2017 has been a year full of confusion, despair and disbelief, but also of hope. Hope that finally something might change. That our efforts might lead to the change we want to see in the Labour Party and in politics more widely.
Every time a new story broke in the media about another woman being taken advantage of by a politician, we thought we couldn’t be surprised or shocked any more, and then we were. And as more and more stories came out about abuse, assault and harassment in politics, it only made us more determined.
If you had asked us back in October - a group of Labour women, brought together by our experiences in the Party, sitting in an unassuming office – we would never have thought that our small campaign would turn into what it has become.
All of us with full time jobs, hastily setting up a website, Twitter profile, writing articles and coordinating press comments in every spare moment, often late into the night and early in the mornings.
We weren’t, and still aren’t, out for revenge. LabourToo is not about naming and shaming; it is about ensuring that in the future, there is a complaints process in which individuals can have confidence. But in order to do so, we had to prove that our intuition was right.
We were brought together because we, and our friends in the Labour Party had experienced an unsatisfactory process. But our assumption was that it went much wider; that this was endemic throughout the Party, at all levels, from Parliament, to Councils to our local parties.
And sadly, we were proved right. The stories we have collected through our website tell of harassment, abuse and assault at all levels of the Party. It isn’t constrained by age, race, class or location in the country.
In the coming weeks we will be sending our final report, the compilation of all the stories we have collected, and our resulting recommendations, to Jeremy Corbyn and his team, the NEC, and Karon Monaghan QC, who is looking at the current Labour Party complaints process.
We hope, for the sake of all those brave women, who contributed their stories, that we will be listened to.
We took the risk of raising our heads above the parapet to try and change the conversation, and make demonstrable change for the future of our Party.
It was with heavy hearts that we made the decision to be anonymous. But we felt we had, to protect ourselves, and those close to us from abuse.
LabourToo is not about naming and shaming; it is about ensuring that in the future, there is a complaints process in which individuals can have confidence
That doesn’t mean we have escaped without people trying to out us. We have been attacked on Twitter, the internet has tried to unmask us, as have some in the Party, and fellow Labour members speculate that LabourToo must be being run by a group of Conservatives out to undermine the Labour Party. Because why would a group of women who claim to be dedicated to the Labour Party want to do this to their own party?
We can safely say that we aren’t secretly trying to undermine the Party, it is not because we want to take down the Leadership, and it is not because we want to see our Party come to harm. There are still too many who cannot comprehend the myriad of reasons why a woman needs to protect herself and her family.
We are doing this because we can’t stand idly by. There is real opportunity for change. For us to give a voice to those who are too scared, or worried about the impact it will have on them, if they do speak out.
LabourToo is calling for an independent process; a process which allows individuals to report with confidence, knowing that their complaint will be investigated without prejudice.
Along that, there needs to be the specialist support that individuals who have experienced abuse and assault require.
And training. For all levels of the Party, to ensure that those who are receiving reports of harassment, abuse and assault have the necessary skills and knowledge to offer the support that those reporting need.
One hundred years on from the first women getting the right to vote, 2018 can be the year that real change is made. We aren’t giving up. We will plan. We will fight back. And we will campaign tirelessly until change comes.