A Call to the Labour Representation Committee on Abortion and LGBT rights

May 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm (abortion, Galloway, labour party, left, LGBT, TWP)

This is re-posted from my blog Unknown Conscience at Volty’s request:

As my good blog readers will know, I have been out of blog land for the last few months due to a very heavy workload at university. I came back to discover that Andy Newman at Socialist Unity Blog – a blog I refuse to link to because of the behaviour of its moderator and a blog that I refuse to read – had launched an attack on me and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) for my continued and principled oppsosition to George Galloway’s horrible position and record on abortion rights. He attacked me claiming that a conversation that I had in the comments section with people on Liam MacUaid’s blog meant that I was being a hypocrite for criticising Galloway because David Drew, an LRC affiliated MP, had a rubbish record on abortion rights as well. These were comments that I made months ago as anyone who knows me will know that I haven’t written anything on the abortion issue for some time. I had not known who David Drew was previously but Andy pointed out that he had a horrible record on abortion rights and LGBT rights.

“Fair enough” was my reply and I then said that I would raise it and speak with the LRC about it – and I did. I had informal conversations with a number of members over the last few months about what we should do about the issue and am now making a public appeal through the LRC women’s organisation, the Left Women’s Network (LWN), to release a statement about the 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs who voted to reduce the time limit and also voted in favour of a proposal which would make it impossible for single women and lesbians to have IVF treatment.

This is something that would have come about regardless but for Andy Newman scoring cheap shots by brow beating me for not knowing who David Drew was all those months ago, calling me a “liar” for pointing out that he did not include my original response in his attack on me and now attacking me once again for an article I wrote defending the Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) organisation from the Stop the War Coalition last year are more important than having a civil discussion and work rather well to deflect attention from the record of his own MP over which he and his orgainsation have full control, George Galloway.

I have been consistent in my call for MPs to be held to account. Andy Newman has been all over the place on his blog about women’s rights, sexism and LGBT rights. Far from creating “left unity” his blog does nothing but divide the ranks of those who should be working together. Hold your MP to account Respect Renewal – don’t allow an opt out for women’s rights!

Here is a letter I wrote yesterday to members of the Left Women’s Network:

Hello Sisters and Comrades,

Many thanks to all of you who worked so very had to ensure that the right wing was not able to push women’s rights further backward with the recent prosposed amendments on to the Human Fertalisation and Embryology Bill. However sisters, I am afraid that there is an elephant in the room with the results that we need to address urgently. Of the 9 affiliated LRC MPs 3 voted to oppose keeping the 24 week time limit. These were Bob Wareing, David Hamilton and David Drew. The first two voted for a reduction to 22 weeks with David Drew voting for a reduction to 12 weeks. Further, the 3 aformentioned MPs voted in favour of a proposed amendment to deny IVF treatment to lesbian couples and single women.

While it may be difficult to do, we must be openly critical of these MPs. The Left Women’s Network is seen as the women’s section of the LRC. We would be completely remiss to not say a word about the votes of MPs who we are affiliated with. In light of this, I propose the Left Women’s Network adopt the following as a matter of urgency and print it as a matter of public record on our website:

*The Left Women’s Network understands that 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs did not vote in favour of maintaining the 24 week time limit to ensure safe and legal abortions for women

*That 1 LRC affiliated MP voted in support of a reduction to 12 weeks – something that would in effect make abortion illegal for many women

*That, in addition, the 3 aforementioned MPs also voted against the right of lesbian and single women to have IVF treatment by supporting the amendment calling for “a father” to subsitute “supportive parenting”

*That given that the LWN believes women’s rights and LGBT rights are not secondary to other political positions such as racism or war

*That as the women’s affiliate to the LRC we must address that this has occurred

*That the Left Women’s Network will post our opposition to these votes publicly on our website

*That we call on the LRC as an organisation to publicly state its opposition to the positions of these LRC affiliated MPs

*That we submit this to the LRC NC for immediate discussion at its next meeting

I hope that LWN is going to be the kind of organisation that not only fights for women’s rights, but is able to be critical of our allies when they have taken the wrong position. Too often abortion rights and LGBT rights are seen as simply “matters of conscience” but the reality is sisters, that war, racism and discrimination are all “matters of conscience” and we do not allow our political allies “opt out” clauses on these issues. This is an extension of the false belief in the distinction between the “private” and “public” sphere and we must reject the Victorian notion that these issues are somehow outside of the realm of “real politics”. Our sisters in the 1970s taught us that “the personal is the political” and I believe that this is in fact still the case. We must ensure that we address these issues both inside and outside of our movement in order to have a strong socialist feminist organisation in the coming months and years.

