When Labour MP for Ashfield and former GMTV political correspondent Gloria de Piero asked David Cameron at PMQs last week why women were “significantly more negative about the Government than men”, the PM gave this reply.
When you are making difficult spending decisions and have a difficult economic situation, and household budgets are under huge pressure from things like petrol prices, food prices and inflation, clearly, that impacts women. The Government want to do everything they can to help women and that is why we have lifted 1 million people out of tax, the majority of whom are women, and that is why we are putting much more money and time into free nursery education for two, three and four-year-olds. That is also why, for the first time, we have agreed that women working fewer than 16 hours a week will get child care. And we do not just care about this issue at home: because of what we are doing through international aid, we will be saving more than 50,000 women in childbirth around the world.
What saved this being a hotch potch of patronising assumption and platitude was three clear achievements on child care, raising the tax threshold and nursery education. All of these ideas were brought to the table by the Liberal Democrats. He could, of course, also have mentioned the work done on body image issues for girls under the auspices of the Campaign for Body Confidence by Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson.
He could of course also have mentioned the women who have benefitted from the restoration of the pensions/earning link and Steve Webb’s triple lock on pensions which will avoid the paltry rises we saw under Labour. Yes, there have been issues with the raising of the Pension age – but £1 billion was found so that the maximum any woman has to work more than she planned will be 18 months instead of two years. And who bothered to try find that extra money? The Liberal Democrats and Jenny Willott in particular. As someone whose husband has found, five years from retirement, that he’ll have to work an extra year, I sympathise with those women – but I also accept the need for the change.
Without the Liberal Democrats to come up with ideas, if Cameron had been asked that question, his cupboard would have been well and truly bare. This is not an easy time to be in Government, but we are doing what we can to put our values into action.