In the 1980s era of the Loony Left a local council would often set up a Women’s Committee. Their role might include demanding a purge of municipal libraries – with efforts at censorship of material considered “sexist.”
Sometimes they would descend into self parody – with the suggestion that they should be renamed Wimmin’s Committees.
By the time Labour were elected in 1997 and established a post of Minister for Women (Dame Joan Ruddock) – the committees had already being quietly abolished in town halls.
At the Daily Telegraph Martha Gill feels the post of Minister for Women is even more anachronistic. She says:
“Minister for Women may have been a small step forward in the Fifties, but it’s a giant leap back in 2014. Come on, Cameron: ditch it.”
Then in The Times this morning Laura Pitel reports(£) there are suggestions that the new Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan is unsuitable due to her views on same sex marriage and abortion:
She told her local newspaper at the time of last year’s commons vote that she believed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”.She also backed a controversial amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill that called for independent advice to be made available to women seeking an abortion.
There are a couple of muddles over this criticism.
First is the suggestion that such views are anti women. The Nadine Dorries/Frank Field amendment had strong support among male and female MPs.
So far as public opinion is concerned this YouGov poll indicates women are just as likely as men to favour greater restrictions on abortion. While 21 per cent of them backed that Dorries/Field amendment – compared to 26 per cent from men. When it comes to the time limit for abortion women are more likely than men to back reductions from 24 weeks. 35 per cent of women say that 24 weeks should remain – there are also two per cent of women who say it should be increased to more than 24 weeks. However 53 per cent favour some reduction – (eight per cent favour reducing to 22 weeks, 18 per cent to 20 weeks, 20 per cent to less than 20 weeks, and seven per cent that abortion “should not normally be legal at all.”
Should any woman MP who – like 53 per cent of women voters – favours greater restriction on abortion be in some way ruled out from being Minister for Women?
There are also a large number of women – 31 per cent in this YouGov poll – who opposed the introduction of same sex marriage.
Secondly, though is the implication that the role of a Minister for Women is not to actually do anything but simply to hold a suitable collection of politically correct prejudices and assist in the task of seeking to silence anyone – male or female/gay or straight – who happens not to agree.
This is not to say that there are certain issues that women will be especially concerned about. Discrimination in the labour market for instance – the record number of women in employment offers an encouraging sign of progress that this is being overcome.
Child care is another obvious example – here the Schools Minister Liz Truss has brought in reforms to cut red tape and thus increase choice and reduce costs. The record compares favourably with Labour Wales.
Women are likely than men to be victims or rape and of domestic violence. The Crime Survey indicates a reduction has been achieved in these areas. Greater transparency has made the police more accountable.
This is the policy substance. Ensuring that women are safe from attack and allowing the chance to share in economic prosperity. On these measure the Government can claim to have made some progress. The retention of the post of Minister for Women is – at best – an irrelevance.