Labour must step up to rid politics of misogyny, says MSP Lennon

The Central Scotland MSP also shared her own experience of having to call police out due to harassment.

Labour must step up to rid politics of misogyny, says MSP Lennon PA Media

A Scottish Labour MSP has urged her party to avoid complacency in ridding politics of “toxic” misogyny ahead of the general election.

Monica Lennon said she has experienced more than her “fair share” of “ugly” social media comments, and previously had to call police to her home over harassment and security fears.

The Central Scotland MSP said politics is underrepresented by talented women because of the “toxic culture”, particularly in local government.

Ms Lennon, who was a councillor in South Lanarkshire before entering Holyrood in 2016, has now urged Labour to avoid complacency in retaining female politicians as the party looks to enter government at Westminster.

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: “Political parties have a huge responsibility here to really clean up the culture in politics because it is toxic and it is really, really hard for women.

“Misogyny is a big problem in our society and institutional misogyny is a real issue. Political parties are very much part of that problem – particularly for parties that are aspiring to win elections and form governments.

“How can we hold public bodies, business and others to account if we don’t clean up our own act?”

Ms Lennon praised her party’s “proud history” of standing up for women’s rights. However, she added: “I think there’s always a risk complacency can creep in.

“Just because we’ve had a strong record in the past of trailblazing policies and getting more women into politics, sometimes within the party you’ll hear people who’ll say ‘oh we’ve done our bit’.

“I’ve seen more examples creeping back in of all-male panels or events where women are very much on the periphery.

Monica Lennon was a local councillor prior to entering Parliament (PA).PA Media

“Maybe that’s a symptom of we’ve got a UK leader who is a man and the Scottish leader is a man and some of our senior spokespeople around finance and economy are men.

“If we’re serious, we need to be thinking well ahead into not just the Westminster election, the Scottish Parliament elections and local government.”

Ms Lennon, who ran for the Scottish Labour leadership against Anas Sarwar in 2021, also spoke of her concerns around social media safety for women – and highlighted women from minority backgrounds face a “greater” influx of abuse.

She said: “Unfortunately, there have been times when I’ve had to take advice from the police, I’ve had to get security advice, I’ve had to have visits to my home.

“There was a time a few years ago where a man had been harassing me in the street, and that escalated.

“He was taken to court and was convicted of a breach of the peace on an aggravated charge.

“That wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was a difficult time. When you come into politics you’re not doing it on your own. You’ve got a team and staff who work with you in your local office and in Parliament. So it’s everybody else’s safety you worry about as well, and of course your family.”

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