The Tories’ Real Record on Women’s Rights

Labour Party

I have been reading with some amazement recent statements on women from senior Tories, in particular David Cameron and Theresa May.  In David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party spring conference last month, he emphasised how “family-friendly” his party’s manifesto would be with the “right to flexibility to everyone with children”.  Last week Theresa May used the occasion of International Women’s Day to make a “pledge of support for women” in the Guardian online pages. 

All fine sentiments, but female voters beware!  Beyond Cameron and May’s words, there is little sense that there is any support for such policies in the core of the Tory party, or little evidence that the party leadership have the will to implement them.  Indeed, as I have blogged before, the voting record of Tory MEPs on women’s rights issues since David Cameron became leader is appalling, and exposes the fact that really nothing has changed in the Nasty Party.

For example, in 2006 Tory MEPs voted against a Report on combating violence against women, which included provisions on making rape within marriage a criminal offence, eliminating female genital mutilation, and encouraging cross border cooperation on so-called “honour” crimes, all matters mentioned by Theresa May in her Guardian article as commitments of a future Tory government. 

Yet it seems her MEPs do not share these concerns.  As recently as 2009, the Tory MEPs abstained in a vote urging member states to improve their national policies on combating violence against women, where the importance of recognising rape within marriage as a criminal offence was again underlined. 

On childcare, the EU adopted Employment guidelines as part of the EU’s Growth and Jobs strategy in 2008.  These guidelines included targets for flexible working, and access to childcare, surely a key element of Cameron’s pledge of the “right to flexibility to everyone with children”.  Again, this failed to get the Conservative MEPs’ backing.

In February of this year, the Tories voted against a report which included provisions on the need to tackle the gender pay gap – another issue Theresa May purports to be in favour of – and to link maternity and paternity leave.  The Tories in the European Parliament explicitly disagreed with the call to establish paternity leave across Europe, and against linking paternity and maternity leave to ensure fathers are able to take time off as well.  The report in question also contained a provision on one of David Cameron’s priority policies, combating persistent sexist stereotyping and degrading images.  Again the Tory MEPs voted against.

David Cameron said last month in his speech that as a parent he “dreads switching on the television and being bombarded with commercial messages”.  However, in 2008, the European Parliament discussed the issue of advertising and stereotypes in the media.  Member States were urged to ensure that marketing and advertising did not uphold discriminatory stereotypes, and consider the impact of advertising on children and teenagers’ body image and self-esteem, and yet 15 Tory MEPs still managed to vote against this measure.

I continue to be amazed at the disingenuousness of Cameron’s approach.  If he and his party were serious about family friendly policies and women’s rights, they would not let their MEPs vote so brazenly against these reports which recognise the importance of these issues. 

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, with a general election drawing near, the Tories suddenly remember that they need to try and appeal to women, who do make up over 50% of the electorate, but I would urge female voters not to fall for these well-scripted sentiments, when time and time again it can be shown that they are not supported by the Tories in any way that matters.

8 thoughts on “The Tories’ Real Record on Women’s Rights

  1. I really dislike the suggestion that Tory MEPs somehow condone rape within marriage, genital mutilation and other atrocities committed against women. If they voted against your report, it was your Party’s approach to the subject they could not accept – not the subject matter itself.
    Quite apart from the fact that at last year’s Euro Elections, a large number of women Conservatives were elected, do you not realise that the men all have women in their lives – be they wives, daughters or female partners? They are compassionate, caring men – not evil rapists.

    1. Sally, In response to your comment, all I would say is that I accurately reported the way Tory MEPs voted. Some of the votes to which I refer took place in the last European Parliament mandate when the Tories were in the EPP, and in many instances the Tories voted differently from the EPP. They therefore presumably could not accept the centre-right approach as well as that of the Socialist Group.

  2. Thank you for your explanation, Mary, but that still only goes to show that the Conservatives had an issue with either the Report itself or the way it was drafted – not the subject-matter.
    As I have already said, there has been an influx of Conservative women elected last year and their representative on the Womens Committee Marina Yannakoudakis is already working hard on a variety of matters of concern to women.

