Election 2010: And what about the women?

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 - Election 2010: And what about the women?
Election 2010: What's in it for women? © Thinkstock

Much of the General Election chatter has been around the three men in smart suits who stood in front of the TV cameras for the first-ever televised leaders’ debates. But at Sofeminine.co.uk, we decided to see what the parties were promising for women, the real power behind each of the leaders and, basically, what’s in it for the girls.
Ellen Arnison finds out...

Before the starting gun had been fired, this General Election was being hailed as one that would be decided by which way women voted. The leaders went online and braved the wrath of Mumsnet where Gordon Brown fell victim to Biscuitgate. Then everybody got really excited about the wives – Sarah Brown, Miriam Clegg and Samantha Cameron – and whether they were the secret weapons that would tip the balance.

But Sarah’s grown-up cardis, pregnant Sam’s growing bump and Miriam’s continental cool aren’t enough to distract from the things that really matter to Britain’s women such as childcare, tax on tampons or airbrushed photos.

Viki Wilson, 38, a self-employed photographer and writer from West Cornwall, said: “As for the wives, I could not care less. They have no influence on me and I simply don't have the time to follow reports of their latest outfits and how supportive they are. What it highlights is that for women to really benefit we need more women in Parliament rather than playing these patronizing 'supporting' roles."

This could be an area of improvement for all parties: In the 2005 election, 28 per cent of Labor MPs were women, nine per cent of Tories, 16 per cent of Lib Dems and 10 per cent of the remaining MP.

An expert in women's issues: Ceri Goddard © Fawcett
Jacq Kelly, of the Edinburgh Woman’s Network, agreed. Writing in the Guardian she said: “Heard the one about Sarah Brown's ugly toe or the one about SamCam's 'risque' photoshoot? If not, I'm surprised. Stunned actually. These tidbits about the leaders' wives have been spoken about as much as any party policies.

"So keen to avoid this yawnfest is the media that attention has instead focused steadily on the leaders' wives; the only mentions of women in this campaign so far. How demeaning to women, and voters generally, is that?”

After all parties have presented their manifestos, the expert's verdict on women's issues is devastating. Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of women's lobbying group Fawcett Society, said: "The manifestos are a depressing read for anyone concerned about women's equality, particularly given the energy the Party campaigning machines have invested in targeting women on sofas, on the internet and from the pages of the glossies."

Learn more about the election and women's issues - party by party

smb/Ellen Arnison


Women in Focus Editor
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