Monday, 14 September 2009

"Labour needs to be less macho to win women voters"

Guest post by Sally Gimson, who writes in reaction to new Fabian polling on women's attitudes to Labour.

Women would be mad to desert Labour at the very moment when voting Labour will matter most for them.

When the Tories do slash public services, and they are making no secret of the fact that that is their intention, then it will be women who suffer.

It will be the women teachers, nurses, care assistants and administrative staff who will lose their jobs in the first round of cuts.

It will be they that pay the price, not the rich career women whom the Tories are so keen to have as their new MPs, but those women on low and middle incomes.

And when the Tories decide that a minimum wage is no longer affordable in the recession, it will be women who suffer, because shocking though it always is to me when Labour ministers repeat this (because it shows how unequal men and women’s pay is and continues to be) it has been women who have benefited most from the minimum wage.

And what about the women whose husbands and partners leave them? What of the women who end up having to bring up children alone because they have left a violent husband? A Tory government which favours marriage may not be so keen to help them, especially if it wants to reward couples who stay together.

Proposals from Conservative councils for a minimum level of services with everyone having to top up from their own incomes are not going to help women with their childcare, nor fund Sure Start centres. The effect may well be to push mothers back into the kitchen.

It is interesting then to think then about why women do want to vote Tory for the first time in more than a decade.

Of course women see waste in public services: they are often working in them. They experience the rough end of targets; they have felt central Government try to pull levers ever more madly, when it does not really know what those levers operate. They have often had their power to change things on the ground reduced, while their aspirations have been raised. What they do not seem to realise yet is that they will be the first victims of the backlash.

The Tories have been good at talking to women and talking the soft words of a caring society. And the Tories have been helped by a macho Labour Government which has seemed to value clever theoretical schemes in public services, far above the benefits of looking after people, which many women spend much of their private and working lives doing.

If Labour wants to win women back, it has not only to talk about equality, it has to talk to their hearts about their day-to-day lives, about their jobs and their families, about how it values their caring and how it wants to look after them too. But it also has to warn them that the Tories are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Sally Gimson is Labour's PPC for South Leicestershire.


Silent Hunter said...

How about being . . .

Less CORRUPT and more HONEST.

That would be a start.

Oldrightie said...

Mandy macho?

DeeDee99 said...

I'm female; I'm divorced; I'm a single mother; I work in the public sector - and I'll be voting Tory.

Why? Because I have two just about adult sons and I want them to inherit a country worth living in. They won't under Labour.

I don't want them to work all the hours God gives just to suffer from punitive taxes to pay for Labour's profligate spending.

I don't want them to have to work all their lives paying back Gordon Brown's debt and I certainly don't want to give him a chance to make it even worse than he already has.

I don't want them to suffer from discrimination all their working lives - simply because they are male and white (which is what will happen if Harriden Harman gets her way).

And yes, I know my pension may not be so generous and I may have to work to age 65 and I don't care that much. Why should my sons (and other peoples' sons and daughters just starting out in life) pay extortionate taxes just so I can benefit from a generous pension which is denied to non public sector workers since Gordon ruined the pensions system by overtaxing it? I won't be striking!

Sometimes there are things more important than yourself - and in this case, it's my sons.

Oh - and I'd like them to have a Government which doesn't break Manifesto commitments because they might lose the Referendum they promised and which isn't led by a man who blatently and repeatedly lies to the media and the electorate.

The Tories may not be whiter than white - but they can't possibly be as bad as this appalling Government.

Zio Bastone said...

Gendering straw (wo)men in this way is patronising and childish.

When I cut away the waffle and tendentious speculation (ie most of what is said) the general tenor of this post appears to be that women are very stupid and apt to be tempted into danger by wicked Conservative wolves. Therefore New Labour needs to talk less about clever theoretical things such as policy (because women have very small brains) and appeal rather more to their hearts (because women, though dumb as toast, do have very large hearts).

Alix said...

This is absolutely hopeless. How dare you presume to say that women don't like theoretical policy debate and prefer to have our hearts talked to instead. Some women probably do feel like that. Others (like me) don't. This is because we are all individuals. Inequality of the sexes cannot be tackled until collectivists start recognising this simple truth.

I'm also intrigued by the fact that you essentially finish up with a plea to Labour to spin to women more effectively. Did you notice this?

Moreover, the whole article is founded on the premise that public sector cuts are avoidable, and that only the Tories will make them because they are "wolves in sheeps clothing". The general consensus of the moment seems to be that cuts are not avoidable. Your leader is due to say as much today. If you disagree with him I would be pleased to hear why.