The Labour Party in Blackpool: First woman elected in union vote for NEC

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER sex barrier in the Labour movement was broken yesterday as Judith Church, an official with the Manufacturing Science Finance union, became the first woman to be elected in her own right to the union section of the National Executive Committee.

The 4,743,000 votes for Ms Church, 39, and the 4,586,000 for the MSF sponsored MP Hilary Armstrong, elected to the NEC women's section, are also further signs that the union, once the preserve of the communist Ken Gill, has come in from the cold. Roger Lyons, who took over as general secretary three weeks ago, is much nearer the centre.

Ms Church, the union's national health and safety officer since 1986, said: 'I am very pleased. I think it demonstrates the MSF has been welcomed back into the Labour Party fold.'

But while yesterday's results enable MSF to tap into two NEC places, party activists for women saw a greater victory in Ms Church's outright election to the committee, as opposed to a place in the women's section. It comes a year before a rule change insisting that two out of the 12 union NEC members must be women.

Ms Church said yesterday: 'This is a very clear sign of the way that the Labour Party is moving.'

The two women's victories could be significant - and are certainly symbolic - for other reasons.

A union spokesman said: 'MSF represents professional and skilled workers. They are precisely the kind of voters Labour needs to win the next election. They are represented heavily in the South - and that is the key constituency Labour needs most.'

Ms Armstrong, formerly a front-bench education spokeswoman, was appointed parliamentary private secretary to John Smith, the Labour leader, in July. Before becoming MP for Durham North West in 1987, she chaired the North East Regional Council of ASTMS, which merged in 1988 to form MSF, and was the union representative on Labour's northern regional executive. Her other political interests are development of manufacturing industry and regional policy.

Ms Church, a former Health and Safety Executive inspector, was a parliamentary candidate for Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in the last election and in 1989-90 chaired Hornsey & Wood Green Labour Party, a key marginal won by Labour in April.

The national executive constituency section results, with last year's placings in brackets were:

1 Neil Kinnock 533,000 (-); 2 David Blunkett 531,000 (1); 3 Gordon Brown 523,000 (-); 4 John Prescott 446,000 (4); 5 Robin Cook 426,000 (2); 6 Tony Blair 387,000 (-); 7 Tony Benn 354,000 (6).

Women's section: 1 Joan Lestor MP (Eccles) 5,152,000 (2); 2 Clare Short MP (Birmingham Ladywood) 5,062,000 (4); 3 Diana Jeuda (Usdaw) 5,049,000 (3); 4 Hilary Armstrong MP (Durham NW and MSF) 4,986,000 (-); 5 Brenda Etchells (AEU) 3,695,000 (5).

Trade Union Section: 1 Dan Duffy (TGWU) 4,812,000 (-); 2 Bill Connor (Usdaw) 4,780,000 (4); 3 Charlie Kelly (Ucatt) (-); 4 Tom Sawyer (Nupe) 4,769,000 (3); 5 Gordon Colling (GPMU) (2) and Vernon Hince (RMT) (1) 4,745,000; 7 Judith Church (MSF) 4,743,000 (-); 8 Tony Clarke (UCW) (5); 9 David Ward (NCU-ENG) 4,706,000 (9); 10 Nigel Harris (AEU) 4,651,000 (6); 11 Richard Rosser (TSSA) 3,972,000 (7); 12 Kolm O'Kane (Cohse) 3,333,000 (8).

(Photograph omitted)

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