The government has a blindspot when it comes to women

January 11, 2013 4:44 pm

Maria Miller’s claim that it’s the Conservative Party that’s stood up for woman would be laughable if it weren’t for the bleak situation her government’s created. Time and again, women are being hit hardest by this out of touch Tory-led government.

It is women who are bearing the brunt of the government’s austerity policies. Women who are struggling to make ends meet as cuts begin to bite. And women who are picking up more and more of the pieces.

Last month’s autumn statement saw women hit four times as hard as men by cuts to benefits and tax credits. Lone parents, the vast majority of whom are women, were hit hardest of all. All in all, women are paying three times as much as men to pay down the deficit – £12.1 billion of the £16 billion to be raised by 2014/15.

New mums will be £1300 worse off, thanks to the loss of the health in pregnancy grant, the higher rate of child tax credit for babies under 1 year old, restrictions on the Sure Start maternity grant, and the “mummy tax”, which will cost new mums £180 by 2015.

And while Miller claims proudly that women will benefit from the increase in the personal tax allowance, she neglects to mention that this measure benefits more men than it does women. What’s more, many of the women who do benefit will see those gains more than wiped out by the loss of tax credits and other benefits.

As for unemployment, this has risen much faster among women than men since the general election. A shocking 89% of the rise in long-term unemployment is among women, with older women hit particularly hard. They’ve seen a 20% increase in unemployment since May 2010, compared to less than 1% for everyone else.

Meanwhile the government’s Work Programme – which isn’t even working to get people into jobs as effectively as doing nothing at all would have done – has performed especially poorly for lone parents.

But it’s not just economically that the government is failing women. Women’s safety has been compromised by a series of cuts and poor decisions.

A 31% cut in funding for refuges and specialist advice is threatening the safety of women fleeing or at risk of domestic and sexual violence. Services for vulnerable women are at risk.

Public transport staff are being cut – so women feel less safe travelling alone, or waiting at lonely stations.

Even the street lights are being switched off to save money, leaving women feeling more unsafe when walking home at night.

Perhaps though it’s no wonder women are served so poorly by the ConDem government – there are so few women members of it. Just 4 out of 25 members of David Cameron’s cabinet are women. After his last reshuffle , we were left with even fewer women members than before. 5 of the government’s ministerial teams have no women members at all.

So it’s risible for Miller to defend the government’s record on promoting women. Her suggestion that Labour women shadow cabinet members are there as “window dressing”, meanwhile, is a crass and frankly indefensible insult to the talent and ability of Labour’s senior women. Perhaps instead Miller should reflect on the fact that there are more Labour women MPs than all the other parties put together. The Conservatives could learn a lot by looking at our example.

But in the end, we have to ask: do the Conservatives really care about any this? Just over 12 months ago, a leaked number 10 memo admitted the government had a problem with women. A year on, and they’ve apparently learned nothing. At a Downing Street press conference earlier this week, Cameron and Clegg presented their midterm review of the government’s “achievements”. Tellingly, not a single woman journalist present was invited to ask a question . The reality was plain to see: there’s a blindspot when it comes to women.

Kate Green is the Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston

  • NT86

    “Perhaps instead Miller should reflect on the fact that there are more
    Labour women MPs than all the other parties put together. The
    Conservatives could learn a lot by looking at our example.”

    Er that’s what happens when you pursue electoral policies like all-women shortlists. Given the calibre of the “Blair Babes”, you can’t exactly knock the Tories about their female representation.

    I’m not a fan of Maria Miller and I do think this government’s policies are bad for women (and men for that matter), but using a partisan line like that just debases the purpose of this article.

    Except for Mo Mowlam and Clare Short, I struggle to remember any other worthwhile female cabinet members during the Labour government. That said, there’s not much ability as far as the current Tory women cabinet members are concerned either.

  • Alexwilliamz

    Comparing the two front benches says all you need to know.

  • Winston_from_the_Ministry

    “Her suggestion that Labour women shadow cabinet members are there as “window dressing”, meanwhile, is a crass and frankly indefensible insult to the talent and ability of Labour’s senior women.”

    You wouldn’t need AWSs if it was indefensible, would you?

  • uglyfatbloke

    We might quibble about the details, but the thrust of the article is totally sound…and of course here are plenty of talented women in the PLP, but they don’t always get the sort of support and opportunities that they deserve and that the party should be making the best possible use of…OTH we do hear rather a lot from Margaret Curran, but nobody seems to know why.

Latest

  • Comment Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Cutting Trident will be the price of support in a hung parliament. That’s the news reported from a meeting of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green leaders this week. With Labour’s slim lead and the SNP and Green vote threatening to impact on its share, this is a serious issue. Labour’s policy clearly states, ‘Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a clear body […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Lord Ashcroft has told him he shouldn’t have done it in 2010. Lynton Crosby has told him not to do it in 2015. It’s no surprise that David Cameron is trying to wriggle out of televised leader debates during the General Election – even though he has said he is willing to take part “in principle”. Time perhaps to dust off one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite barbs “He’s frit.” Neil Kinnock tried it in 1992 to try to goad John Major into […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    By Stephen Timms MP and Ian Murray MP The Christmas period reminds us that modern life can be busy, hurried and demanding. The pressures of work, demands of family life and hectic Christmas schedules can prove stretching as we juggle competing demands. Increasingly the need for flexible work is driven by the complex shape of people’s lives; as parents go to work, struggle to make ends meet, perform career roles, take their children to school and activities and try and carve […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    As the start of the long campaign begins today, curbing the amount of money parties can spend between now and May 7th, Labour MP Jon Ashworth has sought to clarify what precautions are being taken to ensure publicly-funded government advisers are not using their time campaigning. Ashworth has sent a letter to senior civil servant Jeremy Heywood, asking him to answer a number of questions about what kind of campaigning activity was permitted and undertaken by special advisers (SpAds) in […]

    Read more →
  • News Berger asks Twitter to do more to stop use of racist words

    Berger asks Twitter to do more to stop use of racist words

    Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister for Public Health, has called on Twitter to do more the stop racist terms being used on the site. Berger has herself faced a large amount of anti-semitic abuse on the site, and in October Garron Helm  was jailed for sending her a torrent of anti-semitic messages. Berger told the Telegraph (£): “At the height of the abuse, the police said I was the subject of 2,500 hate messages in the space of three days using […]

    Read more →