Labour will target the nine million women who did not vote at the last general election after new figures showed that more women than men have turned their backs on politics.
Research by the House of Commons Library found that 9.1 million women did not vote in 2010 compared to 8 million men, and that the “turnout gap” between the sexes is growing.
At the 1992 election, a higher proportion of women (78.2 per cent) voted than men (77.2 per cent). But in 2005, turnout among men exceeded women and the trend continued in 2010, when 67 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women voted. Turnout among men dropped by 14 per cent between the 1992 and 2010 elections, and by 18 per cent among women.
The Commons Library, which analysed statistics compiled by academics for the British Election Study, said the number of women not voting had risen by 79 per cent since 1992, while the number of “missing” men had increased by 65 per cent.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, who commissioned the Commons Library report, told The Independent: “There has been a lot of talk about Ukip or the SNP holding the balance of power after the May election. It is the women who did not vote last time who hold the balance power. They will decide who becomes prime minister.”
She disclosed that Labour will publish a separate “manifesto for women”. It will include: childcare, help for older women who have to work until they are older as well as juggling childcare duties as grandparents, domestic violence, equal pay, and women’s representation in areas such as public life and business.
Some opinion polls give Labour a bigger lead among women than men, so persuading more women to vote could make a difference in a close election.
Ms Harman said: “There is a general disaffection with politics. You are even less likely as a woman to see politics as the solution to your problems. Most women see politics as a men-only zone.”
She added: “The growing trend for people not to vote is worrying for our democracy. But it is striking that the fall in voting is even greater among women than among men. These are the missing millions of women who will be the focus of Labour’s campaign. We will bring politics to the school gate and the shopping centre as well as offices and factories. This election will be a watershed for women in this country.”