Backing by women plummets to 50-year low

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Indy Politics

Women voters have deserted the Tory party for the first time since the Second World War and are turned off by Michael Howard, a poll published today will show.

The polling company Mori has found that, for the first time since 1945, the Conservatives have lower levels of female support than male backing.

The findings will alarm the Tories, who have been counting on support from women disaffected with Tony Blair to help win the next election. Only a quarter of women polled said they were satisfied with Mr Howard's showing as leader.

"This report shows that the Conservatives still have a long way to go if they want to win back women's votes," said Katherine Rake, the director of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for women in public life. "The party urgently needs to formulate convincing policies that will appeal to the female electorate. They must be presented and delivered by more women MPs." Only 9 per cent of Conservative MPs are women.

But the Conservatives plan to target women voters who see health and education as priorities for the next election. Eleanor Laing, the shadow minister for women, admitted yesterday that women voters "might not know" Tory policy on health, education and crime.

"But if you ask her whether she wants clean hospitals, teachers not politicians running schools and more policemen on her local beat, she will say yes," she continued. "That is Conservative and she is a Conservative."

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