Updated: Mar 8
The caucus has been taking a break over August, reconvening to address some worrying developments within our Party during the summer break: 1) PARTY MISREPRESENTS THE RESULTS OF WEP'S MEMBERS' ASSEMBLY ON SELF-ID
WEP has been sitting on the published results of the Members' Assembly since December 2020. The findings, it turns out, show an overwhelming support of single-sex spaces: provision of single sex refuges and the use of existing exemptions in the Equality Act 2010.
We are deeply concerned that this outcome has been effectively concealed from both the Party membership and the electorate during the GLA elections earlier this year.
The results show an overwhelming support of single-sex spaces: 'support provision of single sex refuges and the use of existing exemptions in the Equality Act 2010'.
In a Party circular (see below), Mandu Reid describes the Members' Assembly results as a deadlock. It is our view that this misrepresents the results and, in doing so, misleads Party members. The Members Assembly results show a clear majority voting in favour of single-sex exceptions. (Our next blog will address the Members Assembly findings in further detail, please subscribe for updates.)
2) PARTY CANCELS THE MEMBER-WIDE CONSULTATION ON SELF-ID POLICY, AS VOTED FOR BY CONFERENCE IN 2018
It was WEP's intention to consult the membership on the outcome of the Assembly.
However, in recent communications, Mandu Reid states:
"In my view, the biggest threat to (women's) those hard won right's is this debate itself, which is stopping us from coming together around a common cause. That is why I have decided in consultation with the Steering Committee not to run a traditional form-filling consultation, which risks creating further polarisation. Instead I want us to embark on a process of sustained dialogue to help break the deadlock."
In her speech 'The State of Our Community' we are told that the long-awaited (3+ yrs) members' consultation will not happen in any way that we might recognise, but will instead be a 'dialogue':
We welcome this dialogue and we recognise that this work is urgent within our own Party, as it is in wider society. Community-building and cross-party working is the cornerstone of both social and legislative change. It is also one of the underpinning values of our Party.
However, this imagined dialogue should not replace what Conference voted for. To go against the instructions of Conference is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Simply put, this is not what Conference voted for.
The consultation (referral back to members) is what encouraged many of us to stay in the Party and encouraged many more to join. It has allowed us to remain hopeful, and indeed proud of a party which hasn't shut the door on women.
WE are concerned that replacing the Consultation with this nebulous idea of dialogue will neither be equitable nor protect feminists from the the toxicity that has so far been a trademark of #nodebate. We would like to remind WEP that our attempts to open dialogue on this topic via evidenced discussions and personal testimony for the last 4 years have been largely ignored.
3) LOADED DICE & PARTY DEMOCRACY
UNCONSTITUTIONAL SHRINKING OF THE POLICY COMMITTEE
During the summer, WEP announced (in an unprecedented move away from Party procedure) that that the members of the Policy Committee (elected Party reps) whose terms are coming to an end will not be replaced until next Conference. Essentially, that the expected hustings and elections have been cancelled until Autumn 2022.
Instead of extending their roles until next Conference (ensuring we have activists in place to continue the work of the Party), we now have a huge reduction in member elected positions. A Committee that should have 18 members is now down to 9. We are clear that this move is unconstitutional.
APPOINTED (UNELECTED) DEMOCRACY COMMISSION
We then learned that the Steering Committee had created a ‘Democracy Commission’ and had appointed (unelected) representatives to it. This unexpected move rang alarm bells for many members who are understandably feeling wary at an apparent move even further away from democracy and towards an ever shrinking and autocratic, top-down party structure.
It should be noted that several of the people relieved of their roles by the Steering Committee have also been vocal in their concerns to ensure language about sex is clear when it needs to be and vocal in their support to protect the Equality Act and single sex exceptions.
Party representatives with rich and diverse skills and specialisms have been removed from their roles and replaced with five - ironically unelected - members of a 'Democracy Commission'. Combined with the introdution of unelected deputies to the leader, the ratio of elected versus appointed positions becomes yet more skewed. We feel it is unlikely that this shift will go any way towards aiding a transparent and balanced dialogue.
We have raised continual, unanswered concerns with WEP about the design and slow pace of the consultation since Conference 2018. Initially, the consultation was to be delayed until after the Government Consultation, then it was delayed until after a Members' Assembly, and now it has disappeared altogether. There has been a continual bias in the process. It is unacceptable to us that WEP appears to be repeating and re-imagining the process until it gets the answer it seeks. We have previously written about the process here.
4) PARTY RESIGNATIONS
WE are incredibly saddened to learn of subsequent recent resignations of several Policy Committee members and other Party representatives. Women who have been both fierce and quietly determined in their struggle to push for the Women’s Equality Party to be the party it promised to be.
WE would like to thank Georgia Ladbury (WEP GLA Candidate & Equal Parenting Rep) for her huge contribution to WEP. WE would like to thank her for her time that she has given to our Party and wish her great success in her future endeavours. Her voice and passion will be greatly missed.
WE would also like to thank Ruth Wilkinson (WEP Scotland Spokesperson). Ruth played a crucial role in overseeing the members Assembly. Her patience and balance was a masterclass in inclusion and dialogue. We thank her for her input to the Scottish Government Consultation on harm reduction and the Nordic Model. Her experience and insight is a huge loss to the role of Scotland Spokesperson.
There are more resignations of elected party officials in the pipeline. These will become public in the coming days. This is a great loss for our Party, and each leaves a concerning hole in both the structure and spirit of the Women’s Equality Party.
5) WHAT NEXT?
WE remain committed feminists and Party members.
WE will continue our work both within and outside of the Party to ensure that the rights of women and girls are protected. We will continue to grow our body of work and to lobby for dialogue within WEP. We will continue our cross-party activism and hold our political space in our Party. A Party that WE we built.
WE are excited to announce we will be running a workshop at FiLiA (the largest feminist conference in Europe) alongside our sister groups from each political party. If you haven't already, get your tickets here! Please come along and introduce yourselves. WE are stronger together. We're proud to be standing shoulder to shoulder with feminists across all the parties and take strength from their support, their tenacity, and their brilliance.
WE wish to thank the members and expert witnesses devoted to taking part in the Member's Assembly. We are mindful of their time and expertise that they shared with us. We also share the frustration that many are feeling at the apparent summary dismissal of their efforts. We hope they can take heart from the clear expressions of support for single-sex spaces by the majority of participants of the Assembly. We remain hopeful that the Party will endeavour to represent members who are rightly concerned that these basic - and yet vital - protections are clearly under threat.
WE will respond more fully to recent events and Mandu's speech as soon as we are able. Right now, we are consulting our members and taking stock. We hope to open channels of communication with the party leadership to facilitate that in the coming weeks.