If Female Labour MPs Want to Tackle Misogyny They Should Denounce Austerity

27/07/2016 13:01 | Updated 27 July 2016

Having opted out of social media because of death threats, I've encountered the dark misogyny that seeks to silence opinionated women. So I despaired when I saw this very real malaise being hijacked by prominent Labour MPs, including Heidi Alexander and Angela Eagle, to score points against a man they want to oust. Women in politics face many threats, Jeremy Corbyn isn't one of them.

Anger expressed as abuse is unacceptable and it's scandalous that women in public office are subjected to significantly more than their male counterparts (though Blairite Ian Austin's recent bullying of Corbyn during PMQs was disgraceful). Regarding Labour's leadership election, all the evidence suggests that members, and the public, are angry at proponents of New Labour - irrespective of gender.

Ordinary people are under constant siege. Relentlessly having to mobilise and ward off threats to our libraries, leisure centres, schools and hospitals. Bit by bit the heart of our communities are being ripped asunder by ruthless, ill-conceived Tory cuts. In this, the country's hour of greatest need, Labour's NEC has banned constituency meetings. The wrath unleashed by Labour plc, who fiddle while Rome burns, should come as no surprise.

Austerity has hit women twice as hard as men. Women in work are reliant on food banks and skip meals to feed their children. 85% of all the cuts have been at women's expense and recent research shows violence against women has increased with austerity cuts to domestic violence services.

Is it any wonder the public is angry with Alexander, Eagle, and their New Labour colleagues who back austerity and failed to vote against Tory welfare cuts? It was Tony Blair's de-regulation of financial services that precipitated the recession, which left the richest 64% richer and the poorest 56% poorer. Decades of market-based capitalism has left the UK one of the most unequal countries in the OECD. When David Blunkett announced in 1997 that "re-distribution of wealth is no longer an objective of the (New) labour party", he wasn't kidding.

Far from getting the £350m a week extra promised for the NHS, within days of Brexit, plans to accelerate the closure of my local A&E were approved. As the party that founded the NHS, Labour should be providing strong opposition to Tory cuts. That wasn't the case under Heidi Alexander's stewardship. Her failure to support Caroline Lucas' NHS Reinstatement Bill (reversing privatisation) felt like a betrayal to those of us on the front line (mostly women) in a battle for which the stakes couldn't be higher.

Angela Eagle angered her CLP, who backed Jeremy Corbyn, when she defied them and stood against him. It's ironic that she called upon Corbyn to resign because he couldn't command the support of his PLP, yet her own CLP passed a vote of no confidence in her last week.

Anarchy is what happens when those with power abuse the democratic process, not least by stifling and criminalising legitimate dissent.

The £25 membership fee is entirely in keeping with the New Labour exclusive brand, wherein the right to vote was extended only to those who could afford to buy it. Owen Smith, whose proclaimed anti-austerity credentials are risible, didn't object to the fiscally prohibitive membership fee, despite it discriminating against those most impacted by austerity. Unfortunately for Smith, the public are more discerning than in the Blair era and, having been spun to within an inch of our lives, post Brexit we're reading the small print.

We can deduce, for example, that Smith is the candidate supported by the right wing Labour group progress who the GMB union accused of instructing Labour's front bench to support Tory cuts in 2012. Large sums of money have been donated to Progress by corporations such as Pfizer, for whom Smith worked as a lobbyist. Pfizer was recently accused of breaching UK law by increasing the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600 percent. As a result, the NHS bill for the drug rose from around £2 annually to more than 40 million in 2014.

In a Wales Online interview in 2006, Smith seemed to extol the virtues of PFI (which is bankrupting the NHS), private sector "choice" in the NHS and academies. He was also nonchalant about Iraq.

If New Labour MPs are concerned about the misogyny endured by ordinary women on a daily basis they should denounce austerity, which the New Statesman described as "an economic and cultural assault on women". They should also countenance the wisdom of Einstein who understood that "Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them".