  3. Sally… of course Tory are humans… some have wives, girlfriends, lovers, partners, mothers, sisters, aunts etc etc..

    But we are talking about their voting records and their attitudes..

    Similarly I would assume they have workmates and colleagues but they have no stress in crushing the Unions which are just workers coming together…

    Ask yourself how they voted on lesbian parenting rights…

    The Tories are not all evil but lets not pretend that they work in Europe is sunshine and correct..

  4. “Similarly I would assume they have workmates and colleagues but they have no stress in crushing the Unions which are just workers coming together…”

    Andy – these days most Conservatives (ok not all) have a constructive attitude towards trade unions which they see fulfilling a very necessary role within the workplace. Richard Balfe (the former Labour MEP) is currently their representative to the trade union movement and is engaging in constructive dialogue. What is becoming ever more apparent is that the bad old days of the “trade union barons” wielding power with their block vote have returned in the shape of leaders of the RMT and Unite to name the worst two examples. This is neither helpful to the wider public nor, in fact, to the average worker who just wants a quiet life.

    “Ask yourself how they voted on lesbian parenting rights…”

    Well, it may shock you, Andy but I would have voted against Lesbian parenting rights – even though I have several good friends who are indeed Lesbians. I believe that a child should, ideally, have a parent of each gender – good and loving though gay parents may well prove to be.
    I do not consider myself intolerant for holding that view – I have no doubt at all that you and Mary will disagree – but I can live with that.

  5. Yes a child should be in a loving family.. but that doesn’t mean it should solely be the realm of a male and female to create that.. Love and nurture are the best ingredients for a child not the sex or sexuality of their parents..

    In my part of London there are an incredible amount of children who have one or two parents who are not equipped to handle parenthood and you think two loving lesbian women couldn’t do a better job..

    To think that the ‘father’ is always going to be the best role model is ridiculous.. and Lesbian parents won’t shut their children off to males..

    but you know what.. loving lesbian families are already in existence as are loving gay male families.. so the areguement is one of political belief not reality.. Labour were just formalising what is going on in the world right now..

    I don’t think the world will collapse with a formalisation of lesbian and gay parenting.. after all the world hasn’t collapsed with straight parenting…?

    Re Tories and trade Unions… why are they still amazed that Labour is the party of the trade unions..?

  6. Do not forget that ever since I can remember (I’m 32) the Tories have hated single parents, especially single mothers. Thatcher said we should all go and live in religious institutions, Michael Howard said that we should have our children adopted. IDS says we are irresponsible, feckless and bad parents. Cameron discriminates against us with his marriage tax breaks and continual put downs. The Tories do not like women, much less so if they dare to leave a husband or are unfornutate to have a husband leave them, or to be left widowed (and Im not just talking about being married here). IDS says that Gay parenting isnt important it “doesnt even register on the richter scale”. Oh and dont forget that if you are a single parent the Tories say your children are 9 times more likely to become criminals. They are a bunch of sexist pillocks 🙂

  7. I sometimes wish you would focus on iessus that matter to the country. i am in absolute despair at how the PLP are behaving at present the lastest aggression and childish behaviour from Tom Watson yesterday is an example. I am tired of the Lib Dem bashing and the failures to support any measures. There have been some significant policies and reforms coming from the coalition government which have not been acknowledged. Instead we are having hollow outrage which is totally offensive to people like me. The continuous resentment and emotional outbursts are pathetic. There has sadly been no acknowledgement of the economic legacy which makes some actions necessary.What on earth is happening? Reasonable people that I once respected are looking aggressive and angry and exhibiting boorish behaviour. Is it because you have been released from the control of the former PM? Does it relate to being sore losers? I don’t know but I do not like it.For the first time in 45 years I did not vote for the party at the last election. I did not want GB as PM and resented the ousting of Tony Blair. I note that many of GB’s cohorts and those who signed the notorious letter are some of the worst offenders in the Commons. I hate it all. If David Miliband becomes leader i will return to the party. If Ed Balls does I will not as i loathe combative and nasty bullies and would not want such a person as PM. If you eant to govern again, you need to ensure that you appeal to Middle England. Current behaviour suggests you are failing to do either.

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