I’m a Labour woman, a member in Leeds with a national job in a charity, I’m also on the local panel and going through selection proceedings at the moment as local Leeds Labour branches choose their 2010 council candidates. It’s especially important in Leeds to pick candidates that can deliver a good campaign, work hard and win as we’re a few seats short of controlling the city. Labour councillors far outweigh any other party but as is the case in many places Leeds city council endures an anti-labour coalition with leadership split between the Libdems and Tories.
Newly on the panel it’s my chance to meet lots of people across the city and quickly tell them what I’m about and what I stand for, it’s a scary experience, but I sense people have a lot of respect for you for putting yourself out there. I guess it’s unusual in that I’m a young(ish) woman, so I have something about experience and ability to prove. I’ve already endured a few derisory comments designed to put me off, one man (before he knew anything about me) told me he didn’t think I was old enough to be a councillor, and described the other candidates as “Titans of the Labour Party” – both white men over 60 – but in the next breath offered me help with my next speech! Fair enough, he’s entitled to his view.
My view is that fair representation is just that, the fact is that women are underrepresented in the party and on the council, and I’ve been actively encouraged to stand by many good and experienced people. It’s also heartening to see that Labour are selecting a diverse group of candidates, with candidates selected on their own merits – at one selection meeting I attended, I was pleased to lose out to the excellent Kamila Maqsood who is set to become Leeds’ first Muslim woman councillor. The council requires balance, but all councillors should have sound judgement regardless of age or ethnicity. My job and career has set me up for that, if I can handle violent and aggressive clients experiencing psychosis alone in the middle of the night I can handle Leeds City Council!