Ann Sinnott

I’ve quit the Labour Party because it has betrayed women

I've quit the Labour Party because it has betrayed women
Text settings

I was elected as a Labour Councillor to Cambridge City Council in 2014 and re elected in May this year. Just five weeks after the elections, the Council’s breach of the 2010 Equality Act surfaced on Twitter. Just ten days after the Act became law, an amendment to the Council’s Equality policy had been voted through committee. This amendment abolished women-only facilities in the city including toilets and changing rooms – and plunged the council into illegality. It meant that male-born transwomen could access female facilities.

The council further breached the Act by failing to consult with women and by not conducting an Equality Impact Assessment to assess potential negative consequences on those affected by the change. Instead of taking immediate steps to remedy its illegality by rescinding the amendment, the Council decided to prevaricate until October, and thereby kept the matter under wraps.

I had no wish to be party to unlawfulness, nor did I want to collude in keeping it from Cambridge women and other residents who had the right to know. I did not want to be a member of a Council that failed to recognise that female-only facilities are needed by women as a generality. Nor did I wish to be associated with a Council that effectively treated Cambridge women with contempt, while it insidiously dismantled their rights. When it became clear that the Council was immovable in its I obduracy, I resigned in July.

Today, I announce that I am leaving the Labour Party altogether. My resignation letter follows:

Dear Labour Party,

Having resigned as a Labour councillor at Cambridge City Council, I now resign my membership of the Labour Party.

As a woman, feminist and local resident I felt betrayed by the Labour run Cambridge City Council - in which I served as an elected member for more than four years and was re-elected, just a few short weeks ago, with a thumping majority. But I also feel betrayed by the Labour Party.

Concurrent to being a councillor, for three years I was also Women’s Officer in the Cambridge CLP – a defunct role that I revived. I went on to build a small but effective campaign group and brought forward women who went on to become councillors and CLP stalwarts. I spent countless hours emailing and meeting, face to face and in small groups, talking about what they felt was needed in policy terms and about what kept them from being politically active. Nurturing women’s self-confidence was almost always a major component of what I did, even with women who were holding down senior roles in the workplace.

Building self-confidence in women can only be achieved from a place of empathy, from a place of sisterly solidarity, from a place of knowledge because of an actual lived experience. Even a 20-year-old woman would struggle in the role – and have difficulty dealing with 45-year-old women who have the ability, skills and relevant experience, but are unable to see it. If a 20-year-old woman is unlikely to have the depth of insight and the understanding of how life can lead to low self-esteem, how can a 20-year-old natal male take on the role? That’s not only a slap in the face for women members but it’s also ludicrous - no wonder the wider world scoffs.

Because of All Women Shortlists (AWSs) we now have a House of Commons, especially on the Labour benches, that is more representative of the wider population than ever before – but let’s not forget that the wider population is 51pc women, so that improved representation still falls short. AWSs still have work to do. But now, the present iteration of the Labour Party is busily re-writing history to claim that AWSs were never ever exclusively designed for women, so that the Leadership can justify instating natal-male transwomen into women’s places within a mechanism that was designed to circumvent sexism. This is biologically-based sexism – in the Party, without first consulting with ALL women members. It is treachery.

Ann Sinnott