Six ways Labour can win with women in 2015

September 19, 2013 2:50 pm

So Labour Women’s Conference is this Saturday, and there’s one event that has caught my eye. It’s the very first session, called ‘Women in Tough Times’ and it’s an “open mic policy discussion to explore what our policy priorities should be for women facing a cost of living crisis”.

Setting Labour Women’s policy agenda has never been so important. Labour has captured the female vote, according to a recent Ipsos Mori poll: as it stands, Labour has a 13 point lead over the Tories among women, and a higher percentage of women than men would vote Labour tomorrow.

Labour is reaching out to women – and women are listening. But a Sun YouGov poll today highlights how tenuous Labour’s lead with the ladies is. If we want to keep female voters on board, we need to get Labour policies right for women. Here are six manifesto commitments Labour Women could call for to win women’s votes in 2015, in no particular order:

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1. Make women safer online-  Since Caroline Criardo-Perez took Twitter to task over rape threats on the site, it’s become clear that women want better protection from sexual harrassment, intimidation and threats online. Women need to feel safe to make mistakes, voice opinions and post public profiles online without facing a torrent of abuse. Labour needs to respond to this and show it’s listening to women’s voices, by pledging to regulate social media and news sites, set up anti-trolling helplines or give police more powers to crack down on sexism and sexual threats online.

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2. Affordable childcare “Labour needs a childcare revolution,” MP Meg Hillier said earlier this year. She’s absolutely right; childcare costs have spiralled out of control.  A Mumsnet poll shows 17% of parents have to borrow money to pay nursery bills. 37% say they spend as much on childcare as they do on mortgage repayments. An affordable childcare policy would play well to female voters. Childcare issues affect both parents, but expensive nursery costs hit women particularly hard. Thanks to the pay gap, working mums end up spending a bigger proportion of their salary on childcare than men do. High nursery costs hit single parents even harder –  and 90% of these are women.

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3. Equal pay   The pay gap is narrowing, but women still earn around 10% less than men. In 2012, CMI reported that male managers earn a basic salary of £40,325, compared with £30,265 for their female counterparts. Labour needs to pledge to tackle the pay gap if it wants to win women’s hearts. A Labour government could require companies to publish anonymised pay data to employees, or set up fast-track tribunals for women who want to contest their pay. Labour could set up a gender pay review and promise to implement its recommendations. The pay gap means women will struggle more than men with inflating food, housing and energy prices. That’s why Labour need to reach out to women in work and pledge to tackle the 10% pay gap that squeezes women’s finances during the recession.

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4. Better maternity care A maternity health policy will play well with parents everywhere. We could pledge to shut down unsafe maternity wards, like Whipps Cross in East London, and establish new ones to cope with Britain’s increased birth rate. Or we could promise pregnant women access to a named midwife, or better antenatal classes, on the NHS – sending a small, but symbolic, signal that Labour will support them when they need it most.

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5. Better miscarriage care. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, but miscarriage care in the UK is woefully poor. AMumsnet survey found only 14% of miscarrying women rated NHS treatment they received as ‘excellent’, and 27% rated it as abysmal or near abysmal. Of the women who needed surgery, 35% had to wait over four days. And nearly half the women who miscarried were put in wards next to new mothers, adding insult to injury. An Ipsos Mori poll this week shows 42% of women say Labour leads on NHS issues, compared to 13% who trust the Conservatives on health, so it’s right that Labour leads on women’s health and pledges to improve miscarriage care.

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6. Pledge not to cut more public sector jobs Women are more likely to work in the public sector (In  2012, 22% of women’s jobs were in the public sector compared to 12% of men.) As Vera Baird QC has argued, “Public service cuts impact disproportionately on women in two ways. Not only are jobs lost but they are jobs in which employment, equality rights and flexibility are far more part of the culture and less contested than in business. In short, they are the kind of jobs that make it easier for women to work.”). Women are also more likely to use public services. So by pledging not to cut the public sector further, Labour could make women’s lives better across the board.

  • Redshift1

    Whilst I don’t want to knock it entirely because it isn’t that I think you’re wrong per se, and I’m also not a woman but points 2-6 strike me as about 10 times more important than point 1?

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