People who know me would tell you that I’m a political person. I’m passionate about politics. My overriding desire is equality and fairness. That’s why this blog has a feminist slant and it’s why I refuse to shy away from making political posts. This is my space and if I can’t talk about a huge election that’s outcome will impact on the lives of every person living in the UK and beyond then what is the point of any of it. So today I’m bringing you a political post about what the main parties are offering women in the 2019 election on Friday.
I’m going to set my stall out now and say that I have voted Labour and I hope more than anything the Tories are voted out on Thursday (though this is looking unlikely). This blog post is going to be mostly fact-based though.
Women under 30 are the group least likely to vote (and therefore could make a big difference in this election). Women are also more likely to be floating voters and to vote later so I’m hoping that if you hit these categories this blog post could encourage you to vote.
Representation matters – numbers of female candidates
Firstly representation matters and I would like to see more female MPs elected this week. Of course you can have female politicians who do shit all for women and men who are great feminist allies but generally speaking, women have lived experience of women’s issues and when we have more female politicians we are statistically more likely to get policies funded that affect us in positive ways.
Happily, there are a record number of female candidates expected to stand in next month’s general election, women are a third of nominations. Over 1,100 women have registered as candidates, 34% of the total, making an increase from 29% in 2017 and 26% in 2015.
I’m pleased to report that the Labour Party has become the first major political party in the UK to offer a majority of female candidates, with 53% of nominated candidates women – an 11% increase since the last election. That is major!
However, according to the Guardian ‘since women could first stand in a general election, over 5,000 MPs have been elected, of which less than 500 have been women’ so we have to see people voting for women not just women being an option.
If Labour get into power they will increase women’s representation across parliament by building on the Equality Act, passed by the last Labour government, and enact Section 106 so that all political parties publish diversity data about electoral candidates. This would be a huge improvement in politics for women.
The manifestos – what are the main parties offering women in the 2019 election?
But what about the proposed policies? I’ve been through the manifestos of the top 5 English political parties (Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Green and Brexit) and have tried to pull out where the parties stand on issues that tend to affect women more than men. Here’s what the main parties are offering women in the 2019 election…
Gender pay gap
Greens promise to
- Promote diversity in political representation and representation on boards.
- Promote more stay at home working (with working hours’ heating, electricity and Wi-Fi costs reimbursed by employers for low income workers working from home), more business teleconferencing, more local work station hubs and more car club schemes. This will help parents to work around school/childcare more easily allowing more women to get on in their careers.
- Install a 40% quota for women on major company boards.
- Require all large and medium size companies to carry out equal pay audits and redress any inequality uncovered both in terms of equal pay for equal work, and recruitment and retention practices.
- Increase minimum pay to £12 an hour.
- Introduce a workers protection agency around equal pay and have set a target to eliminate the pay gap by 2030.
- Establish a new Department for Women and Equalities with a full-time Secretary of State who will ensure all our policies and laws are equality-impact assessed.
- Create a modernised National Women’s Commission as an independent advisory body to the government.
- Implement regulation for large firms on equality measures and enforce action on the gender pay gap.
- More women are in low paid jobs than men so Labour’s real living wage of £10 an hour will be of particular benefit to women.
- Put class at the heart of Britain’s equality agenda and create a new ground for discrimination on the basis of socio-economic disadvantage.
- Require all employers with over 250 employees to obtain government certification on gender equality or face further auditing and fines. By the end of 2020, they will lower the threshold to workplaces with 50 employees, whilst providing the necessary additional support for small businesses.
- Require all large employers to have flexible working and introduce a right for all workers to request flexibility over their hours from the first day of employment.
Lib Dems will:
- Extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector.
- Develop a free, comprehensive unconscious bias training toolkit and make the provision of unconscious bias training to all members of staff a condition of the receipt of public funds.
- They also promise 40% board representation in FTSE 350 companies.
Conservatives promise to lift the National Insurance threshold.
Pension pay gap and the WASPI women
Labour will fully compensate the WASPI women. They will also crucially ensure that such an injustice like the WASPI one can never happen again by legislating to prevent accrued rights to the state pension from being changed.
Liberal Democrats will compensate the WASPI women in line with the pension ombudsman report.
Greens will compensate the WASPI women, rolling out universal basic income to them first.
Brexit Party will review the situation of the WASPI women but has no indications of what they may or may not do.
Conservatives have a policy to support pension payments for those earning between 11k and 12k, the majority of whom are women. Conservatives have stated they will not compensate the WASPI women.
Violence against women
Conservatives will pass the Domestic Abuse Bill and pilot domestic abuse courts.
- Make misogyny a hate crime
- Rollback the cuts to domestic violence support centres and women’s refuges, and increase funding to provide more safe and secure accommodation for women and their children.
- Develop and implement a robust plan for ending bullying and sexual harassment in Parliament.
- Put funding for Rape Crisis Centre services on a sustainable footing so that every survivor of sexual assault or violence receives proper support.
- Increase and ring-fence the Rape Support Fund and ensure funds are provided via the Victim Surcharge.
- Develop and implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and trafficking.
- Reverse cuts to legal aid to prevent survivors being forced to represent themselves against their abusers in court and introduce a new Domestic Abuse Bill, which enables prosecution of economic abuse.
- Establish a new press regulatory regime which will allow women to make formal complaints about media coverage that will encourage misogyny against women. This regime will allow for third party complaints to be made, on behalf of women negatively affected by media coverage.
