Young, working class women need a Labour government – why I am voting for Owen Smith to fight austerity

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Owen Smith

There are a lot of obstacles facing young women in today’s modern Britain. There are, particularly a lot of obstacles facing young women in Tory Britain.

While we have achieved our second female Prime Minister, and the United States puts forward its first female candidate for the Presidency, it feels like the world has, in many ways, regressed for a lot for women – such is particularly true for poorer women, for the women I have grew up with, live with, and struggle alongside.

This Tory government has proved painful and disastrous for many people in this country. But overwhelmingly, disproportionately, it has had a harmful impact women, the services they use and the wages they are paid.

The scandal of unequal pay continues to loom large in modern Britain – exacerbated by a government that talks the talk, yet not only doesn’t walk the walk, but turns in the completely opposite direction.

Wage stagnation, freezes and cuts contribute to, and entrench, that long-known truism that white women earn just 80p to a man’s £1, and that ratio is even more stark for black and minority ethnic (BME) women. This division sets in early, and is carried with us for the rest of our lives. We find it harder to progress in the work place, locked out by male networks. A glass ceiling hangs over our heads as firm as it did when the first Equal Pay Act was introduced by the socially transformative Wilson government.

Fitting as it is with what Owen has been saying about slogans versus real change, pen to paper has not proved the be all and end all for women. We need fleshed out, economically transformative policies that come together to make up a strong, muscled, interventionist government that works to put its money where its mouth is. We need more transparent firms, a stronger commitment among top employers. It is with the interventionist government that Owen is pitching that we can truly be active in implementing legislation that seeks to tackle gender inequality.

Equal pay in a formal sense is just one part of it, however. Austerity permeates every part of a woman’s life, and so Owen’s 20 policies all combine to mitigate the worst effects of the Conservative Government, and empower British women.

We have a government committed to pay cuts in the public sector –where a disproportionate number of women are employed, including my own mother – and casual work that is often taken up by mothers. We have a government that has cut funding for domestic violence refuges. We have a government that actively undermines its rhetoric on gender equality on a cataclysmic scale. And it is the poorest women among us that are affected.

It is, of course, fair to say that Jeremy’s Labour has put forward anti-austerity, economic ideas that would benefit women, and shield them from the malign effects of an austerity that discriminates against them and their chances. We should be anti-austerity. A pro-austerity candidate cannot truly be pro-women. Putting forward that argument has helped us discover that gender equality is dependent on a balanced, investment-based economy that protects our services and acts to protect and defend worker’s rights and wages.

But we need more than that; we need to see those ideas translated into policy, and those policies lead us to government, where we can enact change from the offices that matter. Where we can enact change for women like me.

I was genuinely taken aback at the extent of policy reveal by Owen last week. He announced more policies in an hour speech than I had heard in nine months and, in particular an incredible amount of policy that would help women like myself.

Young women would not only benefit from the commitment to equal pay through forceful and practical means, but also wage councils; a Ministry for Labour to replace a Department for Work and Pensions that targets young and single women, particularly those that rent; the repeal of the Trade Union Act; and a progressive taxation system of which the intrinsic principle of strong redistribution heavily favours women and the young.

The platform itself is incredibly substantive, and for the first time in a very long while, has given me, a woman for whom Labour was founded, hope. Importantly, I was surprised that it was completely costed, and that I could picture it in my head actually being translated into workable policy. This was a vision that could get us elected and hand us the gift of a Labour government. I cannot express that same hope, nine months later, for Jeremy Corbyn.

It is imperative that for young women, and particularly young working class women, we deliver that Labour government, and a Labour government committed to equality. Now, more than ever, for women like me, we need a pro-equality government. It is clear now, and I look upon the overwhelming evidence with incredulity and sadness, that that government cannot come about with Jeremy as our leader, that it can only come about by voting for Owen Smith, and Owen Smith’s radical and practical platform that levels the playing field for all of us.

I need a Labour government, the women in my life need a Labour government, and we need a Labour government committed to strong, economic policies that can erase the damage done in the last six years that affects women like us. I believe Owen can do just that.

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