After four months of the #LabourToo campaign, today we submitted our report on women’s experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination in the Labour Party to the leadership.
Back in October 2017 we never imagined this would be where we are today.
Our campaign was conceived in a chance gathering by a group of Labour women who love the Labour Party but who were frustrated at its lack of action on sexual harassment and abuse. Some of us had experienced it ourselves, while others had supported friends and colleagues - all of us felt it was a wider problem.
So we had the idea of calling for other Labour women to come forward to submit their experiences, in the spirit of the EverydaySexism Project, in the hope that we might be able to evidence a wider trend of problematic behaviours to the Party.
Little did we know that, as we met, stories of harassment, abuse and assault were about to break all over Westminster.
We plunged into a flurry of activity, honing our calls to action, setting up a working email, drafting articles and press comments and maintaining our newly created Twitter account, all alongside our full time jobs.
We thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into but reading the submissions to our website was a genuinely distressing experience. Women are experiencing sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination at all levels of the Party - as staff, as activists and as elected representatives.
Their accounts were similar in numerous ways. Many expressed frustration at the blind eye turned to serial harassers and some recounted how they were warned away from submitting a formal complaint or had no faith that the system would take them seriously. Others told a story of older men abusing their positions of political power with younger women. All were believable. All fit the wider #MeToo pattern we have heard in so many industries and sectors.
While distressing, it gave us the strength to know we were doing the right thing: running a positive campaign to address the way in which complaints are handled by the Labour Party and the need for cultural change to address ingrained misogyny.
Our campaign makes a number of calls on the Labour Party to change the way in which the complaints process operates.
1) Labour must introduce a fully independent complaints process from start to finish, including adjudication panels made up of people who have no clear link to the Party and who will act to uphold the integrity of the process, rather than to protect individuals concerned, or the party itself.
2) Compulsory training, provided by specialist professionals, for all party staff, elected Labour representatives and key elected officials in local Labour parties.
3) A comprehensive set of policies covering bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, abuse, assault and sexual assault, including clear protections against victimisation for those reporting incidents, in line with the Equality Act.
4) A confidentiality policy which requires members not to share confidential information they become aware of as part of the complaints process.
5) Mandatory DBS (Disclosure and Barring System) checks for those seeking selection as candidates, both at a national and a local level.
We believe that, in making these changes, the Labour Party will create a process which will increase victim confidence so that they are more likely to report their experiences.
We hope that the party listens, responds and changes – in the interests of all of its members.
We owe it to the Labour women of the future to eradicate sexual harassment, abuse and misogyny in our party – who will never be truly equal if we don’t.