Election called: What About Women?

// 6 April 2010

Well as you’ll no doubt have heard, the election was called today and will be held on May 6th as expected. In the run up to the big day, Fawcett have been doing some really interesting campaigning tracking the policies of the main parties and how they pan out for women.

Polling carried out for Fawcett shows that whilst 73% of voters want spending policies that don’t disproportionately disadvantage women, still 44% of all voters and 49% of female voters think women’s views are not being properly considered on key election issues, particularly those related to tax and spend.


Their ‘What About Women?‘ campaign sets out a series of key themes, including briefing sheets with background on those issues, and then feature the parties’ answers to the questions.

They also produced this handy briefing on economic issues for budget week (yes, I am behind on my blogging…!) which is worth reproducing:

So what do we think so far?

We are still very concerned that as yet none of the parties has committed to undertaking a gender impact assessment of the budget/ deficit cutting plans. If elected to government, this will not only be key to ensuring that women are not unequally disadvantaged, it will also be a requirement under the gender equality duty. We will be pressing all the parties on this point, especially at the time when failure to do this could see a backwards move for many women’s equality; particularly the most vulnerable.

In terms of the particular parties’ answers on the economy to date, all had positive and negative points. Here are some of them:


Good – proposed pension reforms that mean carers will now qualify for a basic state pension, narrowing the gap in pension entitlement between women and men and progressive tax proposals (e.g. higher rates for higher earners) which support greater economic equality for women.

Could do better – no commitment to restore link between earnings and state pensions, a commitment to “half the deficit fairly” is not enough detail on how they would guard against disproportionately impacting women. They talk a lot about what they have done but not enough about what next.


Good – propose to restore the link between earnings and state pensions which would increase income of those women who have pensions, commitment to retain some benefits that women rely on including child benefit

Could do better – their proposals to only make companies do gender pay audits once found guilty of pay discrimination won’t stop it happening in the first place and offering respite services to carers is not enough, given their economic contribution. They don’t even mention their policy to introduce a marriage tax allowance which Fawcett would not support for a wide range of reasons.


Good – A more progressive tax system that would benefit women who are more likely to be in lower paying jobs and they support mandatory equal pay audit for all but the smallest companies.

Could do better – Same problem as the Conservatives in not doing more to recognise carers’ contributions by, for example, ensuring they are credited in their pensions for their contributions to the economy. Their commitment to “hardwire fairness” doesn’t tell us how they will ensure women employees and users of key public services will not bear the brunt of any cuts.

More detail on these answers and answers from other political parties are available here.

Comments From You

Lisa // Posted 12 April 2010 at 11:38 pm

Hi Lynne,

Nice concise round-up of main parties, thank you!

Since this was written, I believe Cameron spoke to the Catholic Church about lowering the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks at the same time as allowing faith schools to opt out of teaching sex education…interesting approach to tackling Britain’s rate of teenage pregnancy which (the highest in Europe)!!

Reader’s thoughts?

Elmo // Posted 13 April 2010 at 12:15 pm

Thats what I always disliked about Cameron, he seemed kinda sneaky, not mentioning this, not wanting to talk about that, always seemed a bit slimy to me, sucking up to the church, trying to be down wit da yoof…ach, i dont know…

If politicians put *all* their policies, even the ones people hated, on the front page of their manifestos, there wouldnt be this feeling of mistrust, and they could say “look. you may not like this, but its what we want to do, we believe its good for you, so deal with it”

Having said that, I still wouldn’t vote Tory.

The fact that Cameron wants to lower the abortion limit and have opt out sex ed. means he surely cares more about pleasing institutions and less about women?

Jessie // Posted 13 April 2010 at 2:51 pm

‘What about the women?’

What are you moaning about… we have the leaders wives. They represent us. Why on earth do we need to increase the amount of women in parliament?


Kristin // Posted 13 April 2010 at 3:33 pm

Well, the Tories are still clearly stuck fast in the Victorian/Edwardian era. No change there. And neither me, my mother nor any female members in our family will be voting Labour after they targeted so many women with their deeply nasty little postcard the other week. I don’t expect Gordon or Andy Burnham to apologize for that, because given that they could come up with such a contemptible stunt in the first place means they obviously lack any sense of decency or what’s appropriate, so they won’t even think they have done anything wrong.

And the Lib dems, just more waste of space.

If voting in a general election was compulsory in the UK like it is in Australia, I’d be looking at jail time because I don’t want to vote for any of these worthless tossers. I hate all their lies and bullshit in my face every time I switch on the telly or go online or pick up a newspaper, and all those lies and bullshit costing so much money which could be so much better spent.

Jeff // Posted 13 April 2010 at 3:45 pm

I think in Australia there’s a “Protest Vote” option on the ballot paper, no?

Just reading through the Labour party manifesto now, not found anything optimistic re. women so far!

Ally // Posted 13 April 2010 at 6:53 pm

If you google conservative marriage tax explained there is a hilarious piece of viral from the lib dems-not that I’d suggest anyone vote for them, but it is quite funny.

Jeff // Posted 13 April 2010 at 7:14 pm


Or just copy-paste that link.

Juliet // Posted 13 April 2010 at 8:05 pm

Kristin, exactly. And Jeff, even if there’s a protest vote option on the ballot form that still means you still have to vote, duhh.

Jeff // Posted 13 April 2010 at 9:44 pm

“And Jeff, even if there’s a protest vote option on the ballot form that still means you still have to vote, duhh.”

Duhh. I just thought it was a little totalitarian to imprison people for not voting, and was wondering whether or not my impressions of there being a protest vote option were true.

