With more than 10,000 jobs vanishing, it's perhaps not surprising that there's been only a quiet cheep about the disappearance of a small and relatively inexpensive quango – the women's national commission.The what?
It was set up by Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle in 1969, a year after the equal pay strike by women workers at Ford's – currently the subject of the brilliant film, Made in Dagenham.Oh, right. As a woman, I suppose I should have known about it?
Somehow, I don’t feel all that diminished that it’s now gone…
It's not hard to see why the WNC appeared on the list for the bonfire. It could sound a bit woolly; it's an "umbrella body" that provides a "voice" for women and brings "issues of concern" to the government. Could not all these things be done on a freelance basis, outside the state?Could they, perhaps, not need to be done at all?
Castle looked forward to a world in which women would not only be treated just like men in the workplace, but would play a bigger role in Britain generally.So how is it, then, that we’ve moved to a society where they are not just ‘treated the same as men’ but actually expect to be treated differently?
Her 1970 Equal Pay Act was a landmark, outlawing the general practice of paying women less than men for the same job; but remember that because women tend to be cajoled into certain jobs, the real pay gap between the sexes remains at around 22%.Take note of that. We’ll come back to it later…
The WNC took on many of the real issues, from the continuing problem of violence against women, to the lack of women in key jobs, and was relentless at insisting on the importance of a female perspective in policymaking.We’ve seen, via the appointment of Harman The Harriden and her sidekick, Vera ‘Poop Scoop’ Baird, just how useful the ‘female perspective’ is. No more, thanks!
Even in parliament generally, women are woefully under-represented on the coalition benches.Tokenism is alive and kicking. Indeed, did it ever go away?
Well, take another early blunder, though one that is now being corrected, the coalition's proposal to grant anonymity for defendants in rape cases. Politics is a minefield of issues that may look simple to the busy male politician, but which need careful thought before they are trampled over.Yup, without us women to screech and scream and stamp our pretty little feet in advance, those stupid men went ahead and decided that true justice was far more important than anything else.
We showed them, eh, sisters..?
No doubt it will manage without the commission, with new ministers barely aware of its passing. Yet it can't be right that spending decisions should be taken mainly on the basis of who shouts the loudest – from the army generals to the rightwing bloggers.Wha..?
‘Who shouts loudest’ has been the basis for all sorts of identity groups during the thirteen-year Reign Of Incoherence, and in fact, even before that. It’s basically what keeps the ‘Guardian’ functioning!
Now, we’re supposed to listen to the ‘silent majority’ all of a sudden?
Perhaps coalition ministers should look with a little unease across the chamber at the Labour shadow cabinet, with its 11 women, including lots of new faces chosen in elections that saw Yvette Cooper come easily top.They are looking, but I don’t think that expression is one of unease!
Cooper's success brings cheer to all of us who feared that after Margaret Thatcher we wouldn't see another female prime minister for a century.*choke*
Did I just see a ‘Guardian’ columnist refer to Margaret Thatcher without making the sign of the evil eye?
Cooper undoubtedly has the talent and the credentials to be the Labour leader after Ed Miliband – and the popularity. She's by far the brightest and the best of the rest, with an accessible TV manner. She may have sensibly recognised that for now, with three young children, it wasn't right to go for the top job…Ah. I guess she was ‘cajoled into that role’, was she? Surely she must have been....