Jessica Ormerod and Deborah Harrington have some advice for the Labour deputy leader.
Have we really not moved on since 1953? Take one look at Harriet Harman and her pink campaign bus and you’d be forgiven for thinking we haven’t. The idea that Labour are going to sweep up the mummy vote with a pink bus and a patronising wink from Harriet as she talks woman to woman would be laughable if it weren’t so vomit-inducing.
Since the coalition stumbled into power we have all been the losers, but women and children have been hit the hardest. Labour are neither saying nor doing anything to stop the horrific effects of austerity on the most vulnerable in our society.
I can tell you, Harriet, just what keeps us women folk up at night. Like you, I live in South East London. Unlike you, my children go to the local comprehensive school and over the last few years I have seen families made homeless by the wicked austerity agenda. An agenda that your party defends. To use the patronising parlance of government, these are ‘hard-working families’ who have been turfed out of their houses because the landlord has decided to ride the property market and sell the flat, leaving families with no recourse but to pack their bags and go to the housing office. Because there is no housing stock left in Lewisham, these families are re-housed in the appalling conditions of so-called ’emergency accommodation’, often far from their jobs and their children’s schools. Mummy lies awake listening to the drug addicts and alcoholics shouting at each other in the room next door, worries about the three buses they will need to get to school the next morning, worries if she’ll even be able to get on the bus because if there’s one pushchair on there already the driver shoos you away. And anyway, everyone will have to be up at 5am in order to make the journey of 5 miles because buses are late, buses get stuck in traffic and there’s always a walk at the end with three miserable, tired children who might not have eaten because, and here’s another worry, Harriet, there’s not enough money for everyone to eat breakfast.
Women bear the brunt of plummeting household finances, they go hungry to keep their children fed, they take their children to hospital, they work zero hour contract jobs, they get beaten up by their partners and have nowhere to go…
So, Harriet, let’s talk about what women want:
Women, and especially women with children, are most affected by the unaffordability of decent homes. They are more likely to have inadequate incomes and suffer from draconian reductions in benefit. Don’t just talk about building more homes, talk about what kind of homes. Council homes at council rents sounds good. Don’t use that awful term ‘affordable’ which mostly is only marginally less affordable than current market prices. How about decent jobs in areas where homes are standing empty so people can live happy lives there?
Don’t offer more ‘free’ hours and vouchers, these have led over the last 20 years to the cost of nursery places in England being the highest in Europe – put more money into any given area of the private sector and the prices go up (but not always the standards). Build on local council provision instead, or provide more kindergartens attached to primary schools.
Do something urgently about the drastic reductions in local authority social care budgets which hit women harder than anyone. Women already provide a lot of the care for the generations below and above them, and what support and relief they were getting has been torn away by this government.
Women bear the children and also tend to look after their household’s health. If they suffer inadequate housing, low wages, failure of local provision of service, their health suffers – and then who looks after the children?
Where can we take our children to be safe from abuse now that the refuges have been savagely cut?
I want to send my child to a normal state comprehensive but I am faced with an array of foundation schools, academies and free schools that I don’t trust and I don’t like.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I say, get out of your bus and get real about what is actually happening to women: to their children and their partners; to their everyday lives. Don’t tell us what we worry about – ask us and we’ll tell you.
We want a new politics. We want a healthy NHS. We want a better Britain.