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‘Don’t privatise children’s nurseries’ campaigners tell Labour’s Tower Hamlets women’s election manifesto launch

PUBLISHED: 13:03 09 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 09 March 2018

MP Rushanara Ali (centre) with the mayor and Labour women candidates launching their own manifesto for Tower Hamlets council elections. Picture: Mike Brooke

MP Rushanara Ali (centre) with the mayor and Labour women candidates launching their own manifesto for Tower Hamlets council elections. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Women have stolen the march by launching their election manifesto for Labour before the party’s official campaign later this month in the race to control Tower Hamlets Council.

Smartphone cameras in hand... the audience at St Margaret's House for Labour's Tower Hamlets women's election manifesto. Picture: Mike BrookeSmartphone cameras in hand... the audience at St Margaret's House for Labour's Tower Hamlets women's election manifesto. Picture: Mike Brooke

Around half Labour’s 45 candidates for the May 3 local election are women who entered the ring last night to set their agenda ahead of the official party manifesto.

They want action to get more women into work, with only six-out-of-10 having jobs compared to eight-out-of-10 men.

Members of Labour’s own women’s forum turned up for last night’s launch at St Margaret’s House in Bethnal Green waving leaflets at the mayor declaring “Save our nurseries—not for sale” following the privatisation controversy and cuts to funding.

Women's forum campaign officer Louise O’Hare at the manifesto launch. Picture: Mike BrookeWomen's forum campaign officer Louise O’Hare at the manifesto launch. Picture: Mike Brooke

“We are fighting to stop privatising nurseries,” The forum’s campaign officer Louise O’Hare told the East London Advertiser at the launch. “Public consultation has shown 85 per cent of the people are against privatising.

“We are not happy with the manifesto as it stands—it should have commitment not to privatise local authority nurseries.

“We want the mayor to make it clear before May’s election that he’s not going to sell off our nurseries.”

Lobbying at Labour Party women's manifesto launch for a halt to privatising Tower Hamlets council nurseries. Picture: Mike BrookeLobbying at Labour Party women's manifesto launch for a halt to privatising Tower Hamlets council nurseries. Picture: Mike Brooke

The current Labour administration at the town hall was reviewing the services for the under-fives and “looking at all options”, mayor John Biggs said. It runs six nurseries while 60 East End primary schools have nursery classes.

He promised the all-female audience: “We are working on affordable childcare and wages for care workers—there’s a whole bunch of things we need to do when we talk about employment.”

The mayor supported the manifesto as a commitment to get more women into work by expanding childcare and work training, but stressed there wasn’t full equality yet.

Labour's Cllr Rachael Blake... Labour's Cllr Rachael Blake... "Still so many barriers facing women." Picture: Mike Brooke

He told the Advertiser: “We live in a patriarchal society where historically men have called the shots. We should be more equal in a society that listens to the entire community rather than just half.”

Barriers remain facing those wanting to go out to work, council cabinet member Rachael Blake told the launch. She wanted to mobilise the anger about inequality in the run-up to May’s council elections.

She said: “Our optimism has to be driven by an anger about the barriers women are still facing. We have to channel that anger into optimism and energy to tackle those barriers.”

Labour was supporting women entrepreneurs, she pointed out, and urging employers into flexible working to get more women into work.

“One of the barriers is childcare,” Cllr Blake added. “There are 14,000 women in the East End who say they would go to work if they had childcare.”

The full manifesto isn’t being unwrapped until later this month, but the women’s “short version” notes that only 60pc of women are able to work compared to 78pc of men, with half the non-working mothers saying they would get jobs if they had affordable childcare.

The women’s manifesto also includes making the East End safer, with 97 per cent of “interpersonal violence” victims listed in Tower Hamlets crime statistics being female.

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