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 A New Magna Carta?

    A New Magna Carta?

    This week the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee launched what it hopes will be a national debate on whether the United Kingdom needs a written constitution. As we approach the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015, the Committee has just published its report entitled A New Magna Carta?. The report aims to inform Parliament and the public of the arguments for and against having a written constitution for this country, which is one of just five […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour has to liberate the working classes from the dead hand of the state

    Labour has to liberate the working classes from the dead hand of the state

    So much has been written about Labour’s problem in reaching out to working class voters and crucially in working class areas. In particular, UKIP’s appeal to parts of this voter segment has stimulated much comment. But, is this a new problem for Labour or one that has existed for a long time? A couple of years ago, Owen Jones made a stark point when he highlighted the fact that 50% of C2 voters (lower working class people) were Labour in […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Local Government For strong and effective Labour local government we need to take the campaign to Labour’s NEC

    For strong and effective Labour local government we need to take the campaign to Labour’s NEC

    Last month I was elected as Labour Leader of the LGA on its highest ever nomination for this position. But if we are to make the case for strong and effective Labour local government we need to take the campaign to the Labour Party NEC.  Like most of you I came into politics to make a difference. I love my family, my town and my party and know that the prospects for all of them are closely inter-related. Oldham, like […]

    Read more →
  • News Yet another Tory social media fail

    Yet another Tory social media fail

    The Tories are going hard on trade unions and strike action today. David Cameron has renewed his promise to crack down on industrial action in next year’s manifesto, and the likes of Boris Johnson and Francis Maude have come out to back him up. But you know that they are really taking it seriously when they make a picture to share on Twitter: This did not exactly go viral. As I’ve already covered today, the Tories have wildly overestimated the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Cameron will shoot himself in the foot with anti-union laws

    Cameron will shoot himself in the foot with anti-union laws

    Last week, we reported that the Tory election fund is likely to be three times as big as Labour’s – and that was before we learned about them auctioning off a tennis match with David Cameron and Boris Johnson for £160,000. While Labour have tried to match that with their own big-name auction last night, the biggest boost to the election machine will probably come today, and from the unlikeliest source: David Cameron. In reaction to today’s huge public sector strike, […]

    Read more →