My article in response to calls to set up a Labour Men’s Network.
Chris Calland’s recent article suggested that in order to get more people voting for the Labour party we need to set up a ‘Labour Men’s Network’ – an opportunity, presumably, for men to get together, support each other in their political endeavours and discuss the problems they face in society. Obviously, what we are failing to recognise is that men, as a whole, are oppressed, disadvantaged, and in need of a helping hand if they are to succeed in the political world. At least that’s what the article suggested, no matter whether or not intentionally, through its thoughtless proposition. The article entirely undermines the equality agenda and misses the point of much of the work that the Labour party is doing in this area. Men’s networks that exclude women are the problem, not the solution. It is ignorant to suggest that men’s networks do not already exist in politics, informally, in every part of the country. The way the article makes a jump from the need for Labour to appeal more to working people in rural communities – especially those who do ‘manual labour’ – to the need for Labour to appeal more to men in general also seems bizarrely dismissive of the many working women who also are part of rural communities! The point that I presume that the article was trying to make is that we do need to do more to appeal to working-class men in rural communities because they are statistically less likely to vote Labour than working-class women in such areas. The solution to this problem is to shape a party narrative which appeals more universally to rural communities, not to pitch men and women against each other. In proposing a ‘Labour Men’s Network’, Calland draws a parallel with the Labour Women’s Network, which consequently implies that such an organisation’s mission would be to ensure men’s voices were better represented. To link the issue of Labour’s policies arguably failing to appeal enough to a certain section of society to the need for equal representation for men and women distracts from the article’s wider argument; suggesting that we should appeal more to men by setting up an organisation parallel to one with the chief purpose of alleviating the inequality caused by the structural oppression of women in society is ludicrous and somewhat offensive. A formal men’s network would undermine the incredible amount of work put in by a huge number of people to put women on a more equal footing with men, both within the party and in society more widely. I will be the first to protest against any move to set up a ‘Labour Men’s Network’, but naturally welcome attempts to widen the party’s appeal without undermining the excellent work the party does on equality issues. If widening the party’s appeal to arguably forgotten sections of the electorate was the intended thrust of Calland’s article, it’s a shame a clearer distinction wasn’t made between doing just that and automatically equating the status of such groups to those that are underrepresented and discriminated against in society.