Labour in bid to win over women

THE GOVERNMENT is to canvass the views of women on what really matters in their lives by sending out one million bright orange, reply- paid postcards to shops and libraries.

The initiative follows evidence from Labour's private polling - revealed in the Independent on Sunday - that Tony Blair is "unappealing" to women, despite his efforts to win over female voters.

The postcards will be circulated at the checkouts of stores such as Marks & Spencer and Bhs, as well as libraries, doctors' surgeries and advice centres.

The questionnaires on what the Government should do to help women will ask female voters to identify, from a list including the economy, crime and education, the single most important issue facing the country today.

The postcards will also include telephone numbers for the women's unit in the Cabinet Office - which recently called for more role models for teenage girls.

Their views will shape an influential report identifying policy areas across government where women are ignored and should be considered more closely. This will be circulated to all ministers later this year.

The initiative follows research by the Labour Party which found that many, particularly middle-class, white-collar women, believe that the Prime Minister cannot relate to their lives.

Labour's private polling found that women around the country have repeatedly said Mr Blair is "out of touch" and "remote" from ordinary people. Women have said that they feel that the Government is being run by men for men and that the Prime Minister can be "smarmy".

They also complain that they do not identify with the "laddishness" of New Labour.

The campaign, entitled "Listening to Women", will be accompanied by a roadshow of leading Labour figures including Baroness Jay, the Minister for Women, and Tessa Jowell, the Health Minister.

They will hold informal seminars around the country to gauge women's views on what Labour is doing wrong and how it can improve. These will target poorer areas of Britain, where women are traditionally reluctant to get involved in politics.

"This is a major initiative to hear the views of ordinary women and to give them the opportunity to let the Government know what it can do to improve their lives," said an aide to Lady Jay. "We would like to hear what women around the country really think."