Labour prides itself on “listening to women”. Its champions regularly point to the narrowing gap between men’s and women’s pay, extended maternity leave, and flexible work as colossal achievements that have made the workplace more woman-friendly.
But the workplace is not where women want to be. A YouGov poll published in What women want... by the Centre for Policy Studies shows that the overwhelming majority of women rate their family above their job. They feel ignored by a government that unrolls a raft of policies (the Childcare Tax Credit, the new Child Care for Training and Learning, the 2006 Childcare Act and an income tax system that penalises the single-earner couple) to force women into work.
They are outraged by the same government taking control over who minds their children: why can two best friends not exchange babysitting services without Ofsted accusing them of breaking the law, as happened last week with the two policewomen in Aylesbury? The message of Labour’s policies is clear: your value to society lies in the job you hold down, not the caring, nurturing, volunteering you do.
This message reflects a culture of careerist individualism in which a few may thrive, but which leaves society the poorer.
When David Cameron last week vowed to get single mothers out of their home and into work, he risked repeating Labour’s mistake. What kind of a person will that child grow into, deprived in those crucial early years of its mum’s care? What kind of a worker will the mum be, knowing that she’s been forced to part from her child? What kind of citizens does such a policy create?