THE BLOG

I Like Andy Burnham a Lot - But I'm Cross at the Virtual Head-Tapping of the Women in this Contest

24/07/2015 17:26 BST | Updated 24/07/2016 10:59 BST

I feel like I've stepped back in time - and it's deeply depressing. In the last few weeks Yvette Cooper has been asked about whether her husband is pulling the strings in her leadership campaign and Liz Kendall has been asked about her weight. And today in the Times Lord Falconer, co-chair of Andy Burnham's campaign, has kicked off the latest in a line of ridiculous questioning about whether the women standing to be Labour leader are "strong" enough to steer the party through the next few years. For god's sake - it's 2015, not 1915.

I like Andy Burnham a lot. But I'm cross because of the virtual head-tapping of the women in the Labour leadership contest: "How lovely dear, you have a very bright future. Just a little dimmer than the big light though, more of a side lamp, really. So good of you to give it a jolly good go."

It's no secret I am supporting Yvette Cooper. I could tell you a million well-rehearsed reasons why. Not my style. I will tell you that she was responsible for loads of actual stuff that changed my life. Made it better. Gave me and my kids and other young parents a hand in life. I used the Sure Start centres and later in life I worked in them, to reach out and help victims of domestic violence. Sounds like change from the ground upwards to me.

I have watched for the last five years while Yvette was anything but timid in the face of the Tories. Together with some of us other timid women outside of Westminster, she has taken on the home secretary, the secretary of state for communities and local government and also the DWP, about issues affecting the poorest people in society - and do you know what? She won. We fought for more refuge funding, we won. She fought to remove victims of domestic and sexual violence from damaging welfare reforms. She won. She took on the Coalition and got results. All while wearing a skirt. Can you believe it?

Also, a little lesson for the history books. When the mood in Parliament was difficult and some of us on the Labour benches wanted to fight for an amendment to the Welfare Bill. We put in our own amendment and it changed the conversation. Bravo! Andy was part of it, just like I was. The amendment was lead by a woman MP, not Andy Burnham, as Lord Falconer's article suggests. Just FYI. I was there.

So Lord Falconer may be right about Andy Burnham. He is wrong about Yvette Cooper. He's probably wrong about Liz Kendall too. Most of all, he is wrong to make the debate again about the two men in the contest. I suppose the old habits of the Blair/Brown years die hard. So with all the power in my elbow, without any timidity at all, I yell: We are more than half the population, we are the big bright shining lights, not just a string of fairy lights decorating the main event.