Kezia Dugdale: ‘There’s nothing feminist about austerity’

Labour women attack Theresa May's record on equality at annual conference


Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale hit out at Theresa May at this afternoon’s Labour Women’s Conference, accusing her of claiming to represent women while overseeing cuts to the most vulnerable in society.

“Look at Theresa May – she has the audacity to wear a “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt. She could wear it at the dispatch box – but we’d still know the truth. And the truth is this. There’s nothing feminist about austerity.  We all know the cuts have hit women the hardest. As social security has been crushed by the Tories, 85 per cent of the cuts have been borne by women.”

Dugdale, who the most senior woman in an elected Labour Party position, pointed to the Scottish Parliament and her own experience as evidence that having women leaders does not necessarily translate into greater equality for women.

‘Take a look at Scotland and you see not one but three female party leaders,’ she said. ‘One is Scotland’s first female First Minister. I’m pretty proud of that, most Scots are – but it’s a far cry from a feminist utopia.’

“You see – I believe in the power of politics to deliver for women. And the voice of the Parliament’s chorus of women is strong.

But does it speak for the woman in Lochaber desperate to leave her violent partner?

The little girl that goes to school in Dundee hungry.

The teenager in Glenrothes daring to dream.

Does it deliver for the single mum working 3 part-time jobs in Shettleston?

The gran in Musselburgh staring at her pension statement choosing between more years at work or less money each week in retirement?

That’s what really matters.

Scotland’s women don’t look like Nicola, Ruth and I – they look like these women.”

The annual women’s conference takes place the day before the Labour Party Conference begins, and is an opportunity for Labour women to share campaigning ideas and experience.

Earlier in the day, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called on women to ‘be at the forefront of unifying our divided party.’

While denouncing online abuse, Rayner also defended Labour’s record on equality against Tory attacks, which have been widespread since May became prime minister.

She said:

“The Conservative Party, the party of privilege and inequality, has stolen a march on Labour. Britain’s greatest ever force for equality and emancipation.

Our Party of votes for women, of equal pay,the Sex Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act, gay marriage and equal rights for the LGBT community. The Party of all-women short lists. The Party, where, down the road in Manchester, more than 50 per cent of our councillors are now women.

This is our proud legacy.”

Introducing Rayner, Harriet Harman also attacked the prime minister’s record, accusing her of being a ‘drag anchor’ on equality, and citing May’s vote against the Equality Act and her opposition to women’s working rights on the grounds that they would be bad for business.

She also called for Labour’s women to stick together as the party attempts to repair itself following the bruising leadership contest.

“In the 1980s, despite the turmoil in the party with the party split from top to bottom and with predictions we would never govern again, we women across all of the party worked together and made massive progress.”

The women’s conference will conclude with a speech from the re-elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

See also: Want a gender equal Labour Party? Give decision-making power to Women’s Conference

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