You may have noticed that Prime Minister Theresa May recently called a snap general election snappier than a crocodile called Sir Snapalot walking into a branch of SnappySnaps whilst wearing a snapback cap. But the preparation for such an election is far from ‘snappy’. Preparing for an election is not just a time-consuming task for politicians, but for we interested electorate as well. It’s an administrative nightmare: Have I registered to vote in time? Have I requested my postal vote properly? Should I change my Facebook profile pic to a political one for the many and not the few to see? Add to that the fact that you actually have to engage those little grey cells to think about who might be in the best position to reflect you ideologically and steer your home nation in the direction of justice, equality and the return of Mary Berry to Bake Off, and you’d probably have to take a day off work just to get through it all.
Trawling through party websites and leaflets has been a pleasure of mine ever since I turned 18 –highlighting agendas concealed by emotive prose, wading through idealistic promises soon to be broken, sieving out the implicit cowpats amongst the long grass. Occasionally, I will turn to a gimmicky Buzzfeed quiz to see who I should support (though I have recently begun to question the reliability of these quizzes after getting the result ‘vegan scone’ in the ‘What type of bread are you?’ quiz. I spat out my BBQ ribs in surprise.) Generally, though, I just default to the vote I’ve placed in almost every election since 2008. This time, however, it really does feel high stakes. With Brexit looming ever closer on the horizon, international politics throwing up some surprising figures, and our education and health systems in need of decisive and well-intentioned leadership, it feels like, for this election, we really do need to do our research.
But there’s not always time for that for we hard-working females. So here at ABGC HQ, we’ve put together a breakdown of ten major issues affecting women in the UK for your perusal. For each issue, we’ve seen how each major political party responds (or does not respond) to them in their manifesto, and given you a handy page ref in case you want to read more. (Click the links for the full manifestoes of Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the Green Party and UKIP.) WARNING: Don’t expect a great deal of explanation here about how these promises will be upheld, and don’t expect them to be stuck to after June 8th!
[DISCLAIMER: In the spirit of democracy, views of all major parties have been copied verbatim. We have decided not, at this stage, to include the regional parties Plaid Cymru and the SNP, but you can view their manifestoes via the links here. We have also not included the WE (Women’s Equality party) this time round due to not yet being one of the five major parties, but their manifesto is well worth a read. Finally, ABGC does not endorse any particular promises or party. Especially not UKIP.]
Women in the workplace
- Gender pay gap
Labour (p.8): We will upgrade our economy, breaking down the barriers that hold too many of us back, and tackling the gender pay gap.
Conservatives (p.56): We will take measures to close the gender pay gap. We will require companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women.
Labour (p.48): Introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing – so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work.
- Representation in the workplace
Labour (p.109): Ours will be a government for women, with a cabinet of at least 50 per cent women, which fights inequality and misogyny in every part of society. A Labour government will gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.
Conservatives (p.43): We are looking at ways to make sure civil service recruitment is as diverse as possible, not only from the perspective of gender and race but social class too.
Conservatives (p.56): We shall continue to work for parity in the number of public appointments going to women, and we shall push for an increase in the number of women sitting on boards of companies.
Lib Dems (p.73):
- Continue the drive for diversity in business leadership, pushing for at least 40% of board members being women in FTSE 350 companies and implementing the recommendations of the Parker review to increase ethnic minority representation.
- Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.
- Extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector.
- Require diversity in public appointments. We will introduce a presumption that every shortlist should include at least one BAME candidate.
- Sex workers
Lib Dems (p.71): Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave sex work.
Green (p.5): End the gender pay gap, and require a minimum 40% of all members of public company and public sector boards to be women.
Lib Dems (p.73): Fund more extensive childcare, and provide better back-to-work support to reach an ambitious goal of one million more women in work by 2025.
UKIP (p.27): Affordable, safe childcare is vital if we are to help women obtain or return to work. We simply cannot afford to have highly skilled, highly trained women leaving the workplace, especially not if they are working in public service industries such as nursing and teaching.
Labour (pp.35-6): Currently, there is a gap between the end of maternity leave and the beginning of full-time schooling. This gap can make it difficult for parents, particularly women, to return to work, unless they have access to informal childcare support. Labour would seek to roll out educational provision for early years children as part of a National Education Service that is truly cradle-to-grave. Labour would:
- Overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct government subsidy.
