Home-page roasting for ministers

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Indy Politics

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned ... unless you patronise her. Female visitors to a cyberspace chat room told government ministers bluntly: "Don't talk down to us."

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned ... unless you patronise her. Female visitors to a cyberspace chat room told government ministers bluntly: "Don't talk down to us."

And, responding to a government invitation to "have your say", they have vented their anger at the way New Labour treats women.

The internet row began last week when Ministers for Women Tessa Jowell and Baroness Jay launched a "consultation exercise" on Downing Street's website. They were attempting to canvass the opinions of women, whose votes could decide the next election.

But a badly worded question asking, "What do the women you know think of information and communications technology?" prompted a flurry of furious e-mails.

Sue Smith messaged: "I find this question totally and utterly patronising. What a waste of MY money!" Others felt the same. An SL wrote: "I agree with the others - it's patronising (and I'm a man)."

It was a big thumbs-down for the Government's style but what would women think of the substance of Labour's policy? There was little comfort for the ministers.

Much-vaunted policy to help mothers balance work and home life prompted more criticism. Contributor Jane M said: "It is vital that Government and other agencies should begin to counteract the inordinate pressure on mothers who are made to feel they are failing themselves, their family, their community and country if they do not return to economic active service as quickly as possible."

Another, Liz, added: "As a full-time mother of two, I resent pressure on me to return to work. I consider it essential to be at home for the pre-school years and I should be allowed to be at home without being made to feel like a secondclass citizen."

Jane M continued: "Not only is the Government not helping, it has further biased the tax system against young couples with the abolition of the married couples' allowance and the introduction of a family credit scheme which favours households with two income earners over those with only one.

"It sends out a clear message that mothers are NOT valued in this role by society."

Kevin Webster said: "There's a lot of hidden meaning in some ministers' statements on the subject. When everyone (male and female) is forced into a McJob, who's going to look after the kids?"

As the Ministers for Women brace themselves for another four to five weeks of plain talking, they could console themselves by reading what others are telling their colleagues about pensions and petrol.

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