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“The PM's panicking over women”


Listen… just listen for a moment? Hear that? Those strangely moist reverberations in the distance, like a large lump of Spam quivering? That’s the not-entirely-rare but distinctive sound of your prime minister panicking.

And what’s he panicking about this time? Us!

By which I mean women, not specifically Stylist readers. But panicking him we are, by deserting him in droves. To woo us back, he has announced that he will be hiring a female special adviser to look at government policies so that we can all stop whinging. I’m sorry – so that he can make sure they start harming both genders equally. Although that’s probably not exactly how he put it. Appointing a whole extra woman like this presupposes many things. First, that he doesn’t realise that such a gesture speaks loudly not of the contrition of the man but his essential gimmickry – or he does, but thinks we are stupid enough not to know or care.

Second, that he (amasser of a Cabinet of 23 men and five women) conceptualises female voters as a single, cohesive mass with but one mindset, one opinion and one reaction among them. I myself know nearly seven women and they have 15 different opinions just that I know of!

Yes, the majority of us probably do get quite exercised by the abolition of baby bonds and the health and maternity grant, the meaningless promise to protect the Sure Start programme, cuts to childcare provisions, the freeze on child benefit and its bafflingly stupid withdrawal from families in which one person earns £44,000 but not from those in which two people earn up to £80,000 a year and so on, but here’s the thing: we are affronted by these things not simply because they affect us (as still the main carers for children) directly but because most human beings have a strong sense of fairness. We are human beings. These things are unfair. Thus, affronting occurs. Even sometimes among female people who don’t have children. Just like non-disabled people quite often care about you slashing disability allowances. I know, it’s all terribly complicated. And I’ve got some more bad news: the common humanity thing means that many men – real people! – are affronted in all these situations too.

We’re just human beings, David. These things are unfair and we want the world to be fair

We care about things like NHS budget cuts, not just because women make up 65% of the public sector workforce and are disproportionately affected by anything that happens to it, but because you said those funds would be ringfenced and untouchable. Because you believed in the NHS that did so much for your disabled son. We care because you lied.

I could go on, but I’m becoming blinded by tears. Appointing a female special adviser is unlikely to change much of that. It suggests that he still peers at us, bewildered, thinking “Who ARE you? WHAT are you? And what will PLACATE you?” instead of women existing as a natural presence, an organic part of society and an integrated part of his thinking. Although, to be fair, this could be said of most other sections of society too. State-schooled people. People with only one home. Each more baffling than the last. If he gets an adviser for each of the demographics he needs to mug up on, No 10 is going to have to find another 59m offices from somewhere. In short, it confirms what his “Calm down, dear” to Labour MP Angela Eagle and his snide comment in the House to fellow Conservative Nadine Dorries about her being “very frustrated” (riding the front and back bench sniggers it got before he sat down) so clearly indicated. We are annoyances to be fobbed off, patronised and – if he can get away with it – publicly humiliated. Perhaps we voters should be grateful he still needs us. Imagine what he’d be like if he thought he could be re-elected without us.

I am aware, of course, that some of our beloved readers are men and I apologise for excluding them here. You can take the resulting sense of being thoughtlessly overlooked as if you were a negligible minority of the human race rather than a fully functioning 50% of the population as a kind of meta-point, if you like, and if you ever bump into Dave at a urinal or something, be sure and try and convey it to him, could you? Thanks ever so. xxx

Main picture credit: Rex Features

Contact Lucy Mangan at lucy.mangan @stylist.co.uk; @lucymangan

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