Labour civil war: Harriet Harman says party has woman problem – Keir under pressure

Labour Party under Keir Starmer is 'beneficiary' says expert

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Harriet Harman told Beth Rigby on Sky News that the Labour Party needs a female leader and called the situation “downright embarrassing”.

The Camberwell and Peckham MP gave her first interview since the death of her husband Jack Dromey in January. She spoke about her battles against sexual harrassment in the workplace and Labour’s policies on the crisis in Ukraine.

Ms Harman, 71, said that the Labour Party has a “woman problem in terms of never having a woman leader”.

She highlighted the equality issues that women still face in politics, despite the proportion of women in the House of Commons going from three percent to 35 percent during her time as an MP.

She said: “We’re still outnumbered two to one.

“And women are still not in parliament on equal terms with men. And also it wasn’t quick.

“It took three decades of us battling away to get in and being politely ignored and then accused of being subversive.

“We’ve still got a way to go until women are really on equal terms.

“We’ve certainly got a woman problem in terms of never having a woman leader, which is downright embarrassing. Next time we do need a woman leader.”

Ms Harman revealed that she had been sexually harrassed while still a trainee solicitor, when a more senior male member of staff came up behind her and grabbed her.

She said she felt unable to complain: “My future career completely depended on not being chucked out, and all the partners would have sided with him and I would have been regarded as a troublemaker – it’s the same old story every woman has.”

Ms Harman, who became an MP in 1982 against the backdrop of the threat of nuclear war, has said she fully supports Sir Keir’s position in backing NATO.

In February Keir Starmer threatened to remove the whip from 11 Labour MPs who signed a letter criticising NATO.

She continued: “The Labour Party does have a clear position, which is we support NATO, and we support Ukraine, and we couldn’t have people who were Labour MPs somehow qualifying that so I think he [Sir Keir] was right.”

She stated that it was important that Labour MPs “support Labour’s position and don’t give the message to people in this country, or heaven forbid to Putin, that somehow there’s a residue of people who are equivocal about that in the Labour Party.”

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Ms Harman’s interview comes just days after Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said she was “doing the groundwork now” to ensure the party’s next chief after Keir Starmer will be a woman.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Rayner said she would “certainly be pushing” for Sir Keir Starmer’s successor to be a woman.

When asked whether she would consider standing for the role herself, Ms Rayner said: “I think the Labour Party is ready and I’m doing the groundwork now to make sure it’s ready by supporting other women and saying you can achieve whatever you want to achieve.

“And if I was to answer to you and say ‘yeah, I’m going to stand for the leader of the Labour Party’ I hope that that would encourage other women to say ‘I’m going to stand’ not say ‘oh, well, Angie’s standing so I can’t’.”

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