Monday, November 13, 2006
Why are British Women Voters so Rightwing?
For this reason she urges the election of a woman deputy leader to show women where their best interests lie. She points out that Conservatives have invariably reaped the female vote harvest- 'the right only ever won on the women's vote'. 1997 was the first time female votes helped Labour to win but in 2005 the female vote was equally split between Labour and Conservative. By this summer a Tory lead of 8 points had opened up. For some reason British women, unlike their counterparts in France, Germany and Italy, lean to the right and not the left.
Toynbee reflects on the things done by 'the most female friendly governement yet': maternity leave imnprovements and nurseries plus the fact that while in 1997 there were only child-care places for one in eight, today it's one in three. She also mentions Sure Start; the fact that it has been women who have benefitted most from the minimum wage. Then she lists tax credits, improvements in the NHS, more schools, and less crime. But still women have refused to view Labour as their government. Why? Polly thinks it's because of the Iraq war: 'women hate war and they hate it more than men do'. Poll evidence seems to back her up; she could be right if the US mid-terms are any indication.
She concludes by waving the flag for Harriet Harman, who is the only senior Labour figure who 'campaigns loudly and unashamedly on women's issues'. Polly points out that when Harman entered the House there were only 10 Labour MPs and now there are 97 yet, as Harman herself admits, Labour has somehow made them 'invisible'. She suggests Harriet would make a difference. My take on this is a bit cynical. Voters are very instrumental and have short memories; Labour gave them the economic stability they wanted but now they take it for granted and, according to polls, do not even allow Gordon any credit for achieving it. I suspect voters, even women voters, have accepted all that Labour has given them but that it now fails to register hardly at all. Indeed, I suspect that it weighs light in the balance compared with the winning, smiling, vacuously optimistic blandishments of the Tory toff. After all, it worked for Blair, so why not the same for Cameron?
Michael's condescension point is pertinent. Do we ever hear psephologists talking about the "men's vote"?
The voting behaviour of women varies dramatically with age and social class. In particular, young women (18-24)are much more likely to vote Labour than older women; and this is especially so of young working-class women (C2DE's). ABC1 older (over 55) women are much more likely to vote Conservative. The same is true of ABC1 men over 55. Skipper could just as easily have asked: Why are young working-class women less reactionary than older men?
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