Niki Molnar is Chairman of the Conservative Women's Organisation.
Sandra Parsons in yesterday’s Daily Mail did an excellent job at regurgitating the themes of Melanie McDonagh’s piece in this week’s Spectator (not online) with both writers feeling that the Conservative Party is either desperate (McDonagh) or frantic (Parsons) in its efforts to regain the support of women.
With regard to child benefits, McDonagh explains how the higher tax bracket child benefit cut was “one of the few times when you felt you were getting something back from the state, just by virtue of the fact you had children.”
So, parts of yours and my hard-earned taxes have been used for McDonagh and her friends to celebrate their fertility. And all this time I’ve thought the privilege of having children was actually having children and not a handout.
But McDonagh doesn’t see the loss of benefits to be a problem in itself as they “aren’t much, in the great scheme of things”. Instead, she infers that women aren’t able to lower their expenditure by “an extra 10 or 20 quid a week”. If it’s true that expenditure rises to meet income, then I am living proof that the opposite can also be achieved.
On the same subject, Parsons, though, just becomes hysterical: “Ill thought through and frankly disgraceful” and how it showed “how little Dave and George Osborne understand the real world”. That would be the “real world” where Osborne is trying to get the deficit under control. Yes, it is frankly disgraceful that he considered the country as a whole, rather than Parsons personally.
Most private sector employees have endured years of pay-freezes, so they already know what it’s like to lose out. They have done this because they preferred to have a job at the end of the year – not because of some God-given right.
Let’s hope these two aren’t the start of a plague of Deficit NIMBY commentators. We want no more women journalists deciding that all this cost-cutting is fine, except if it affects them.
Another thing they both agree on is that fewer women are supporting the Conservatives than in December last year, which is true. According to McDonagh, this “has created something like consternation right at the top of the government”. Parsons, instead, read this as a personal aversion to David Cameron by the women of Britain – although she only evidences her own change of heart towards him.
A tad of research would have shown Parsons that Cameron remains, by far, the most favoured party leader with women, which makes a joke of the title of her article: “We women are falling out of love with Dave”. Not when you’ve got Ed and Nick to choose from, they’re not.
I’m not going to deny that the party has lost favour with women since the election, but rather than be hysterical about it, the party is getting on and doing what any good party does: identify where your support is waning and adjust campaigning efforts to improve it. I’m afraid it’s not hysterical, frantic or even frenzied.
But wait. They both have proof of the Tory histrionics in regaining the support of women. Apparently “Cameron is ditching just about any policy that he thinks women might not like.” (McDonagh) and “In a panic, they've executed more U-turns than a dog chasing its tail” (Parsons).
Ignoring the difference in literary style, have they both forgotten that the Government is made up of a coalition of centre-left and centre-right parties? The union negotiations must be a doddle compared to what goes on in Number 10 every day. The country didn’t vote for one party to govern on its own, but maybe next time, it’ll realise what an idiotic way of running a country it is.
But Parsons isn’t finished with Cameron yet. She thinks that DC is “patronising” towards women. (McDonagh also calls the Conservatives patronising but never fully explains why.) Parsons' proof comes from Cameron starting some of his sentences with “Now, look…”
“Now, look” is not patronising to women. The phrase is in all politicians' vocabularies as a way of avoiding saying “That’s a bloody idiotic question” in answer to a journalist – but after writing recent highbrow pieces on the Duchess of Cambridge and Cheryl Cole, I will forgive her for not knowing this.
The premise of both articles, however eerily similar, is that we’re losing the support of women and I mind that a great deal – although, as McDonagh points out, women are the “major consumers of public services… and the major providers of them”, so of course women will be disproportionately affected by any reduction in public services and public sector jobs in the short term. This hasn’t come as any big surprise to me, the party or David Cameron. Just as it wasn’t a surprise when men came off 475 times worse during the recession because of all the financial services and manufacturing jobs lost.
They say that a day is a long time in politics; well, if the only poll that matters is the one on 7th May 2015, we have 1,407 long days to regain the support of women – but without the dramatics please.