Election 2010: And what about the women?
Article in images

What about women and the Liberal Democrats


Miriam and Nick Clegg © Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats talk convincingly of equality and, perhaps more than the others, are keen to address issues from the starting point of attitude. But is this simply lip service?

Nick Clegg, 43, and his Spanish wife Miriam, 41, have three children and she has already said that she is supportive of her husband but simply hasn’t the time to hit the campaign trail. She is a lawyer and said she does not “have the luxury of having a job that I can simply abandon for five weeks”. The fact that she has less of a presence in the media seems only to have increased levels of interest.

The Lib Dems make much of understanding the pressures on women. The manifesto reads: “It’s easy to feel like you’re running just to stand still... The media screams out an endless list of things still to do: get a bikini body in 20 days, plan the perfect children’s party, how to look 10 years younger... Despite great strides forward in equality, women still get paid less than men.”

Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem spokeswoman for equality, said: “Jo Swinson MP and myself have been leading a campaign to push back against the overwhelming onslaught of overly perfected images of the human form that come at us constantly from the beauty, media, fashion, diet industries. We have reached the point where we know that what once seemed relatively harmless - is damaging us.”

Lynne is joined on the front benches by Baroness Barker, Annette Brooke, Lorely Burt, Julia Goldsworthy and Sandra Gidley.

Liberal Democrats' main policy points:
•    Enforcing checks on pay discrimination by employers.
  •    Providing 20 hours a week of free childcare and extending parental leave to 19 months.
•    Extending the right to ask for flexible working to everyone.
•    Addressing the media’s attitude to women to “inject some realism”.

The expert's view
"They claim to be the party of democratic reform, but have failed even to mention the woeful underrepresentation of women in our democratic institutions - much less actually suggest steps that might deal with getting a parliament that is more like the country that it represents."

Goddard adds: "The Liberal Democrats, move to expand equal pay audits to more companies are very welcome."

What do women voters say?
Viki said: “The Liberal Democrats suggestion of raising the personal tax allowance to £10k is very attractive for mums with young children like me who often do not earn very much.”

And Jo added: “I believe the Lib Dems are the party most committed to tackling equality, both in terms of gender and poverty. Of course the two often go hand in hand.”


Women in Focus Editor
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