Mayday4Women were in the news recently for organising a mass resignation of women from the Labour Party. This saw over 300 women resign on May Day (May 1st) over Labour allowing men onto All Women Shortlists (AWS).
The origin of this was noticing online the slew of women resigning from Labour back in February over the party allowing men who self-identify as women onto AWS. Labour actually has no formal policy on Self-ID, but it was happening in practice at branch level.
We saw these women mostly tweeting about their resignations and put a call out for them not to do it in isolation, but collectively. We said we’d help coordinate that collective actin and were inundated with emails.
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) then announced they would ‘clarify’ the situation as to who is eligible to be selected as an MP candidate through All Women Shortlists. Specifically, whether it’s only men with Gender Recognition Certificates (which allows them be legally treated as woman) or simple “I am a woman because I say so”, referred to as ‘self-identity’ (which breaks the 2010 Equality Act). The 2010 Equality Act stipulates a woman is a ‘female of any age’, but this interacts with GRCs that determine legal ‘treatment’.
The NEC then put their ‘clarifying’ back to the next meeting the following month. Then it happened again at the March meeting. This strategic kicking of a hot-potato topic into the long-grass is commonly called ‘a fudge’. One way to kill the momentum of any growing grass-roots opposition is to obscure whatever it is in opposition to.
So, it was April and we were considering organising a women’s strike for the May 3rd local elections, patiently waiting until June, as June was when the NEC said Labour’s position would be finally formalised. Amidst these discussions, Labour responded to Jennifer James’s solicitors (who are preparing legal action against the party on behalf of James over AWS) outlining that Labour does indeed support any man identifying as a woman on AWS.
The letter stated:
At this point there was no other option but to resign. Members of the NEC in private correspondence stated that ‘there was no position yet’, but the press office of Labour corroborated the legal letter.
Basically, Labour’s internal bureaucracy machine is clearly a bit of a communications shambles, with the elbow not talking to the hand. However, political parties are very careful with what they put in legal letters. The overwhelming sentiment of women was to leave. We can’t overstate the feeling of disregard most of these women reported over their treatment by Labour. Many had written in of concerns about Self-ID, reported sexist abuse from male members, with no response, or a response that diminished these issues.
So on May Day (May 1st) those 300+ women resigned and our letter was included in The Times letters page, signed by a councillor, 2 branch chairs, 2 former women’s officers, election candidates, former members of Labours National Women’s Committee and others. See photo for the letter text.
We received some national press coverage which is linked to in the Media section of the website.
Full statement wrote by Mayday4Women and signed by 300+ women:
“We are dismayed at the Labour Party’s support for sex as a self-defined characteristic for All Women Shortlists (AWS). This position has been outlined in a legal letter to Jennifer James (who is currently taking legal action against the Labour Party) without any debate or consultation with women members of Labour.
The letter states, “The Party’s position, as stated above, is that its AWS are open to all women, including Trans Women; and that Trans Women do not need a GRC to participate in an AWS”.
We now face a situation where any man can simply claim to be a woman and be included on All Women Shortlists. It was already taking place in practice, but this letter clarified Labour’s support for the idea that sex is not linked to the material reality of sexual difference, but a self-defined abstract quality. This is in direct contravention of the 2010 Equality Act.
Over the last 100 years of women getting the vote only 10% of MPs have been women. Women were denied the vote not on the basis of self-identity, but because of their sex. Sex remains the reason why women are oppressed under patriarchy.
Self-definition – “I am what I say I am” – absolutely reeks of male authority and male supremacy. In total contrast, women are rarely believed about the sexual violence we face, harassment on the streets, and domestic violence in the home. We are rarely listened to, as here with this very issue.
We cannot continue to be in a party that takes women for granted. We feel silenced, vilified, and can no longer support a party that has no understanding of women’s oppression and why AWS were created in the first place.
It is for that reason we the undersigned – alongside 300 other women – resign together today.”