How the Tories intend to regain support from women voters.

The previous post indicated that the support of women voters is shifting away from the Conservatives and the Lib Dems  It, therefore, seems appropriate to present a copy of a leaked document from Number 10 assessing this ‘problem’.

The document itself reveals their problems which are thoroughly analysed by Tanya Gold in the Guardian  But frankly, the document speaks for itself in demonstrating the misogyny of this government.  My favourite amongst many is ‘Make far more effort to recognise and celebrate women in business ‘ … that’s sure to be a poll changer in the midst of the economic meltdown.  And what do they mean when they say “…there are a range of policies we have pursued as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately…”  The majority of their list of policies cannot be described as ‘seen as‘ because they do in fact hit women disproportionately.


The problem





We know from a range of polls that women are significantly more negative

about the Government than men. We don’t at present have a finer-grained

analysis than this, though there is some suggestion that fear for the next

generation is a major factor for many women. In addition, the group of

Cabinet Office and No 10 women we assembled felt strongly that the

general tone and messages of government communications, particularly

around deficit reduction were an issue – with women, especially in the

public sector feeling targeted; a general sense that families who had been

struggling to get by even in the ‘good times’ resented being told to tighten

their belts; and even a view that the Governmer1t’s choice of leaders on the

economy gave the implication was that ‘now there’s a realjob to be done

sorting out the mess, it can only be done by men.” (Clearly all of these needs

a heavy caveat that it is anecdotal; and that of course Women’s views differ

as much as men’s, so generalisation can be unhelpful – but nevertheless, we

found the insights useful.)

In addition, we are clear that there are a range of policies we have pursued

as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests,

disproportionately, including:

1 Public sector pay and pensions (particularly as contrasted with –

mostly male – bankers, in the popular narrative)

0 Tuition fees

Abolition of Child Trust Funds

Changes to child tax credit and the childcare element

0 Changes to child benefit

0 Rising cost of living

0 Lone patent obligations

Income support

Several of these potentially play into fears for the next generation; and it is

also worth noting that many of these issues have been visible and prominent.

By contrast, we were able to list many areas where what we have done has

been very positive – but many of these had received far less profile and

attention. These include:

0 Extension of flexible working

Parental leave




0 2-year old nursery places

0 Health visitors

A wide range of impressive international activity – where international

partners often praise the UK’s record – but which we do not discuss

domestically very much (and even intemationally, we do not always

leverage it as we could)

0 Free schools and academies (and the notion of choice in education seen

as positive by many even if not all)

5. There are also areas where we have made bold statements or promises but

haven’t delivered enough including, for example, our overarching claim

that we would be ‘the most family friendly Government ever’; specific

undertakings to increase the representation of women on Boards; and areas

like Green Deal (which links to concern about the future).


6. We generated a long list of ideas, including:

7. Give Universal Credit to women as the default – this is probably largely

symbolic, as the current plans assmne households would decide who applies

– but sends a good signal.

8. Front-load child benefit to better reflect the profile of costs (although

teenagers are expensive, the average family spends far more on young

children, because of childcare and lost earnings in the early years)

9. Work towards a proper ban on advertising to children – using examples

from other countries who have done this effectively

10. Force the pace on choice in maternity with personal budgets for maternity

services; possibly linked to parenting education vouchers, of which we

should make much

ll. Develop a strategy – including possibly cross-party work – to ensure we

have women candidates for mayoral posts, PCCs, and LEPs. Consider

going further and setting up a review on barriers to women entering political

life – looking not just as culture, but at structural barriers like uncertainty

and lack of maternity provision.

12. Consider radically different options on equal pay – for instance,

encouraging a third party to set up a pay-sharing website (you enter some







details and your own pay, and in return can see information about others’)

which gets around industry concerns about the costs of reporting on pay, but

still gives good, transparent information

Make far more effort to recognise and celebrate women in business and

-industry. As a starting point- hold a No 10 summit for Women

entrepreneurs/women in business (we haven’t had one yet); revisit Tech

City and Engineering Prize plans and ensure good female representation;

develop a wider Women and the Olympics plan, including a strand of the

‘Great Britain’ work. We should also challenge hard on what the actual

proposals are to increase the representation of women on Boards; and in the

longer-term should ask BIS to work with the CBI and others to look at

cultural barriers to women’s success in blue-chip firms. We should also

challenge Cabinet Office colleagues to be more aggressive in tackling

women’s underrepresentation in the SCS, and in particular in areas like our

overseas posts – where change could help improve policy and visibility as

well as send a signal.

Look at where transparency and better information can help for

instance, giving as big a profile as possible to our transparency work around

pupils’ (and teachers’) performance in schools; but also being clearer about

the returns from different qualifications (including where qualifications hav

negative returns); and reviewing our policy and communications around

Famiiy Information Services (every council has one – they started as

information-providers about childcare, but now stretch wider. The good

ones are excellent but the quality is very patchy and more fundamentally,

most people don’t know they exist.)


If we are feeling brave open the debate about the school year, and in

particular a move away from the long summer holiday, which is very

difficult for working families (and evidence suggests is bad for pupil

progress too). This is tricky in the context of more school autonomy – but

we could try some exhortation.

Focus on delivering a good package on carers and long-term care and

identify this as, to a great extent, a vvomen’s issue. Women are

disproportionately likely both to be carers in general, and to be part of the

‘sandwich generationi

l7.Reconsider our decision not to criminalise forced marriage. This is tricky

territory and there would be issues about reporting if we went for





criminalisation – but we should review this because the signal sent by opting

not to criminalise is a bad one.

Ask for targeted Home Office work on women, crime and conlidence –

and consider focusing some of our anti-social behaviour work and

messaging more effectively on women’s concerns (and on helping women

take action in communities).

Communications and messaging


This links to the urgent need to up our game on communications about what

we are doing. We propose that (possibly informed by more detailed polling)

we assemble a first-rate team from across Government press offices and

cornmunications teams, and ask them to develop as radical and effective a

communications strategy as possible, working quickly and intensively (say,

over a ten-day period). The strategy should use the new policies above as a

‘hook’, but also do much more to get credit for the good things we have

done already. We don’t want to pre-judge this process – but as a starting-

point, we think We could seek to build our work around a small number of

key themes – for example:

We have good news for the next generation – we need to change our

messaging about deficit reduction, for example, and talk less about sorting

out a mess, and more about building a better economy for the future. Our

proposals on education, parenting, parental leave, and carers should be set in

this context.

We recognise what women do already – particularly those who are

struggling to make ends meet. We should look critically at our

communications plans around public sector workers with this in mind; and

should fit proposals on front-loaded child benefit, universal credit, and

advertising aimed at children into this narrative.

Women are key to British growth and success – we will break down

barriers that stop women _realising their potential, and ours as a nation.

Parental leave, flexible working, a big push on women in business, and a

focus on more visible women leaders all fit here.


1 thought on “How the Tories intend to regain support from women voters.

  1. Pingback: The Hand that Kicks the Cradle Rules the World | Think Left

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