Plagiarising Polly…

Iain Dale seems to be suffering from short-term memory loss.

Here he is introducing a typically vapid commentary on female voting habits in today’s Torygraph…

Here’s something for Polly Toynbee to ponder on. It’s a startling fact that if women had never had the vote, Britain would have had a continuous Labour government since 1945.

And here’s Polly Toynbee, writing for the Guardian/Comment is Free on November 10, last year…

David Cameron owes his lead in the polls entirely to women’s votes. Without them he might have a rebellion in the ranks by now. Does this augur a reversion to old voting habits? It is women who have kept Conservatives in power for most of the time since the suffragettes first won the vote. British women are odd: traditionally, in France, Germany and Italy women lean to the left and men lean rightwards; but in Britain the right only ever won on the women’s vote. The suffragettes’ achievement made the last century the Conservative century; are women about to do it again?

What rather more interesting, however, is the very different presentational take that La Toynbee and Dale have on what it will take to capture the crucial female vote at the next election.

Both point to the need to engage women in the political process:


He [Cameron] has delivered on his pledge to select more women candidates. The Conservative Women’s Organisation is now more likely to be found huddled in policy meetings with shadow cabinet members than making jam for the bring-and-buy. The establishment of Women to Win, the Women’s Policy Group and the Conservative Muslim Women’s Group are clear signs that the party is changing.


What Labour needs is a high-profile woman campaigner who never lets go, to make sure the policy reviews push these things high up the agenda. If women voters just don’t get the message about what Labour does for women, that’s because the wrong messengers at the top fail to convince. Mothers listen to mothers: to win, Labour needs its women up front.

And both pick the same basic policy issues – although only of a sort in Dale’s case:


Cameron is promoting family-friendly policies, talking about work-life balance and putting childcare at the top of his agenda.


Life is still hard for mothers, and they know it. When I spent time with a New Deal adviser last week, he despaired at trying to persuade employers to offer jobs to suit mothers’ hours: there were none in supermarkets, offices or anywhere. If employers were forced to offer all jobs part time, mothers’ prospects could be transformed. And that’s the case right up the career ladder; highly skilled mothers find no part-time jobs advertised either. Why not have a fight with the CBI about it, so women get to hear? Also fight it to raise the minimum wage so women can earn enough to keep their families. Why should women’s jobs be so undervalued? Make extended schools work, with brilliant activities from 8am to 6pm for free. Make childcare affordable; it isn’t for most families. Abolish the “provocation” defence for jealous men who kill their wives.

But notice the very obvious difference in tone here…

Dale’s validation for Cameron’s presumed appeal to women is presented as:

Count the number of features in glossy magazines on Cameron. In 15 months, he has out-scored his three predecessors added together.

Toynbee sees the kind of appeal that Labour need in very different terms:

America wakes up to a bright day for women in politics: the remarkable Nancy Pelosi takes over as Speaker of the House of Representatives; Hillary Clinton is riding higher than ever; numbers of women in both houses nudged up, as did women governors. Women’s political profile has never been stronger.

Dale sees political advancement for women in terms of the Tories putting up more women candidates, including an author of third rate chick-lit and a TV presenter, Debi Jones, who has the distinction of possessing an even more embarrassing website than Adam Rickett – her website is well worth a visit, by the way, if only for the photographs which serve as object lesson in the importance of being sparing with the gaussian blur filter in Photoshop. You may even recognise here from the telly…

…if you’re the kind of saddo who spends their life in front of the home shopping channels on Cable TV.

By contrast, Toynbee’s talk is all of women in real positions of authority, both in the US (Pelosi, Clinton) and UK…

What Labour needs is a high-profile woman campaigner who never lets go, to make sure the policy reviews push these things high up the agenda.

Dale talks of Cameron backing ‘family-friendly policies’ but what policies? All that he’s had to offer so far is the restoration of the Married Couples’ Tax Allowance – and you’ve got yourself a ‘ball and chain’ to get that – and a bunch of vapid rhetoric about social responsibilty.

Toynbee’s arguing for policies with substance, and while you might agree with the specifics of her ideas at least she has some specifics to talk about. And more to the point, the drive behind her should, she suggests, come from women themselves – never mind sucking up to the menfolk in the hope they’ll provide, get out there and take care things of yourself.

If the key battleground for the next general election is to be for the female vote, then it seems apparent that women will be faced with a clear choice.

If you prefer to patronised by a dull, vapid toff with a nice smile while reading Hello magazine, vote Conservative.

If you want to get involved in politics and do something for yourself, then its Labour you should be voting for.

‘Stand by Your Man’ or ‘Sisters are doing it for themselves’ – it’s your choice.

Personally, I fucking hate Country and Western… and patronising arseholes.

5 thoughts on “Plagiarising Polly…

  1. It is always more difficult for a man to advance ‘women’s’ issues, what matters most to mothers is that there children are taught well, are safe and are in good health. What matters most to female graduates is having the same opportunities as male graduates. I think there is slightly too much emphasis on women’s issues, ethnic, religious, etc. IF it is accepted that all British citizens ought to be treated as equally as possible in law, which I believe is the situation we have at the moment, then really most people are more concerned with general policy which affects us all equally. As for vote Conservative for vapid sound bites and Labour for self-advancement, that seems a bit of a reach, you a merely using the arguments of two fairly polemic writers (to the opposite side) extended as representative of the parties.
    The average age of the 8 women in the cabinet is 54. As with all these sorts of cultural shifts a time lag is most definetly in place, all these baby boomers were growing up in a time when women were just starting to work properly after the changes WW2 brought. The children of the 70’s and 80’s won’t be as prevalent in British Politics until 2015 at least. So Polly will be able to talk of our Hillary Clinton in the foreseeable future. Besides we have already had our Thatcher, from here on out parties are coy enough to pick the best person for the job, I don’t think many MP’s or Party Members would have a problem with a women Leader, its just what their policies are and whether they think they can win. And if that’s the case then our culture is doing alright, maybe could be better but its on the right track.

  2. The problem with Toynbee’s point though is that Labour is so utterly bereft of genuinely excellent women politicians – the ones who have the “power” are either hopeless or robots, Tessa Jowell, Hazel Blears, Patricia Hewitt, Margaret Beckett, et al. About the only one who has something about her is Harriet Harman, and she’s buried back in a job where no one notices her. Maybe that will change once Brown ascends, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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