Editor-At-Large: It's jobs for the boys, and cheese and wine for the girls

Share
Related Topics

Hungry for power, Dave was keen to woo us, chatting away on Mumsnet, ensuring he was photographed taking his kids to school, helping out in the kitchen. Come election time, repulsed by Gordon Brown's macho infighting, we fell for the propaganda – and millions of Tory and Lib Dem female voters were reassured when Dave said his government would be the "most family friendly ever".

Rebranding a bunch of male public school-educated Tories as sensitive souls who understand What Women Really Want was always a risky proposition, and it hasn't taken long for our fragile new love affair to hit the buffers.

The Lib Dems have suffered the most. Nick Clegg has gone from poster boy to being seen by women as the ultimate betrayer, the guy who failed to prevent the radical changes for the worse: higher tuition fees, changes to child tax credits, the abolition of child trust funds, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the raising of women's pension age. He's a balsa-wood hero who bobs about, hanging on to his little plinth of power.

Polls show that only 13 per cent of women feel that the Tories are the party which best understands and reflects their views, and the Lib Dems fare even worse – scoring 7 per cent. These figures are catastrophic. Labour is equally worried: at their party conference in Liverpool a female-only session is planned entitled "what women want".

If female voters are this season's must-have accessory, how to entice them into your camp? Nick Clegg commissioned research into refocusing the Lib Dems' appeal, and policy wonks have been dreaming up ways of reigniting Dave's appeal to women. A ghastly document was leaked last week listing their bright ideas, including a Downing Street summit to celebrate women in business and industry. A bit rich, as Theresa May has just squashed Harriet Harman's dream of legally forcing gender equality in boardrooms. Instead, May wants firms to voluntarily publish equality quotas relating to promotion and pay, and so far, just three – Tesco, BT and Eversheds – have agreed. The CBI was delighted with the climbdown, saying in a recession "the last thing everyone needs is more red tape".

With the pay gap for full-time workers running at 10 per cent in the public sector and 19.8 per cent in the private sector, and the Chartered Management Institute calculating equality is 98 years away at current rates of progress, I can't see that posting a few statistics online is overly onerous.

As for the boardroom, the Government has backed away from imposing quotas, although only 12.5 per cent of board members of the FTSE 100 are female and Lord Davies recommended this should double by 2015. Last June Vince Cable asked the City to set aspirational targets for the number of female board members by this September. In Norway, a 40 per cent quota was imposed in 2003, and female board representation rose from 6.8 per cent to 44.2 per cent by 2008. The country didn't go into meltdown.

In last week's PMQs, female-friendly Dave said: "We should do far better ... we need to take more pro-active action" – whatever that is. He won't do anything radical; that might upset his male pals in banking and business. Just hold a wine and cheese party for the girls, it's much easier.

As for the other big ideas – shortening the school holidays and front-loading child benefit – both are such obvious winners you might wonder why they haven't been adopted before. Put simply, it would require balls, the kind Maggie Thatcher had, and which Dave with his fondness for the "nudge nudge" (ie ultra feeble) approach to any bit of social change, is psychologically unsuited to adopt. He won't want to take on the teaching unions, the school cleaners and caretakers. Even the leaked document describes the proposal as one to push "if we're feeling brave".

The language is that of a bunch of sixth-form male ninnies. Women loathe the school holidays – period. Why can't a bunch of politicians sort it out, they've been discussing it for years? As for coming up with a "proper ban" on advertising to under-16s, there's zero chance of that from a Government which is so enslaved to the wishes of retailers, drinks manufacturers and the tobacco industry. We still haven't banned toy advertising to toddlers on television – hardly a radical act.

With a tiny handful of women in the Cabinet, poor representation in Parliament and few at the top in business, no wonder that government doesn't relate to women. In a crisis, what's Dave's big idea? Personal budgets for maternity services, so pregnant women can "shop around". We haven't the time. For the working mother, choice is a burden and not necessarily a plus.

All these bits of government spin are like frosting on a fairy cake, an optional low-cost embellishment. They are so thin it's shameful. Shred that bit of blue-sky thinking, Dave: most women have already worked out you couldn't care less about them.

Charity is great, but do we need another one?

Amy Winehouse would have been 28 last Wednesday, and her family have founded a charity in her name for young people who need help through "ill health, disability or addiction".

I quote the website, embellished with pictures of the family's various media appearances. I don't doubt their intentions, and applaud their decision to donate the income from Amy's stunning version of "Body and Soul" with Tony Bennett to the cause.

Nevertheless, there are already thousands of charities helping disadvantaged kids, so why start another? Seven out of 10 people think that there are too many charities doing similar work. In 1964 there were just 64,000 charities in the UK; now 160,000 are registered. Fewer than 8,000 have incomes of more than £500,000, which means there must be a huge amount of duplication and unnecessary running costs, which could go to worthy causes.

Everyone from Jamie Oliver to Gordon Brown and Bono has a charitable foundation these days: it's the acceptable way of polishing your ego. Kids Company is my worthy cause, and they are desperate for donations.

Bake off, Darling

I once had the misfortune to have dinner with Alistair Darling – about as exciting as watching paint dry.

So when I read that his much-leaked score-settling memoirs about his tussles with Gordon Brown had been beaten to the top of the best-seller list by a book about how to bake a Victoria sponge, I wasn't surprised. At least a cake delivers a rewarding sensory experience. Perhaps all politicians should take baking lessons?

Norwegian trolls are a fun lot

The low budget Troll Hunter (currently on release) is a wonderful fantasy horror film – yes it's in Norwegian, and set in a gloomy landscape of fir trees, tundra, snow and ice, but I promise you the funniest night at the cinema since District 9 or The Blair Witch Project. A group of students discover trolls really exist and the government is trying to contain them in remote areas using pylons as electric fences. Sadly, the Yanks have spotted remake potential – Christopher Columbus who directed the first Harry Potter and Home Alone 2 has acquired the rights – so expect a simplistic blockbuster.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Event Management and Marketing Admin Support

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

Recruitment Genius: Events / Conference Operations Manager

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd champion the young and hold a cabinet meeting on top of Ben Nevis

Bear Grylls
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot