23rd December, 2015
WOULD A FEMALE SOLDIER BE WILLING TO KILL?
I have just been away for a few days and not paying as much attention to the news as usual, but one story I did pick up on was a discussion on women serving on the front line for our war efforts. The news anchor asked whether a woman soldier would be as willing to kill as her male equivalent is.
“Of course she flaming well would!” was my reaction.
I know I have only experienced war from the safety of reading about it and watching and listening to reports via the media, but it does infuriate me that we come to such strange assumptions about women, including the old chestnut that the world would be a peaceful place if only women were in charge. Tell that to the poor innocent Syrians when we have recently seen a female adviser to Assad being interviewed on TV.
I tend to come to opposite conclusions about my fellow women because I believe that women are actually fiercely protective over their own families and will take measures to defend them and the societies in which their families prosper. I am reminded of Wendy Deng lashing out when Rupert Murdoch was attacked during questioning in parliament whilst they were still happily married.
And of course we must all applaud the brave women soldiers from the Kurdish community who are fighting the ISIS threat.
We do make odd assumptions about women in the Labour Party too. We assume that women will vote Labour because Labour is the party that believes in equality and will serve the interests of women. We think that quotas and all-women shortlists are the answer to poor representation of women at various levels of the party. I say that women have, at least up until the recent data available to me, only made up about a third of our membership, so perhaps the answer is to attract more women members in the first place and allow them to succeed on their own merits as Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May have, for example.
One of the arguments for AWS is that they will help us solve a problem which has dogged us for decades – the fact that women actually vote Tory in greater numbers than they vote Labour. Whenever I have looked at the statistics that are available from 1974 onwards the trend is clear that women vote Tory in greater numbers than they do for Labour; except, that is, when a certain Mr Blair was in charge. This article from the Guardian includes a graph which helps to illustrate this.
I do not think that the introduction of AWS, or even the many women’s conferences within the Labour party can explain this improvement, because again, women were more likely to vote Tory once other leaders took over the party. This includes when Ed Miliband took charge, even though the polling during his leadership suggested that women were very much warming towards the party. Ipsos MORI data demonstrates how little positive effect Miliband had when it came to attracting women voters.
So what about the Tony Blair effect? As I will not accept that positive discrimination or conferences that centre on women’s issues (when they are more what I would call family issues, such as childcare) are helpful, I will make another argument. The Labour Party under Tony Blair clearly believed in aspiration and permission to want the best for your family in terms of education, and for people to feel safe where there is respect for law and order and national security is protected as well.
These conditions, I believe, are attractive to so many women who are concerned for the prosperity and the safety of their own families, and these conditions tend to be perceived as within the domain of the Conservative party. When Labour convinces the electorate that these values actually belong to us, then we will win the women’s vote.
So listen up Jeremy Corbyn. If you want the women’s vote then you need to make us feel safe and not be seen to be preventing our security services from protecting our streets. Women aspire and want a stable and thriving economy, so you will have to accept that too. Otherwise you must allow us to have a leader who can achieve what our greatest winner Tony Blair did and gain the trust of the nation’s women (and its men too!)
By Paddington Baby