Vera Baird DBE KC

Writer, Lecturer, Parliamentary Consultant and Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice

Short speech at the Labour Women’s Summit – Labour Party Conference

We have got to take our share of the responsibility for saying again and again that we have a deficit because of the international banking crisis which lead to a recession and not because Labour is economically incompetent.
On the contrary the Labour Government showed the world the way out of recession. Even Cameron says that the economy is  now “Out of the danger zone” If he is right, that can have nothing to do with the activities of the Coalition Government. It is clear that economic measures take time to  before they make a difference. It is because of what the last Labour government did. As the economy plunged deeply, we invested public money to stop the nosedive, to sustain business and to protect jobs. Now, that deficit has to be paid off but it was money well spent.
The second thing we must say again and again is that these massive Tory cuts are not necessary. They are ideological.
Let us look more closely at the budget and Fawcett’s judicial review of its gender impact.  Yvette (Cooper) has   obtained figures showing that those budget cuts will fall as to 80% on women and only 20% on men. That is an amazing disparity. They have clearly not done any gender impact assessment at all. This reinforces that they do not understand gender as an issue. They do not even understand that gender IS an issue and so women can expect nothing from this government.
Other acts they have done, in four short months, make that even clearer. Whilst we pressed the legal authorities to deal in better ways with rape and domestic  violence, the Tories have proposed anonymity for defendants in rape cases. They have abolished Domestic Violence “Stay  away “ Orders  which ensured that the perpetrator of violence instead of the victim, the children, the dog and the cat, left the matrimonial home. They have scrapped the Police Inspectors’ Inquiry into the rapes by Reid and Worboys, two poorly investigated cases and they have refused to sign up to the Convention on Peopl e Trafficking.
Look closely too at what the Tories will say in answer to the judicial review. They will say that Government   allocates money to family units in households.  How the cash is distributed thereafter between a man and a woman in that household is not the Government’s  business.  But given that the proportions of impact are 80% to 20%, at the very least women’s financial independence is going to be diminished. They are making sure that women are economically second, behind men, in the household again.
And, what is the most inconspicuous way to absorb the thousands of job losses to be brought about by the spending cuts?  It is to let them fall onto women. Women can go back into the home and the job losses will not be seen as they would if they were lost by men.  This is second nature to the traditional Tories.
Harriet said a wise thing earlier (Harriet is always saying wise things)She said that the women of this country will look to us to fight for them against this coalition. They certainly will. It is our responsibility as a strong body of Labour women believing in equality. We will resist!