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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Magaluf remains a popular party destination for British holidaymakers, despite a growing reputation for street violence in recent years.  

What happens in Shagaluf no longer stays there

Ellen E Jones
Simon Laird (left) and Sister Simon Laird, featured in the BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets  

Estates of the nation: Let's hear it for the man in the street

Simmy Richman
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?