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Jess Phillips slams Corbyn over ‘pat on head for women’ reshuffle

Jess Phillips slams Corbyn over ‘pat on head for women’ reshuffle

🕔08.Jan 2016

Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips’ has stepped up her bitter war of words with Jeremy Corbyn.

In the latest salvo aimed at her party leader, Ms Phillips claimed this week’s shadow cabinet reshuffle amounted to little more than a “pat on the head” for women.

The remark followed an accusation by Ms Phillips that Mr Corbyn was guilty of “low level misogyny” for failing to put women in shadow positions for any of the ‘great offices of state’ when he first became party leader last year.

In his reshuffle, however, Mr Corbyn did appoint a woman to one of the key posts – Emily Thornberry is shadow defence secretary, albeit replacing another woman.

In a piece for the Guardian, Ms Phillips said her misogyny language had been “clumsy” but stood by her point.

I had hoped that post-reshuffle I could have written an apology – a jubilant ‘they are listening, sisters’ piece.

Instead, there has been another missed opportunity to reorder the feted top four jobs and give at least one to a woman.

Now that those in the leadership have had time to find their feet, allies and enemies, I think they could manage at least 50-50 across all the positions in the party.

In fact I feel the result of the smallest reshuffle that took the longest time is a bit of a pat on the head: ‘There, there, dear, you got a couple more women.’ I know it is hard. But if it were me, I’d have managed it.

Kate Green, the shadow equalities minister, said the appointments this week had put Labour “ahead of the curve” on promoting gender equality.

The Labour leadership has dismissed the idea of the ‘great offices of state’ as “outdated.”

Ms Phillips made her misogyny remarks on BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Mr Corbyn was criticised after forming his first frontbench team for putting men into the key shadow posts of Chancellor, defence, foreign affairs and the Home Office.

Ms Philips, who became Labour MP for Yardley last May, accused Mr Corbyn’s female supporters of letting him off lightly because he is left-wing. She said:

Had Tony Blair not given any of top jobs to the women – had that same make-up of his team existed – people would rightly have been up in arms.

But it’s a bit like some people in the Labour Party are accepting low-level non-violent misogyny because it’s Jeremy doing it.

Ms Phillips said she had been left “very frustrated” by Mr Corbyn’s first months in charge of the party.

The Birmingham MP also declared recently that she would knife Mr Corbyn in the front if he harmed the Labour party and in an interview with Guardian columnist Owen Jones, she predicted that Labour would do worse in a General Election today than the result six months ago.

At the moment I can’t see that the result would be any different, if not it could potentially be worse for the Labour party.

Asked whether she could potentially call for Mr Corbyn’s head, she said she would be ready to back a new leader if necessary.

I would do anything that I felt was going to make the Labour party win the next election because if I don’t have that attitude, all I’m doing is colluding with the Tories.

If that’s making Jeremy better, I’ll roll my sleeves up; if that’s not going to happen – and I’ve said that to him and to his staff, to their faces – the day that you are hurting us more than you are helping us, I won’t knife you in the back, I’ll knife you in the front.

Mr Corbyn’s statement that he was “not happy” with the concept of a shoot-to-kill policy against terrorists was identified by Ms Phillips as one of his biggest mistakes.

She called on the leader’s office to improve its professionalism and media management.

It’s all too easy to dismiss the idea of good communication and good message with ‘Blairite years of spin’.

It’s ok to want to be clear with the country about what you think is best for them and it’s ok for some of those people to have voted Tory in the past. And I think that we’re just talking to ourselves and that frustrates me. And I would do whatever I could to make Jeremy Corbyn more electable, but you’ve got to give me something to work with, mate.

Ms Phillips first gained attention after telling Shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott to “f*** off” after a row about the gender balance in the Shadow Cabinet. She explained:

Diane just literally interrupted a private conversation between me and Jeremy, said ‘you’re so sanctimonious, you’re not the only feminist in the Labour party’, to which I told her to ‘f*** off’.

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