinet is gender-balanced, and Diane Abbott (shadow home secretary) and Emily Thornberry (shadow foreign secretary) occupy senior posts, women have continually struggled to win elected posts (Harriet Harman, deputy leader from 2007 to 2015, being the notable exception). As the Conservatives delight in reminding Labour, they have had two female leaders, while the opposition has had none. 

But Corbyn allies will seek to turn the situation to their advantage. They have long argued for the creation of a second female deputy post (to counterbalance Tom Watson), with Thornberry regarded as the leading candidate, and also wish to replace Labour general secretary Iain McNicol. Meanwhile, the calls for Corbyn’s eventual successor to be female (Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has tipped Thornberry, others champion Yvette Cooper) will grow louder. 

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