Comradely and in Sisterhood,

Tami Peterson

You will see no such letter from Andy, Liam or anyone else in Respect Renewal about George Galloway – that’s because although they have the power to hold him to account, they prefer to allow him the ability to opt out on women’s rights. Some of us are consistent with our principles and if that is something that others want to continue to attack me for then that must mean I am doing something right. I will continue to fight until women’s rights are not seen as “optional” or “secondary”. It’s a fight worth undertaking – both inside and outside the left and one that I hope we will eventually win.


  1. modernityblog said,

    TWP, very interesting and principled

    I had been following part of the debate at SU (I am an avid reader), but originally couldn’t make out where Newman’s accusations came from, now that’s clarified with Tami’s post.

    I think this issue draws out at least three points 1) the importance of women’s right 2) control of political representatives 3) destructive tactics

    1. with the profound weakness of the Left in Britain, the rise of religious groupings and the general shift to the right, there is a serious encroachment on women’s rights. There are concerted efforts to roll back the gains of the past 40 years and indifference or political ambivalence will allow that to take place.

    the Left is well aware of the varied debates which have gone on in the past 40 years, and should make strenuous efforts at unity on these issues, if that doesn’t happen then the Right to succeed and after shifting the tone of the debate they will seek to implement restrictive laws on women’s bodies and more broadly on equality.

    2. until comparably recently it was fairly well accepted that representatives should be ( or often are, as in union delegates ) mandated to vote certain ways according to their political groupings policies. The obvious reason for having this approach, is it is silly to have an elected representative who votes the way they want, that is at variance with the policies of the organisation they belong to.

    that does not, however, mean that every representative is forced to vote absolutely the way their political grouping mandates on every single issue, but rather on key issues it is fair to expect that the representative follows policy and principle, rather than doing whatever they please whenever they please.

    if the elected representatives can do whatever they want whenever they want there is little point in these political organisations having policies, as the political representatives will ignore them when they choose, which negates the purpose of the policies in the first place.

    3. I had high hopes for the Socialist Unity blog, once, there was often a varied and interesting discussion to be had, but no longer, now it is the fiefdom of Andy Newman.

    nowadays SU blog is used as an expression of Newman’s eccentric political views and to settle petty scores.

    none of this should come as a surprise to us, Newman was an SWP party hack for nearly 20 years and whilst he may have thrown away their politics for some replacement retro Stalinism, the methods that he learnt under the SWP’s tutelage are still with him.

    I say, don’t expect anything from him, absolutely anything.

    Newman works on the basis of ‘ends justify the means’, and at the moment that means sucking up to George Galloway, so in the process if Newman has to attack fellow socialists to save Galloway’s political skin that’s precisely what he’ll do.

    it is destructive and utterly counterproductive, but Newman doesn’t care particularly

    Newman has shown himself to be an incredibly immature individual, often slow witted, erratic and frequently embodying the worst facets of the Left in Britain.

    He will stitch together any old fallacious argument to suit his purpose, Newman will misrepresent basic facts, play fast and loose with evidence and ingratiate himself to those in political power.

    That was his political culture for 20+ years and Newman hasn’t changed much since.

  2. martin ohr said,

    Mod has it right on Newman; of course if you are a member of the swp then there are properly clever people working away in the background at coming up with theory to backup the latest oppurtunistic turn.

    The attack on TWP was classic socialisty unity; newman and respect renewal were under pressure -not so much because Galloway was not voting but because socialist unity, hoveman/ovenden et al and the ISG had done fuck all to either put public pressure on galloway or to make public propaganda for the respect position: the ISG edit the respect newspaper they could have at least had a couple of pro-choice articles- the response was to attack the rest of the left and in particular a woman activist.

    It’s also worth noting that the position of galloway colours the enthusiasm that the rest of respect have for any particular campaign -women in the lrc and awl comrades had spent hundreds of hours doing the leg work to build the protest and lobby wavering mps- respect renewal could have helped with this but chose not to.

    Still at least on the day we won and it’s pleasing to think of galloway holed up in his office in the palace of westminster unwilling to come out until the last division had ended.

  3. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Thanks for posting this Tami;

    I just don’t quite get why he suddenly fixated on what you wrote in a blog comments box, months ago. It seems to me bizarre that it wasn’t mentioned (at least, not that I noticed) right up until the vote, and then all of a sudden he was going on and on about it. Indeed, he even went as far as to bring it up in a thread on Liberal Conspiracy, where many of the readers will have been wondering who on earth he was talking about. Very, very strange…

  4. gene wolff said,

    freedom of press is why we are all equal on the internet. Go canucks

  5. ping said,

    shiraz is my name!!! stop offending me

  6. Rundown said,

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Rundown!!

  7. Why I won’t be voting for Labour’s David Drew or joining the facebook group attacking him | Hynd's Blog said,

    […] are a list of other concerns I have with David which include the ones listed above (he is reported to have wanted the abortion limit to be brought down from 24 weeks to 12 weeks!). For me though, one of my central concerns are his views on the EU that put him so far on the […]

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