- Introduce a regulatory framework for online harms to ensure social media companies take responsibility for how their platforms are being used and invest in technological solutions to address misogyny and online harassment.
- Appoint a Commissioner for Violence against Women and recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
- Ratify both the Istanbul Convention on preventing domestic abuse and the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment at work.
- Introduce 10 days of paid leave for survivors of domestic abuse.
- Ensure better police training on domestic abuse and offences arising from coercive control.
I would have liked to have seen one of the parties commit to improving rape culture in the criminal justice system. Labour does recognise in its manifesto that some offences have been decriminalised in practice with only 1.4% of reported rapes are prosecuted.
Lib Dems will:
- Ratify and bring into law the Istanbul Convention.
- Legislate for a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes its effects on children.
- Expand the number of refuges and rape crisis centres to meet demand.
- Ensure sustainable grant-funding for specialist independent support services.
- Give local authorities the duty and funding to provide accommodation and support for survivors of abuse.
- Establish a national rape crisis helpline.
- Ensure access to special measures for survivors in all courts and preventing direct cross-examination of survivors by their abusers.
- Increase paid maternity leave from 9 months to 12 months.
- Double paternity leave to 4 weeks and increase paternity pay. Any woman who has been left alone with a 2 week old baby after a traumatic birth will tell you why that is important.
- Extend pregnancy protections.
- Ban the dismissal of pregnant women without prior approval of the inspectorate.
Lib Dems will:
- Increase paternity leave to 6 weeks.
- Require organisations to publish parental leave and pay policies.
- Improve access to high quality care during pregnancy and ensure that all women are entitled to the care of a single midwife through prenatal care, birth and the first month of post-natal care. (We KNOW this is best for outcomes for mothers and babies so I’m thrilled to see this).
- Baby clinics will be expanded, so that women can get access to health visitors and take their babies for regular checkups at a location and time that is convenient for them.
Conservatives say they will fund more free childcare and will extend leave for carers to one week.
Liberal Democrats are investing most in childcare options with free childcare from 9 months old.
Greens will provide 35 hours a week of free childcare for all, from the age of nine months. Crucially, this free childcare will include in-work facilities, such as on-site crèches and flexible working opportunities (e.g. jobshares) to help parents who choose to return to work.
Labour plans to radically expand free childcare to 30 hours a week for all 2-4 year olds. They will also open 1,000 new Sure Start centres.
Inequality in town planning and transport
Often when it comes to planning for local infrastructure investment and priority goes to roads. However, the majority of pedestrians are women. Often doing the school run with strollers etc. Labour will bring together transport and land-use planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choice.
Greens support for access to abortion and free birth control in the EU.
Lib Dems will decriminalise abortion across the UK while retaining the existing 24-week limit and legislate for access to abortion facilities within Northern Ireland. They will enforce safe zones around abortion clinics, make intimidation or harassment of abortion service users and staff outside clinics, or on common transport routes to these services, illegal. Lib Dems will also fund abortion clinics to provide their services free of charge to service users regardless of nationality or residency.
Menstruation and menopause
Labour will extend menopause protection.
Greens will support employers to explore the benefits of offering menstruation and menopausal leave to workers. They will also fund schools to provide free eco-friendly sanitary products to pupils
Female unpaid labour
One of the issues that I believe restricts women in many facets of their life is inequality when it comes to unpaid labour. The economy thrives on it but it stifles women’s progression. None of the parties suggest any specific measures to try and move towards equality here.
However, labour will pilot a universal basic income scheme. Greens will provide a universal basic income for everyone, replacing the current benefits system. All of the evidence about the future of jobs post mainstreaming of supercomputers tells us that universal basic income will be the future.
Labour will support international programmes addressing gender inequality. They will also establish an ombudsman to examine abuse in the development sector.
Lib Dems promise a ‘gender equality heavy’ foreign policy agenda.
- Labour will increase funding towards women’s grassroots organisations.
- Lib Dems will introduce gender-neutral school uniforms. They will also set a national target to address early deaths (20 years early) of women with learning disabilities.
- Lib Dems and Tories promise to protect and empower women in trade deals.
So that’s what are the main parties offering women in the 2019 election. Labour, Lib Dems and Greens are leading the way for women with the Tory offer being relatively poor and the Brexit party almost non-existent.
In casting your vote I would urge you to remember that the Tories have been in power for the last decade, so their track record in delivery should be kept in mind. Over 85% of the burden of Tory/Lib Dem cuts has fallen on the shoulders of women.
I have not had the time to also pull out other intersectional equality issues like race/disability/sexual identity etc which are obviously also extremely important so I would urge you to read the manifestos themselves. They are highly illuminating and you will quickly figure out which you are most aligned too. I strongly identified with Labours and then closely after the Greens.
Another final point I want to make is that I have written policy and strategy for my day job for the past decade and I don’t think I have ever seen such a well-considered plan as Labour’s manifesto. It is SMART and so well thought out and written, whereas the Tory manifesto in comparison is very vague, not SMART and in my day job, I would have sent it back to the manager responsible for writing it to say it’s not good enough and needs to be rewritten to be more specific and achievable.
All I want for Christmas is a Labour government. At the very least I hope the Tories don’t gain any further seats to what they had before they called this farce. Vote with your heart and vote with hope and for the love of the goddess, just bloody vote.