Two female politicians, Nusrat Ghani MP and Dame Louise Ellman, have spoken of their motivations, challenges and achievements at an online event yesterday.
Dame Louise, interviewed by Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman at the discussion – jointly hosted by the Board of Deputies and the Alliance of Jewish Women and the Organisations – spoke movingly about the “othering” she experienced from members of her own Constituency Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn took over as Labour Leader.
She said: “Things changed for me pretty radically when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. And then what happened was pretty dramatic.”
Initially, Dame Louise suffered personal abuse from crowds of people who descended on Party meetings who took exception to her views on the Middle East. This got to the point where she had to ask police to wait outside because she feared for her safety. Then the tactics changed.
Dame Louise said: “They started the policy of othering me and I suddenly noticed that people just didn’t look at me straight anymore. My name wasn’t used and I was suddenly referred to as the MP, or Mrs Ellman, which I can tell you isn’t the way you talk to your MP in a Labour Party meeting.”
Ms Ghani also suffered at the hands of racists when she was first elected in 2015. She said: “I was my party’s first female, Muslim MP, and I had to realise that for some people that was an abomination and that they just had to spew out their nonsense all the time. And I think I was incredibly anxious about drawing more attention to it, so I did my best to just to keep my head down, ignore a lot of the comments, a lot of the abuse, but then you realise there’s nothing you can do to stop these people. And actually, the more successful you become, the angrier they get. And the greatest impact this had on my life is I have to think twice about my safety, my daughter’s safety and my family’s safety.”
The two MPs also spoke about the greatest influences on their careers. For Dame Louise it was legendary Labour MP Barbara Castle who gave her encouragement to stand for office.
Ms Ghani said her greatest influence was her own mother: “I must just put on record, my respect for my mum. My mum is not an educated woman. No one woman in my family was ever allowed to go to schools, all the women are illiterate. And one of the reasons she brought me to the UK was that she wanted us to have some opportunities in life and be educated. And even then mum still doesn’t understand my job. She always wanted something more and she always wanted us to be empowered. So somehow that must have impacted us and I have a job which, when the time is right, I can empower other women who don’t have a voice.”
Following the meeting, Amanda said: “I want to offer my enormous thanks to Dame Louise Ellman and Nusrat Ghani MP for giving us the time this afternoon to share some of their stories with us. The insights and lessons from their experiences as MPs and women of faith were truly inspirational. Both have had to fight against bigotry and racism; and shown astounding resilience under more than trying circumstances – all the time continuing to ‘get the job done’ for their constituents.”
AJWO Co-Chair Laura Marks gave a vote of thanks to Dame Louise and Ms Ghani, praising their contributions in Parliament.
You can see the whole event here.