Women's Manifesto

The Labour Party today launch their “women’s manifesto,” aimed at the 9 million women who didn’t vote at the last election. There’s a gender gap – far more women than men seem disaffected by politics, and the gap has been growing. So we’ll get more stuff on child care, on paternity leave, more promises of legislation on equal pay and equality.

Right: I’m all for encouraging everyone to go to the polling station. Back in 1992, the last time the Conservatives won an election, more women than men voted, and it was the women who swung it in the Tories’ favour. It does not occur to Harriet Harman that the phenomenon of non-voting women really developed during Labour’s 13-year rule. Perhaps it is precisely this collection of old hat women’s lib stuff recycled from the 1970s which is putting women off.

We have equality, in spades. We don’t have equal pay outcomes because many women choose to slow down their careers when they have young children, or to work part-time; some never catch up, many never want to. Not everyone yearns to be like Ms Harman (who, pardoxically, chickened out when it came to challenging for the Labour leadership: so much for going for the top job). Not everyone wants to be bullied into working like a man. And equality means that the Tory agenda can be a great deal more relevant.

Millions of women, not a handful, run businesses these days, and these tend to be smaller, start-ups, exactly the type of enterprise threatened by Labour’s employment legislation. Women as parents get frantic about standards in the schools their children may have to attend; excellence in the classroom and upgrading teaching standards are low on Labour’s agenda but mother’s milk to Tories. Women do juggle multiple obligations, but they’re earning good money and are taxpayers; on the doorstep they approve of tax cuts and are impatient with those who won’t work.

I could add, as an OAP, that inheritance tax is a worry for many older women, while Osborne’s pension rules changes are great for grandparents heading for a cruise while settling some money on the next generation. And so on.

Don’t patronise me, ladies. The stereotypes are wrong, and do a lot of damage: decades of talking up women’s rights have emasculated men, leading to the modern misery of millions of fatherless homes with struggling single mothers. We used to fret about under-achieving girls; for a while now, it’s been time to shout about the failures of boys. The world has changed, and Labour don’t seem to have noticed. The women may swing it this time once again.