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Jeremy Corbyn says he is stamping out intimidation in Labour Party

Published 12/10/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gives evidence to the Commons Women and Equalities Committee
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gives evidence to the Commons Women and Equalities Committee
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron gives evidence to the Commons Women and Equalities Committee on women in the Commons after 2020

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he is tackling bullying and intimidation within Labour as he claimed British society was "quite misogynistic".

The Labour leader acknowledged that "some intimidation" happened within the party's ranks but he was "stamping it out".

Mr Corbyn, who has a goal of women making up at least 50% of Labour's MPs in Parliament, also said he had "sympathy" for calls for selection shortlists made up exclusively from other under-represented groups such as ethnic minorities or the disabled.

The Labour leader was one of four men being grilled by the Women and Equalities Select Committee about the lack of female representation in Parliament.

He appeared alongside Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, Tory party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin and the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

Mr Corbyn told the committee: "I hope you are also going to be taking evidence from women representing all of the political parties. It seems slightly odd to have four white men sitting in front of you giving evidence about women's representation."

But committee chairwoman Maria Miller told him: "With respect, that's your fault, not ours."

Challenged about the allegations of bullying within Labour ranks, Mr Corbyn said: "You are assuming that the party is riddled with intimidation. It is not. There is some intimidation that goes on, I am stamping it out and dealing with it.

"We have codes of conduct, we have rules, we have processes and it has been dealt with.

"We are also a very large party, we have well over half-a-million members and growing very, very fast and I want to make sure that all those new members understand the rules, understand the code of conduct, understand the behaviour expected from them within the party."

Labour MP G avin Shuker asked: "Why do you think that a woman doing the job that I do as an MP is far more likely to receive abuse while doing it than me?"

Mr Corbyn said: "The society which we live in is, unfortunately, still quite sexist, in many cases quite misogynist. Read the style of writing in an awful lot of popular newspapers - which I'm sure you don't read - and you can begin to see where a lot of this stuff comes from.

"And the too-ready acceptance of casual sexism, casual racism in our society is something that we all have to challenge."

He added that MPs had a role to play in improving behaviour in public life: "I have to say, Parliament sets a truly appalling example. The behaviour of MPs towards each other in the chamber, and often in committees ... We have an example to set as well, and we don't."

Jess Phillips, a prominent Labour critic of Mr Corbyn, asked how he would deal with the proposed boundary changes, which she claimed could lead to 17 women in the party losing their seats.

Opponents of Mr Corbyn fear that the review could lead to critics facing reselection processes which could be used to oust them in favour of supporters of the leader.

Mr Corbyn said he was aware of the risk the proposed reduction in the number of Commons seats from 650 to 600 would pose to Labour's women MPs.

"I fully understand the danger of the situation," he insisted.

"We are determined to achieve 50% representation and our National Executive will be considering this urgently at my request."

Mr Corbyn said he backed all-women shortlists even when it was extremely controversial when first proposed in the 1970s.

He joked: "I was accused of being a far-left extremist for promoting ideas like that - can you imagine such a thing?"

Asked if he would support other forms of positive action, such as all-black, all-disabled or all-LGBT shortlists, he said: "I have some sympathy with that, actually.

"I also have a lot of sympathy with ensuring that there is a place on selection processes for people representing LGBT communities, black communities or those with disabilities.

" Because Parliament at the end of the day has to be representative of the totality of our society and it is up to all of us, recognising that we are in a party political system, operate in a way that all of those groups do end up with representation."

The Tories have not imposed all-women shortlists as a way of boosting female representation, but Mr McLoughlin defended his party's record.

"I think imposing that on Conservative associations would possibly risk a resentment that would not help that MP or that candidate once they were selected," he said.

"I would rather do other measures, working with associations, working with women who are trying to get on the candidates' list."

Prime Minister Theresa May played a leading role in the Women2Win programme, which is aimed at helping female candidates.

Challenged about the lack of women in senior roles within the party structure, Mr McLoughlin told the MPs: "If we are starting awarding points for numbers, I hope we get a bonus point for the Prime Minister."

Lib Dem leader Mr Farron acknowledged that his party was not setting a good example on diversity, especially since the 2010 election drubbing.

"To be left with eight white blokes is hardly a great result for diversity or indeed for the party," he said.

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