There’s so much to love in the Autumn Statement today, but I think my favourite moment was when Osborne announced that women are going to pay for their own domestic violence and rape counselling through the tampon tax.
Yes, more than 300,000 people have signed a petition asking for the tax to be abolished entirely. And no, Osborne can’t do anything about it because of EU tax rules. But you know what? All those cuts have been pretty hard on vulnerable women – domestic violence shelters have closed, Britain has fallen to 26th place on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, the pay gap remains stubbornly in place and charities such as Rape Crisis have continually warned that women are bearing the brunt of austerity measures. So, old Gideon’s logic goes, let’s throw the poor dears a bone. They’ve taken the time to petition, after all.
Since the Tory government has failed women in so many ways, it makes undeniable sense for it to help us to help ourselves. Give a woman a tampon and she’ll use it for free; teach a woman to pay tampon tax and she won’t even cost anything extra to the state when she gets raped, attacked or laid off at work.
So if you’re a woman escaping from an abusive relationship in the Chancellor’s Britain, you can now pay for your own counselling through the redistribution of an unfair tax on your sanitary products. Isn’t that just perfect? It has a beautiful circularity, kind of like the menstrual cycle itself.
Imagine you’re working in a public sector job, where four in 10 women work. Imagine you’re also a single mother. Imagine you used to rely on the local Sure Start centre, which unfortunately has now been shut down. And now imagine the products you bought to deal with your periods are going towards a new charity popping up with a women’s support clinic. What goes around, comes around – in this case, blood, sweat and tears. High fives all round at Tory HQ.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
Osborne presumably thinks that women will respond gratefully to his announcement, allowing us to finally enjoy the spoils of our luxury tampon tax. ‘What a noble move!’ we are supposed to cry, while shredding our sanitary towels into confetti and sprinkling them in the streets (don’t worry about the waste – it’s all going to charity, girls.) ‘Women can now collectively take responsibility for the provision of support services to women. Finally, we’re being given the means to sort out the problems we created. This truly is the Big Society.
Well, sorry if I don’t feel like joining the celebrations. Because just like everything else Osborne announced today, all I see here is a political soundbite pulled from under an avalanche of grossly misguided policies. The real irony is that the Tory government’s cuts – many of which, in the benefits system at least, have been linked to suicides – have often had literally bloody effects. And now we’re supposed to use our own blood to clean up the mess left behind.
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- Autumn Statement