- Maintain current commitments on free hours and make significant capital investment during our first two years of government, to ensure that the places exist to meet demand.
- Phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure that everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern.
- Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities. This will benefit staff, who are among our worst-paid workers, and improve child development
- Extend the 30 free hours to all two year-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for one year-olds and extending maternity pay to 12 months. Sure Start, and the support it gives to vulnerable and hard-to-reach parents, was one of the great achievements of the previous Labour government, but under the Conservatives 1,200 Sure Start centres have been lost. Labour will halt the closures and increase the amount of money available for Sure Start.
Labour (p.56): The cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit (UC), and the decision to limit tax credit and UC payments to the first two children in a family, are an attack on low-income families and will increase child poverty. Labour will reform and redesign UC, ending six-week delays in payment and the ‘rape clause’.
Conservatives (p.72): We know high-quality childcare is important not just to working parents but even more so to a child’s development and happiness. That is why a Conservative government will introduce, this year, thirty hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds for working parents who find it difficult to manage the costs of childcare. We will go further. The next Conservative government will assess what more is needed, including looking at the best ways that childcare is provided elsewhere in Europe and the world. As a sign of our commitment, we will immediately institute a capital fund to help primary schools develop nurseries where they currently do not have the facilities to provide one. We will introduce a presumption that all new primary schools should include a nursery. And we will continue to support maintained nurseries and allow them to take on academy freedoms, supporting them to grow independently or as part of a multi-academy trust.
- Maternity and paternity leave and workplace support
Labour (p.48): Double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay – because fathers are parents too and deserve to spend more time with their new babies. Strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy – because no one should be penalised for having children.
Labour (p.109): Labour will reverse the unfair employment tribunal fees which literally price people out of justice. Labour will also extend the time period for applying for maternity discrimination to the employment tribunal from three to six months. Labour will work with the Health and Safety Executive to make mandatory a workplace risk assessment for pregnant women so necessary adaptions can be made, and review support for women who have miscarriages
Conservatives (p.56): We will take steps to improve take-up of shared parental leave and help companies provide more flexible work environments that help mothers and fathers to share parenting.
- Mental health
Labour (p.67): Labour will take action to significantly reduce infant deaths and to ensure all families who lose a baby receive appropriate bereavement support.
Lib Dems (p.18): Transform mental health support for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, and help them get early care when needed.
UKIP (p.23): Provide direct access to specialist mental health treatment for all pregnant women and mothers of children under 12 months of age.
- Sexual health
Labour (p.190): Labour will continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion – and we will work with the Assembly to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.
Lib Dems (p.85): In light of the US government’s dangerous and anti-science attacks on international programmes of vaccination and family planning, which impact disproportionately on the health of women and children, seek to protect global spending on these essential provisions.
Green (p.15): Improve young people’s access to basic but vital health needs, by providing more funding for sexual health awareness campaigns, providing greater access to free condoms and sexual health clinics.
Violence and abuse against women
- Domestic and sexual violence legislation
Labour (p.77): The level of violence against women and girls is not acceptable. Labour will emphasise the safety of women and girls by appointing a commissioner to set new standards for tackling domestic and sexual violence. […] We will strengthen the law, banning the use of community resolutions as a response to domestic violence.
Labour (p.80): Labour will immediately re-establish early advice entitlements in the Family Courts. The shameful consequences of withdrawal have included a requirement for victims of domestic abuse to pay doctors for certification of their injuries. Labour’s plans will remove that requirement. At the same time, we will legislate to prohibit the cross examination of victims of domestic violence by their abuser in certain circumstances.
Conservatives (p.44): We will ensure that child victims and victims of sexual violence are able to be cross-examined before their trial without the distress of having to appear in court. Publicly-funded advocates will have specialist training in handling victims before taking on serious sexual offences cases.
