Joan Smith: Things must be bad: feminists and the 'Daily Mail' agree

Share
Related Topics

What has the Government got against women? Obviously gender equality isn't high on its to-do list, but even the most sheltered minister must have a wife, mother or sister – though possibly not ones on minimum wage.

I suppose a cabinet composed of male millionaires – 19, according to some estimates – might not know how hard life is for care assistants or cleaners, but they could make an effort to find out before imposing savage spending and welfare cuts.

Oh, I forgot: that's exactly what the Chancellor didn't do before June's emergency budget, which is why the Fawcett Society is taking the Treasury to court over its failure to conduct an equality impact assessment.

Last week, as women reeled under the double whammy of losing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the public sector while being forced to work even longer to get a state pension, the Chancellor had the nerve to take the credit for carrying out an equality assessment on cuts critics dismiss as incomplete and "almost flippant".

I guess George Osborne isn't too worried about hostile reviews from Yvette Cooper, Labour's shadow minister for women or feminist organisations such as the Fawcett Society. He may feel a bit more nervous about the reaction of the Daily Mail, which has girded itself up in recent weeks as the champion of the oppressed middle classes. But when they attack the Government's proposals simultaneously, it might be prudent for Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg to take notice.

The coalition's raid on state pensions is truly staggering. It has accelerated the timetable for raising the pension age for both sexes to 66, which sounds gender-neutral but is anything but. Don't take my word for it: the Mail described the change as "sneaky" and "devastating", and calculated that it will cost more than five million workers £43bn in lost benefits and extra tax and national insurance contributions. Most will be women and I'm one of them. I haven't been able to discover my new pension age since the government website which offers to do the calculation hadn't been updated on Friday.

There is a huge financial problem in this country as people live longer, and I'm not against men and women retiring at the same age. But the move to parity has been rushed by a government that demonstrably doesn't care about fairness; state pension age for women was rising each year to reach 65 by 2020, but the process will be accelerated from 2016, taking it to 65 by 2018. This comes on top of other measures which will hit women and children harder than men.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies irritated the Government when it said that "families with children are the biggest losers", but a host of commentators concurred. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimated that 80 per cent of the almost 500,000 public sector workers threatened with losing their jobs would be female. Others said a 10 per cent cut in childcare support would make it hard for them to return to the workforce even if they could find new work.

Cooper said the changes were the biggest attempt to turn back the clock on women's equality in a century. The Fawcett Society described the cuts as so deep that "they threaten hard-fought progress we've made on women's equality". The Mail talked about "this cruel blow to a generation of women". Things really must be bad if even the right-wing press is lining up alongside feminists.

www.politicalblonde.com

React Now

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

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible