Andrew Grice: Some politicians are still more equal than others

Campaign Briefing

Share
Related Topics

Where have the women gone? They are a majority of the electorate but are in a very small minority when the parties hold a press conference or launch a policy – unless it is about families or childcare.

Thirty-one years after Margaret Thatcher became our first woman Prime Minister, we seem to have gone backwards in the long struggle by women politicians to get a permanent seat at the top table.

Most events in this election seem to be strictly men-only. Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, was allowed out on Tuesday to launch Labour's "manifesto for families", but only alongside her husband, Ed Balls. It is assumed by (male-dominated) Westminster watchers that Mr Balls would be their household's candidate in a Labour leadership election with Ms Cooper on his campaign team. Ought the roles be reversed? some Labour insiders wonder aloud. Stranger things have happened.

Lord Mandelson, who heads the Labour campaign, chaired the press conference and spoke of the couple's lovely children. He has elbowed Harriet Harman, Labour's elected deputy leader, off the platform at most of his party's press conferences.

The women are also invisible in Toryland. There have been fleeting glimpses of Theresa May, Caroline Spelman and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Some (male) Tory candidates think Lady Warsi in particular is woefully under-used and that she proved she could play in the big league when she appeared on Question Time with the BNP leader, Nick Griffin. As for the Liberal Democrats, Sarah Teather sneaked on to the platform when the manifesto was launched but I haven't spotted her since.

Women politicians are privately appalled by their low profile but don't want to rock the boat during the heat of battle. One told me: "No comment – yet."

This was christened the "Mumsnet election" as politicians queued to take part in the group's webchats. But this now looks like a cynical piece of short-term box-ticking.

Equality campaigners believe the male-dominated party leaderships are stereotyping women and assuming they are interested only in issues such as child care. "There is a culture across all parties to view women predominantly as carers and mothers," said Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society. "Sixty-five per cent of the users of public services are women. They are interested in other issues like the deficit too. The closer the polls get, the more politicians revert to type – a boys' club where only men can debate the issues."

React Now

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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella  

Sure, teenage girls need role models – but not of the Zoella kind

Chloe Hamilton
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album