Nona Buckley-Irvine, who was the town’s Constituency Labour Party (CLP) women’s officer and its agent for the general election earlier this year, has described how an original discussion of her motion by party members in the summer descended into a ‘shouting match’.
In a public blog post, she argued that holding branch meetings in a drinking establishment can create an ‘incredibly toxic atmosphere’ and put women off from attending.
Following the positive reaction to her comments, Ms Buckley-Irvine plans to resubmit her motion to ban alcoholic drinks from Crawley CLP meetings in order to promote an inclusive atmosphere.
She explained: “I felt it was important to share my experiences because while the CLP as a whole is inclusive and welcoming, the dominance of some individuals can mean that the positive atmosphere is tarnished in the ways that I have outlined, and women in particular may feel less welcome.
“There has been an exceptionally positive response from many new members, and I’m aware that it has now been discussed by the EC [Executive Committee] and an action plan is being considered.”
In response to the original blog post, Peter Lamb, Labour leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: “I was present at the meetings referred to in the blog.
“It’s fair to say they were uncharacteristically heated and, while I would disagree with a number of assertions made in the post, I can understand why the author felt hurt and I’m sorry about that.
“We’re an inclusive party and various steps have been taken since early June to avoid a future meeting playing out the same way.”
Duncan Crow, leader of the Conservative opposition group at the council, called Ms Buckley-Irvine ‘brave’ for speaking out and argued ‘having alcohol-fuelled meetings makes for bad-decision making’.
He added: “The equivalent Conservative meetings in Crawley have no alcohol, not because it is banned but because no one has ever wanted to drink.
“She is correct that since 2014 when Labour gained political control of Crawley Borough Council, not one female councillor has ever been appointed to the council’s Cabinet.
“It has always been seven men. In the same time period, I have always had female councillors in my shadow Cabinet and I currently have two.”