Conservatives (p.58): We need the police to investigate allegations thoroughly and treat victims with the care they deserve. We need to bring to the justice system greater guidance and clarity about the impact of domestic violence and abuse on families. And we need to understand and respond to the devastating and lifelong impact that domestic violence and abuse has on children, who carry the effects into adulthood. A Conservative government will bring forward a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill in the next parliament to consolidate all civil and criminal prevention and protection orders and provide for a new aggravated offence if behaviour is directed at a child. There is currently no statutory definition of domestic violence and abuse. We will therefore also legislate to enshrine a definition of domestic violence and abuse in law, providing the legal underpinning for everything in our new act. This will enable us to work with victim support groups, experts and agencies to determine whether the current statutory definition is wide enough, to help survivors understand more easily if they have a basis for a complaint, and to provide a more reliable basis for police forces to investigate and the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute. We will create a domestic violence and abuse commissioner in law, to stand up for victims and survivors, monitor the response to domestic violence and abuse and to hold the police and the criminal justice system to account. And we will take action to support victims of domestic violence to leave abusive partners, reviewing the funding for refuges and ensuring that victims who have lifetime tenancies and flee violence are able to secure a new lifetime tenancy automatically.
Labour (p.77): We will establish a National Refuge Fund and ensure stability for rape crisis centres.
Labour (p.109): Labour will appoint a new commissioner to enforce minimum standards in tackling domestic and sexual violence. A Violence Against Women Commissioner would also provide stable central funding for women’s refuges and rape crisis centres and encourage sharing of best practice between local authorities.
- Sex and relationships education
Labour (p.77): We will make age-appropriate sex and relationship education a compulsory part of the curriculum so young people can learn about respectful relationships.
- FGM prevention and legislation
Labour (p.77): Labour will continue to enforce effective measures to prevent all forms of abuse, including female genital mutilation.
Lib Dems (p.82): Champion the rules-based international order, which provides a strong basis for multilateral action to address the world’s most pernicious problems, including poverty, armed conflict, disease, climate change and the abuse of human rights, including forced marriage, so-called ‘honour’ killings, and female genital mutilation.
Lib Dems (p.86): We will aim to end female genital mutilation worldwide within a generation.
UKIP (pp.36-7): The current approach, which focuses on education and support alone, fails thousands of girls every year. In addition to current programmes, we will also:
- Make failure to report a known instance of FGM a criminal offence
- Implement a screening programme for girls identified to be at risk of FGM from birth to age sixteen, consisting of annual non-invasive physical check-ups
- Carry out additional check-ups on girls at risk when they return to the UK from trips to countries where FGM is known to be customary
- Make FGM an indictable offence (meaning it can only be heard in the Crown Court) with a sentencing starting point of six years.
Green (p.19): Implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle gender based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, FGM and trafficking.
- Sexual exploitation
Conservatives (pp.40-1): We will review the application of exploitation in the Modern Slavery Act to strengthen our ability to stop criminals putting men, women and children into criminal, dangerous and exploitative working conditions. And the UK will use its power to push the United Nations and other international bodies to make Modern Slavery a thing of the past.
Conservatives (p.45): We will introduce dedicated provision for women offenders.
Lib Dems (p.74): Establish a Women’s Justice Board with a remit to meet the special needs of women offenders.
- Women’s and girl’s rights
Labour (p.86): Prioritise support, protection and equal rights for women and girls, which is both right and essential for effective, sustainable economic development.
Labour (p.122): We will continue to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on social development assistance, and develop a targeted development agenda based on the principles of redistribution, social justice, women’s rights and poverty reduction.
- Media representation
UKIP (p.22): The ‘lad culture,’ which treats young women as sex objects and the ‘red circle of shame’ in celebrity magazines that hold women to unattainable levels of physical perfection are just two examples. UKIP will review advertising, broadcast and editorial codes, seeking commitments that editorial coverage and advertising campaigns will treat men and women with dignity and promote healthy body images.
