Harriet Harman says it’s ‘ridiculous’ the Labour Party has not elected a woman leader

Veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman has said it is “ridiculous” and “embarrassing” that the Labour Party has yet to elect a woman leader. 

Harman, a former deputy leader of the party who has also twice served as acting leader following election defeats, recalled that “The Tories have managed to have two women leaders” — before realising she had forgotten Liz Truss. 

 Asked why Labour has yet to elect a woman leader, Harman said “Tory women are not subversive within the party. They’re not getting into the party in order to change everything about it. 

“Whereas Labour women are more threatening to their male colleagues because we are determined agents of change.” 

She added: “You’re a subversive challenging force as a feminist in the Labour Party. As a woman in the Tory party, you’re not frightening the men. You’re working in collusion with them on their terms and therefore it’s no problem for them to elect you”.

“There should never, ever be decision-making in men-only rooms, unless it’s Keir on his own.”

Harman has twice served as acting Labour leader, first following the party’s defeat at the 2010 election and subsequently after the 2015 election defeat.

In the course of a forty year political career, she is now one of the longest serving women MPs at Westminster.

In December 2021, Harman announced that she planned to stand down from parliament at the next election.

Through the period of 2007-2015, she served as deputy leader of the Labour Party. She has never stood for the leadership. 

Former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett briefly served as Leader of the Opposition and acting leader of the Labour Party following John Smith’s death in 1994.

In the 2020 Labour leadership election, the victorious Keir Starmer bested Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry. 

Angela Rayner emerged as deputy Labour leader. She currently serves as deputy prime minister and shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary. 

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