This week Green MP, Caroline Lucas, made a rather unpopular suggestion of creating an all female cabinet of cross party MPs to prevent a no deal Brexit. To say it fell flat is an understatement. I’ve had a couple of discussions on social media about this subject, but social media can get heated so I want to make clear my thoughts on this subject.
On the surface I quite like the idea of an all female discussion because having sat in many board meetings over the last 10 years, I have witnessed first hand, time and time again, that women don’t engage as actively as men. Men are generally very confident in their own beliefs and opinions and have no fear of sharing them with an air of authority. Women tend to listen, take on board the opinions and views of others and understand where their opinion has come from. Often they hold back on sharing their own opinion because it feels unlikely that it will be understood in the same way and there’s a chance they’ll be argued with or patronised in some way. The feeling that if we don’t agree we must be wrong, is enough to keep us quiet. I am not speaking for all women at this point. It is definitely what I feel and I have observed many women in meetings, holding back from sharing their views. On the flip side I’ve been in all women meetings where everyone has felt able to talk, we’ve shared our opinions, even if they differ, we listen and understand each other’s position and we find ways to compromise. So my initial thought when someone told me that Caroline Lucas had suggested bringing together female MPs from all parties to discuss preventing a No Deal Brexit was “What a great idea that is”.
Of course, at that point I hadn’t read the article or the letter that had been sent out and I hadn’t seen the list of women who had been invited. To say it’s not the most diverse group of women would be an understatement and I’m sure in hindsight Caroline Lucas will look back on this as a huge error of judgement. It’s shocking that in putting together a list of women to represent the UK, it doesn’t doesn’t appear to have occurred to her to include BAME women. While in some cases she invited the leader of the party or the only female MP of the party, that explanation doesn’t hold up in the Labour representation. Alongside Emily Thornberry, she could have invited fellow shadow cabinet members; Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Valerie Vaz or Shami Chakrabartit, all of whom are much more senior than Yvette Cooper.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has said she won’t enter into a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn. That’s a whole other subject, but I mean, come on, Labour is Labour, the leader is just one person who is answerable to the members. People need to stop getting their knickers in a twist about Jeremy Corbyn and come to terms with the fact that the vast majority of Labour members believe in the policies and direction Corbyn has taken the party. If you want to work with us, that’s what you get. If Jeremy Corbyn steps down, the membership will vote in another leader with the same values and principles because since becoming leader, since unveiling the transformational manifesto, the party membership has more than doubled.
But I’m not convinced that this is just a cynical move to prevent a general election and a Labour Government. Jo Swinson may not want to work with Jeremy Corbyn but I doubt anyone on the left much wants to work with her either… And while I don’t particularly like the idea of working alongside austerity enablers, they do represent their voters and any proposals to prevent a No Deal Brexit, should take into account all sides of the debate… which incidentally means including socialist MPs which Lucas seemed to have also overlooked.
It took a teenager, Greta Thunberg, to make us sit up and realise that climate change has reached the point of an emergency that we need to do something about. And now we’re 2 months away from leaving the EU with no deal in place and a new unelected Prime Minister who couldn’t care less about it. This feels about as catastrophic as it gets and I welcome any bold ideas to find a way through this mess rather than continuing to repeat the same old dance we’ve witnessed since the Withdrawal Agreement was first presented to the commons.
Obviously, Caroline Lucas doesn’t have any authority to bring together a cabinet to lead on Brexit and any strategies such a group might come up with would have to be voted on. So in that sense, the idea is a bit daft. But I do think that bringing together women from all parties to have a discussion is a good idea – maybe not the specific women that were listed and definitely with better representation of all women – because I do think that given the freedom to speak, debate, listen to each other and understand opposing views, women can change the world.