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Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
'Do more', Harman urges Labour
Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman wants Labour to keep women's votes
The former cabinet minister, Harriet Harman, has said that Labour needs to do more to attract women voters

In an interview with the On the Record programme on BBC1 on Sunday, Ms Harman said that at the moment the feeling was that schools and hospitals had not changed much since Labour came to power.

Ms Harman has joined a growing list of former ministers who have complained that the government is not doing enough to improve public services.

She said that women in particular expected schools and hospitals to improve - and despite what ministers were telling them, their experience was that more needed to be done.

Labour now has an historic opportunity to become the natural party of women

Harriet Harman

Ms Harman said that the Labour party itself could do more to attract women voters by reforming itself - she suggested a change in the party constitution to guarantee a woman being either leader or deputy leader.

She calls for a three-person leadership team of one leader and two deputies, one of whom must be a woman. She also wants women-only shortlists for parliamentary candidates to be allowed.

An earlier Labour scheme for such shortlists was dropped after being ruled unlawful.

'Female-friendly policies'

Ms Harman calls for a three-person leadership team of one leader and two deputies, one of whom must be a woman.

In a Fabian Society pamphlet called The Winning For Women - written with Deborah Mattinson, director of Opinion Leader Research - she outlined a 15-point action plan for Labour to make itself the natural choice for women voters.

Alongside specifically female-friendly policies, such as increased maternity pay and leave and help with childcare, the pamphlet calls for a renewed emphasis on the "bread and butter issues", such as schools and hospitals.

"Labour now has an historic opportunity to become the natural party of women - just as the Democrats have been for many years in the US," she said.

In her On the Record interview, Ms Harman said women who had always voted Tory opted for Labour in 1997 because they wanted better schools and shorter hospital waiting lists.


"They're judging from their own experience, and that's why they feel more needs to be done," she said.

"So far it still feels a bit too much of the same."

A Labour spokesman said the government had done more to improve the lives of women than any other before it.

"Labour is putting money in women's purses and making balancing their busy lives easier, though we would all like the pace of change to be faster," he said.

"We welcome any contribution that will help Labour continue to develop the best policies for women - the real debate about the women's agenda is taking place in the Labour Party."

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