Finished reading the Labour manifesto. I was a little worried by…

1) The complete lack of any mention of abortion and maintaining the current limits (rather than restricting them further re. the Conservatives).

2) The terminology with which the manifesto outlines it’s plans for equal pay:

“We will encourage employers to

make greater use of pay reviews

and equality checks to eliminate

unfair pay gaps, including

inequalities in pay between men

and women.”

Encouragement has been proven time and again to be no bloody use. Enforcement is what is needed.

3) Bragging about how “rape convictions have increased by more than 50%” when the reality is that that 50% increase amounts to less than a 5% increase of totaly rapes resulting in conviction.

But, I rather liked…

1) The promise to “tackle causes” of rape, as opposed to blame the victims.

2) Reduce the number of women (plus young and mentally ill people) in prison. Though honestly, I’d rather a focus on less people in prison full stop, whatever their age/gender/health.

3) Double the annual UK contributions to the UN Women’s Agency. Though, I stress that I can’t actually find out what the current contribution is, so that could still be an innapropriatly low number.

Ally // Posted 13 April 2010 at 10:53 pm

The problem with allowing an abortion at the point where it would be possible to save the baby is that there is no reason not to save the baby once the pregnancy has been aborted. In fact, it is effectively born. The woman has her physical autonomy back, but the baby may end up disabled and a great deal of resources would have to be spent saving unwanted babies, who would frequently have to go through the care system. Alternatively, we have to accept that the life of a baby whose mother doesn’t want it is worth less than the life of a baby (in the same condition) as a baby whose mother does, despite the fact that the costs of keeping the baby alive are in both cases paid for by the NHS. Alternatively, we have to accept that a disabled child who must go through the adoption process automatically has a life not worth living or at least not worth saving. Since none of those options are palatable, the only politically viable option is to reduce the age at which abortion can take place. i’d be genuinely interested to see how the pro-life side would deal with that knotty problem without resorting to one of the above arguments. Assuming 24 weeks is a viable age.

Jeff // Posted 13 April 2010 at 11:09 pm

Lets not turn this into an abortion thread!

Horry // Posted 13 April 2010 at 11:32 pm

I know this is research of the i-haven’t-actually-done-any-research-but-need-to-present-my-findings-tomorrow variety, but I still think entering “women” as a search term for the Labour and Conservative manifestos is really worthwhile for comparison’s sake. It’s such a depressing cliché, but while Labour are crap, the Conservatives are worse. And I think both ultimately just think woman = mother. Labour just acknowledge the presence of (and inequalities faced by) women/mothers in paid employment, and alas, for that small concession, I’d probably vote for them if I lived in an area where the tactical anti-tory vote wasn’t Libdem.

Re abortion, I really don’t think you can say “the woman will have her physical autonomy back” if a pregnancy is ended at 24 weeks, then quietly take said autonomy away again as the “only politically viable option” without acknowledging that you’re doing so. Or rather you can – David Cameron, Nadine Dorries and their ilk do so all the time. But they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it without being challenged. “Political viability” is dependent on living in a society in which the physical autonomy of pregnant women is not valued and protected (it’s really not true autonomy when it’s on someone else’s terms). And on a slightly fanciful note, I wish a politician had come round canvassing when I was visibly pregnant. I would have loved to ask for his or her views on abortion and watch them try to gauge what I might think, trying not to offend, trying to say nothing and everything. And I would have pushed them. If at 24 (or 22) weeks pregnant, you are to find that the apparent “autonomy” you had a week before is gone, you deserve, at the very least, for anyone who believes that’s fine to say it to your face.

Ally // Posted 13 April 2010 at 11:33 pm

Reducing the time-frame is actually quite a different discussion to an outright ban, and at least one of the pro-choice commenters said that she supports the right to life of a baby as long as it is outside the body of anyone who doesn’t want it in her. So I don’t think it necessarily has to go over the same ground as the last thread.

Horry // Posted 13 April 2010 at 11:44 pm

Sorry, I don’t want to turn it into an abortion thread either. After all, only mention it gets in the Conservative manifesto itself is that they will protect the right to free votes on it based on “conscience” (the consciences of politicians, the vast majority of whom are not women). But there is, I think, a much broader conclusion to be drawn from this in itself, not just in relation to abortion debate, but in relation to who is considered worthy of protection at all.

gadgetgal // Posted 14 April 2010 at 9:38 am

I just started reading the run-downs of answers provided by the parties, got to the end of the Conservative bit and was reading a few comments when it suddenly dawned on me – I live in a safe Labour seat. As in so safe you could stick a teapot in the running and it would win. By a landslide.

Until PR is brought in all this campaigning and talking about issues means absolutely nothing to me, or most people around here. I’ll just have to concentrate on my locals instead, they have some major speed bump issues I can vote on… (sigh)

Michelle // Posted 14 April 2010 at 11:02 am

The problem feminists have at this election is the same problem any liberal or left voter has, who is the best of a bad bunch and are you voting to impact on the election or to maintain a principled position?

In my view you have to be pragmatic, i could not understand anyone who believe in progressive equality voting for the Tories. Therefore bearing in mind the electoral system you vote whatever way prevents a Tory government. Depressing but true.

Whatever you think about the Labour party (and its many failings) can anyone even imagine a Conservative government proposing an Equality Act let alone getting it through parliament?

How about the minimum wage which disproportionately affects low paid women?

Keen on a public sector pay freeze – which will have a massive impact on low paid women?

I find it depressing defending the Labour Party but lets all remember how it could get so much worse. You only have to look at Tory MP’s conscience votes on gay rights to know how much they believe in equality.

Atleast in the Labour Party we have decent MP’s who at least start out with feminist principles.This is definitely the time to be putting pressure on for prioritising equality issues.

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