Labor stalwart Harriet Harman has said the party has a ‘woman problem’ as she begins a new chapter in her life without her husband and MP Jack Dromey.
In her first TV interview since the death of her 47-year-old husband, the MP for Camberwell and Peckham told the Beth Rigby Interviews program how Labor has a ‘woman problem in terms of never having a female leader’.
The former deputy Labor leader, 71, also spoke of being ‘sexually harassed’ as a trainee lawyer and sharing her ‘political and life journey’ with her husband and how it’s time to quit as an MP after four decades.
Ms Harman also said the party’s position on Ukraine was “clear” in backing NATO and that Sir Keir Starmer was right to threaten a group of 11 MPs with suspension for criticizing NATO expansion.
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“I have to figure out how to crack without Jack”
Ms Harman was joined in parliament by her unionist husband in 2010 but on January 7 he died suddenly of a heart attack 73 years old.
“We’ve been together for 47 years, which is an incredibly long time to share your political journey and your life’s journey with someone,” she said.
“And the problem with being widowed after a long marriage is that – I mean, my mother lived to be 100 – so I might still have 30 years left.
“So this is a new chapter in my life, that I have to figure out how to approach the things that I’m going to do in the next 30 years.
“And you know, people say ‘oh, now that you’re all alone’. I’m not with Jack anymore, but I’m not alone anymore. I have my children, I have my friends, I have my coworkers.”
She added that she disagrees that your life is over when you are widowed but feels that despite ‘great grief and loss’ it is ‘a different stage of life’ .
The MP announced in December that she would not stand in the next election and said her husband’s death had not changed her mind, adding that “you can’t go on forever”.
She also said it would have been ‘really difficult’ had Labor not won the Birmingham Erdington by-election to replace Mr Dromey. work Paulette Hamilton won it last week.
‘I’m sure he was up there looking down and would have been horrified had there been anything other than a Labor MP following in his footsteps,’ she said.
“Labour has a problem with women”
One of Parliament’s most prominent feminists, Ms Harman became an MP when 97 per cent of the Commons were men – and now it’s at an all-time high as 35 per cent of MPs are women, most on the benches workers.
But, she underlines: “We are always twice as numerous as men. And women are still not in parliament on an equal footing with men.
“And also, it wasn’t fast. It took us three decades of fighting to get in and be politely ignored and then accused of being subversive.
“We still have a long way to go until women are truly equal.”
She is also keenly aware that the Tories have had two female leaders while Labor has had none, despite being caretaker leader twice.
“We definitely have a woman problem in that we never have a woman leader, which is downright embarrassing,” she said.
“Next time we will need a female leader.”
“He grabbed me from behind”
The MP told Beth Rigby Interviews she was sexually harassed as a trainee lawyer and ‘like all schoolgirls’ she was ‘always looking over the top [her] shoulder” as she walked down the street.
She said her colleague “came over and grabbed [her] from behind”, and although she “screamed”, it never occurred to her to complain “because he was a superior, my kind of superior”.
“My future career depended entirely on not being fired, and all the partners would have sided with him and I would have been seen as a troublemaker – it’s the same old story that all women have,” he said. she added.
She said back then there was no complaints procedure and she had to continue to work alone in the same room with him, but today’s women ‘rightly tell’ us we’re not going to put up with this any longer.
Ms Harman agrees with Home Secretary Priti Patel that tackling violence against women and girls should be a priority for the police.
“There really is a big cultural leap that the police have to make because if they are to be trusted to protect women and girls from violence, they must not have the slightest ounce of these kinds of attitudes in the services. police,” she said.
Support for trans women
Ms. Harman talks a lot about women’s rights but hasn’t spoken much publicly about trans rights. However, she said it wasn’t because she was worried about offending people.
“I support the Gender Recognition Act. So as far as I’m concerned, women are women who were born female, but women are also women who are trans women,” she said.
“I think we also have to recognize that in some ways there has to be gay services, which can be provided and you can’t have a blanket exclusion of trans women, but in some circumstances, in narrow circumstances, you may restrict these services.”
“The work must – and supports – Ukraine”
Ms Harman became an MP amid mass protests against nuclear weapons in the early 1980s and said Vladimir Putin’s current threat to use his nuclear arsenal is ‘one of the most frightening things to behold’ .
She said she supports what the government is doing for Ukraine and called President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech in the House of Commons this week “chilling”.
In February, Sir Keir threatened to remove party whip of 11 Labor MPs on the left of the party, who were linked to Jeremy Corbyn, after he signed a letter criticizing NATO and accusing the UK of ‘saber rattling’ on Ukraine.
MPs, including Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, withdrew their names.
Ms Harman fully backed Sir Keir’s threat and said: ‘Labour has a clear position that we support NATO, and we support Ukraine, and we couldn’t have Labor MPs who qualify that one way or another, so I think he was right.”
She added that it is important that all Labor MPs “support the position of Labor and not give the message to the people of this country, or God forbid Putin, that there is somehow a residue of people who are equivocal about this in the Labor Party”.
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