Louise Burfitt-Dons is a Conservative Party Activist on the Candidate’s List. She writes the Right Wing Feminist blog.
Sixty years ago, women in the UK were more likely than men to vote Conservative at a general election. Then along came the ’80s and ’90s and there was a clear shift to the left. But is it now time, once again, for a reversal of the trend? Here are seven reasons to tempt female voters back into the fold:
- Identity: While every party is pushing “British values” to allay fears that immigration is undermining the way in which we live, the Tories are hotter on this. Whether it’s manners, modesty, or just the accepted right to wear a mini-skirt or choose who to marry, most debates on UK values are not so much about tolerance and responsibility as the treatment of women.
- Safety: Conservatives are traditionally the toughest party on crime. Women are still the most targeted in “crash for cash” insurance scams; 70 per cent of internet bullying is directed against women; and CPS figures show that there are still fourteen times more prosecutions of men using violence against women than the other way around.
- Pragmatism: Tory tax philosophy. Less revenue paid to the State means more for each household to spend. Women hold the purse strings. If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female. It is estimated that as much as 80 per cent of spending is decided on or influenced by the woman in the relationship.
- Entrepreneurial incentives: As the pro-small business party, promoting “get up and get on with it” when it comes to finding a job, the current Conservative ethos should be great news for women. Juggling home life, children and caring responsibilities, the option to customise their employment fits well. The number of self-employed women is rising at nearly three times the rate of men. There are now more than 1.2 million self-employed women in full- and part-time work.
- Lifestyle: Women are more prone than men to dream, Jane Austen-style, about picnics in the park or a cottage in the country. The Conservatives have long been the champions of the countryside. Whether or not support for the Tories is declining in rural areas, no other major party can claim to be as sensitive to development on green belt and deserving of support for protecting heritage.
- Sentimentality: Women have been officially involved with conservative politics longer than any other party. Known originally as the Women’s National Advisory Committee, the CWO is the oldest women’s political organisation in the world. Though UK membership has declined during the age of the internet, it was once upon a time the largest such organisation in the Western World. Female activists from within the ranks included the famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Other right wing political ice-breakers, beyond the obvious example of Baroness Thatcher, were the very first female MP to take up her seat, Nancy Astor, and the first Muslim Minister, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Despite the Labour party’s media monopoly on all things feminist, it is in fact conservative thinking on the subject which should be more appealing to women today, as I covered in an earlier post for this site.
- Representation: The facts are that within the Conservative Party there are now 48 female MPs, with more on the way: 5 cabinet ministers, three others attending, and many more climbing the ladder. While women MPs’ talents and abilities are certainly not restricted simply to gender affairs, there’s no doubt some issues which have been swept under the carpet for years (such as FGM, forced marriage, violence against women) require female input.
But will these facts make any difference to the turnout next year? Despite the struggle undertaken on their behalf to get the vote in the 1920s, figures show that in 2010 over half of women in the UK under 34 didn’t bother to use it. Let’s hope we can change this state of affairs, and, as a result, up the Conservative vote in 2015.