Editor-At-Large: Mondeo Man is dead. Women will swing the election

Share
Related Topics

The average Brit reckons they have just three true friends, I read last week. That makes Gordon Brown, once he's counted the wife and the kids, pretty normal. The same survey found we lose touch with at least 36 friends over the years, almost half of whom we dump after a row. Does it all sound familiar? Gordon certainly had a dreadful week, his own colleagues queuing up to stick the boot in, and several letting it be known that if he lingers on for the next election, he'll face a John Major-style drubbing. Sadly, it's probably easier to flog cars than sign up voters of any persuasion right now.

It's fashionable to find Brown embarrassing, but the man genuinely does care about women's rights, even though he's spent years surrounded by macho types like Damian McBride and Ed Balls. Brown likes beer, football and the company of men whose lives revolve around politics, but his lack of social skills shouldn't obscure the fact that he has some very determined women such as Baroness Vadera and Harriet Harman at the heart of government. Sarah Brown herself is not short of ideas and has a strong social conscience. Instead of obsessing about blogs, Gordon needs to work out how to engage with women, because the next election will be won by the party that can reconnect with female voters and persuade them their agenda is being listened to.

The sight of a half-empty House of Commons last week debating whether to continue to employ their own wives and children was repellent. Listening to these self-important blokes (and it was mostly white, middle-class middle-aged men in crumpled suits) justifying their expenses, their allowances and their subsidised living arrangements will have played really badly with women all over the country struggling to feed their families, working long hours in poorly paid jobs, wondering how to pay for their kids' new clothes.

Most people in politics tend to see the world from this narrow, male viewpoint. One of Gordon's former ministers, David Cairns, has written a piece in the left-wing Progress magazine lamenting the fact that the Government no longer speaks to Mondeo Man – the aspiring, white, former working-class voters of outer London, the Midlands, Kent and Essex who were Tories, but who voted Labour in 1997. Cairns was a Roman Catholic priest who trained in Rome and was a political researcher before he entered Parliament. He is unmarried. His interest is speaking Italian. Not someone who sounds as if they'd connect with most working women. In 2009, we're talking about policy in a way that 50 per cent of voters will find risible. What about the female bread-winners, the single mothers, the women who work three times as hard as their male counterpart to earn at least 10 per cent less? Mondeo Man is an irrelevance in modern Britain.

Meanwhile the Tories have only 17 female MPs out of a total of 125. David Cameron, who stood on the platform at his spring conference surrounded by his top team, mostly men, now says he wants a third of his ministers to be women. I'll believe it when I see it. Harriet Harman was much sneered at for introducing a bill to end class discrimination in the workplace recently, but we haven't even got a House of Commons that represents women and ethnic voters. The next election looks like being a pretty macho affair.

Bella donna Lario eclipses poisonous husband Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi's wife, unlike Gordon Brown, has turned a potentially embarrassing week into a total triumph. Discovering that her husband had chosen to visit the birthday party in Naples of a nubile 18-year-old, who told the press she called him "Daddy", and was busy lining up four glamorous starlets as candidates to the European Parliament, she decided to fight back. Veronica Lario, the long-suffering spouse of the Italian premier, fired off an email to the press describing Silvio's plans as "shamelessly tacky", adding, "My children are victims in this situation... We must endure it and it causes us pain." And, just to make sure no one was in any doubt, she added, "He never came to the 18th birthday parties of any of his children, even though he was invited."

Now, just one of the glamour girls – Barbara Matera, a former actress and one-time Miss Italy contestant – has made it to the final shortlist. Berlusconi is shameless: he claims his growing harem of young women is a way of "refreshing" politics, and dismissed the other parties' candidates as "evil-smelling and badly dressed". At 72, Silvio seems in urgent need of counselling – but he's living out a fantasy on behalf of his male voters. I suspect he's just a sad, lonely old git.

The devil told me to eat more food

Talk about telling us the obvious – scientists in the US reckon the reason why some of us over-indulge is triggered by a "devil" part of the brain, which can override the "angel" section controlling sensible behaviour. I always thought a life of excess was personal choice, but now we can blame our physical makeup. It's not my fault I'm fat, it really is the fault of my brain!

People who have the strength of will to resist stuffing themselves with burgers and chocolate have better developed "angel" centres – or to use the correct terminology, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). It can only be a matter of time before we'll be offered mind-altering drugs which hopefully will seduce the devil sections to calm down. I'll be refusing them – it all sounds too sinister for words.

Sun in summer? Wow, thanks

Weather forecasters try to justify their ludicrous job in a variety of weird ways. There's a guy on Look North in Yorkshire whose ties dominate the screen to such an extent I can't tell grasp what climatic conditions he's talking about, but I do know that Humberside will be disappearing under a cloud of blue and red stripes. When we get a lousy summer, like last year, secretly we blame these characters. Why the hell can't they sort out El Niño or whoever is responsible for rain the whole of August? A chap on Radio 4 with a clipped slightly camp accent crisply told me the other day to expect "spits and spots", whatever they may be. Much rejoicing last week when the Met Office predicted "a barbecue summer", which turns out to mean there's a 30 per cent chance it will be normal temperatures and a 50 per cent chance it will be slightly above average. Hardly time to hang out the bunting.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss