Harman wins race for deputy leader of Labour party

// 24 June 2007

Harriet Harman has narrowly won the vote to become deputy leader of the Labour party, reports The Guardian.

Beating Alan Johnson by only 1%, Harman has already pledged to put women at the centre of her agenda.

“I have always tried to be a champion for women and as deputy leader that’s what I will do. It feels like politics has come a long way since I first entered parliament in 1982. Today we have 97 strong Labour women MPs but back then I was one of only 10 Labour women in a parliament of 97% men. With a top leadership team of a man and a woman, Labour once again leads the way.”

But don’t get too excited. Although her predecessor as the deputy leader of the party took on the role of Deputy Prime Minister, it doesn’t look like Gordon Brown is going to follow that particular tradition. The Guardian says:

However, it was not immediately clear if the new leader, Gordon Brown, would make her deputy prime minister when he moves into Downing Street on Wednesday – instead in his speech he pledged to make her Labour party chair in addition to deputy leader.

While The Times is even more forthright, calling the vote an “empty victory”:

Gordon Brown moved quickly to limit her influence as Labour’s new deputy leader, announcing that she would have a party role rather than a top government job, and would not succeed Mr Prescott as Deputy Prime Minister.

Aides said that she would not deputise for Mr Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions, and she is not expected to follow Mr Prescott’s lead by taking charge when Mr Brown goes on holiday.

Overall, it would be a real shame if Brown sidelines Harman. She has consistently supported women’s rights, for example calling for a firm target to end the pay gap by 2020. We will have to wait until the details of Brown’s reshuffle emerge to be sure, but it would be a poor start to his premiership indeed to do this.

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