- Women in minority communities
UKIP (pp.36-7): If we compare the rights of women in the UK to those of the majority of women overseas, the contrast is striking. Acceptance of the concept of sexual equality is largely confined to a handful of economically advanced nations. Mass uncontrolled immigration has opened the door to a host of people from cultures with little or no respect for women, yet when their views have been challenged, some on the ‘Left’ of politics, in particular, have encouraged them to claim a ‘victim’ status they do not deserve. UKIP will challenge those who do not uphold the rights of women, or who set themselves on a deliberate collision course with core British values of equality, free speech and democracy. We will protect all women, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. Culture is not an excuse for crime, nor is ignorance of the law. Every woman, indeed anyone who believes in women’s rights, should be outraged by the appalling practices occurring on a daily basis in minority communities across Britain. […] Women at risk from their own families and communities need our help and protection. UKIP will uphold the integrity of British law and ensure it applies to each individual equally, irrespective of his or her race, faith or ethnic origin. We will:
- Make ‘breast ironing’ a specific criminal offence
- Add ‘offences committed to protect family or personal honour’ to the Sentencing Council’s list of aggravating factors, giving leave to impose greater sentences
- Prosecute all cases of child and forced marriage and refuse permanent leave to remain and/or British citizenship to any adult known to have procured a child marriage for themselves or their children
- Make certain that neither the legal nor the welfare system in Britain ever recognises polygamy
- Include information on cultural crimes in safeguarding training for teachers, staff and school governors.
- UKIP will ban wearing of the niqab and the burqa in public places.
Lib Dems (p.71): Address period poverty by providing free sanitary products to girls at school.
UKIP (p.11): We will remove VAT from hot takeaway food such as fish and chips, and from women’s sanitary products.
Green (p.15): [Remove] VAT from sanitary products and [ensure] that they are provided free of charge to those in extreme financial need.
- Gender identity recognition
Labour (p.111): A Labour government will reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to ensure they protect Trans people by changing the protected characteristic of ‘gender assignment’ to ‘gender identity’ and remove other outdated language such as ‘transsexual’.
Conservatives (p.44): And we will push forward with our plan for tackling hate crime committed on the basis of religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Lib Dems (p.71): Introduce an ‘X’ option on passports, identity documents, and official forms for those who do not wish to identify as either male or female, and campaign for their introduction in the provision of other services, for example utilities. […] Extend protection of gender reassignment in equality law to explicitly cover gender identity and expression, and streamline and simplify the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to allow individuals to change their legal gender without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, for example the intrusive medical tests currently required.
- Discrimination and hate crimes
Labour (p.111): Labour will bring the law on LGBT hate crimes into line with hate crimes based on race and faith, by making them aggravated offences. To tackle bullying of LGBT young people, Labour will ensure that all teachers receive initial and ongoing training on the issues students face and how to address them. And we will ensure that the new guidance for relationships and sex education is LGBT inclusive.
Green (p.21): Action to tackle racism and discrimination on the basis of faith or disability, real equality for LGBTIQA+ people, equal rights for mixed gender couples to have a Civil Partnership.
Labour (p.111): Likewise, we will ensure all frontline health and social care professionals receive ongoing training to understand and meet the needs of LGBT patients and service users. Labour will ensure that NHS England completes the trial programme to provide PrEP as quickly as possible, and fully roll out the treatment to high-risk groups to help reduce HIV infection.
Pensions and retirement
Labour (p.54): Over 2.5 million women born in the 1950s have had their state pension age changed without fair notification. These women deserve both recognition for the injustice they have suffered and some kind of compensation for their losses. Alongside our commitment to extend Pension Credit to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable women, Labour is exploring options for further transitional protections, to ensure that all these women have security and dignity in older age.
UKIP (p.11): The rise in the retirement age to 66 by 2020 and to 67 by 2028 has been hugely unpopular, especially for women, who until 2010 could retire at 60. UKIP’s policy is to introduce a flexible state pension window, so everyone can opt to retire earlier, for a slightly lower state pension, or work longer for a slightly higher pension, as is the case at the moment. We will allow women to retire on this basis at 60, if they so wish.
Labour (p.64): Labour will set out a new national plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, starting by making available 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. We will also take action to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from crude Conservative cuts to housing benefit.
Conservatives (p.58): Finally, we will continue to combat homelessness and rough sleeping including through full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act. Our aim will be to halve rough sleeping over the course of the parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027. To achieve this we will set up a new homelessness reduction taskforce that will focus on prevention and affordable housing, and we will pilot a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping
Green (p.17): Stop declaring people as ‘intentionally homeless’ and give Local Authorities the same duties towards single people and childless couples as to families.
A lot to digest there, and a lot of other policies to consider other than those that affect women. Happy researching, happy debating, and happy voting!
Until next month,