Election 2010: And what about the women?
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What about women and the Conservatives


Samantha and David Cameron © Conservative Party

While Conservative queen, Margaret Thatcher broke new ground as the country’s only woman Prime  Minister, the party has not traditionally been associated with any form of feminism. Are they following the traditional pattern?

David Cameron’s wife Samantha, 39, stepped into the ring and, according to the Daily Mail, the War of the Wives began. Samantha considered an expert at ‘High Street chic’ is expecting the couple’s fourth child. Not quite as ubiquitous as Sarah, Samantha has been very visible on the election trail.

Her husband has has recently caused unrest within the party by his attempts to increase the number of women on the inside. He launched all-women shortlists in safe constituencies. Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe criticized the move and said: “It will do women no good at all. Every woman in parliament should be able to look every man in the eye and know she got there on exactly the same basis.”

The Shadow Cabinet is already a relatively girly place with Cheryl Gillan, Theresa May, Pauline Neville-Jones, Caroline Spelman, Theresa Villiers and Sayeeda Warsi forming a queue in the ladies loo at Millbank.

Meanwhile, one of the strands of 43-year-old David Cameron’s election promises is to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe. His plans for this include tax benefits for married people or those in a civil partnership. 

The main points of the Conservative manifesto that concern women are:
•    Measures to tackle the gender pay gap, including legislation and careers guidance
•    Extending the right to request flexible working to every parent.
•    Strategy to tackle violence against women, including greater focus on preventative work in schools.
•    Allowing more flexible paternity/maternity leave.

The expert's view: 
"It’s well rehearsed that a policy like the marriage tax allowance discriminates against widows/widowers, single parents and people who leave abusive relationships. But this policy also discriminates against married couples where both partners choose to or need to work – the reality for most people", said Ceri Goddard.

"The Conservatives proposal to exclude the lowest paid workers from public sector pay freezes and better fund Rape Crisis centers for women are all positive steps."

What do women voters say?
Jo said: “Conservative policy, I find slightly confusing if I’m honest. The proposals for tax breaks for married couples for instance are disempowering for women, and for me are a worrying indication of the Conservatives’ attitudes to single parent families.”

Viki added: “What kind of a society are we living in if people are simply marrying and staying together for financial incentives?”


Women in Focus Editor
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