50% women for Labour’s shadow Cabinet?

Harriet Harman may have ruled herself out of the Labour leadership contest, but she’s certainly not stepping back from influencing the party.

Last week, she called for a change in the rules to ensure an equal 50:50 split of women to men in the shadow Cabinet.

In a speech to the Unite union’s annual conference in Manchester, Harman said it was “time for Labour women to step out of the shadows”.

She said there were now 81 female Labour MPs, more than those in all the other parties put together.

“Labour is the only party in parliament which speaks up for women in this country,” she added.

“We have some excellent experienced women and some brilliant new women MPs. We still do have twice as many men MPs as women. The Labour men are great – but they are not twice as good as the women.”

Harman’s call was backed by Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary. In a tweet sent today, Miliband said: “Very sympathetic to what Harriet has said today on 50% women in shadow cabinet. Will ultimately be a PLP decision, but I will be supporting it .”

Harman has ruled herself out of the Labour leadership race, to the surprise of many observers. Last month, she said she could not run for the position of Labour leader while holding the post of deputy.

Meanwhile, Diane Abbott’s campaign for Labour leadership continues, but she still doesn’t have the support of enough MPs: she is the only woman and only person of colour in the running.