Party Conference Series: Nicky Morgan MP
As part of a series of guest-blogs during the party conferences, Conservative Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women, Nicky Morgan MP, tells us what the Conservatives will offer women voters in the 2015 General Election. Next week we’ll hear from Liberal Democrat Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson MP, and you can catch up on Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Gloria de Piero MP’s blog here.
As the final Conference before the General Election it was inevitable that the platform speeches and fringe events this year would focus on what the Conservative Party has to offer to voters next year. For me personally that meant not only outlining the next stage of our plan for education, but as Minister for Women and Equalities I was also keen to discuss with delegates what women voters want to see from us, and what I think the Conservative Party has to offer them.
In some ways it’s a slightly odd question to ask, after all women make up more than half of the population and the manifesto commitments that the Prime Minister made today – from protecting the NHS budget for further five years, to letting thousands of teachers, nurses and police officers keep more of their hard earned money and taking them out of the 40p tax bracket – will speak to women just as much as they do to men.
But it’s also important to recognsie that the perspective that women and men take on certain issues and policies, can and does differ, as does the impact of those policies as well.
Perhaps the best example of this was the Scottish Referendum. In the ballot a fortnight ago there was a real gender divide, while more men favored independence, it was the votes of women that saved the Union. All the polling showed that this wasn’t because women were any less proud or patriotic than men, but because more than men, women backed the stability and security that our United Kingdom brings.
And it’s that promise of security that the Conservative Party has to offer to women next year.
It’s the security that comes from the steps we’ve taken to repair our economy.
As a result of our long term economic plan, there are now more women employed in this country than ever before, meaning they have the security of a regular wage. There are more women-led businesses than ever before, with 20% SMEs run by women up from 14% in 2010. And there are more women on FTSE Boards than ever before as well, nearly a quarter of FTSE 100 Directors are now women up from one in eight. It is a source of particular pride for me that there is now a woman on every single FTSE 100 board down from 21 in 2011.
It’s the security in knowing that the Conservative Party doesn’t believe that women should have to choose between raising a family or having a career.
That’s why we’ve taken steps to improve access to child care – guaranteeing 15 hours of free childcare for all three and four year olds and the 40% of most disadvantaged two year olds as well. On top of that, next year, we won’t just introduce shared parental leave, but tax free child care as well. This offer will save working families up to £2,000 per child from next year – helping to deal with the perverse situation where the cost of childcare makes it more expensive for many women to work than not.
It’s the security we’ve delivered through our relentless focus on tackling violence against women and girls.
We’ve taken steps to tackle domestic violence, by rolling out ‘Clare’s law’ and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) nationally which the police can use to help prevent domestic violence with more measures soon to come. We’ve created 2 new criminal offences to protect women for stalking and at the same time we’ve put the funding of rape crisis centers on long term sustainable footing – providing them with nearly £4 million per year.
And finally, it’s the security of knowing that the Conservative Party is committed to ensuring that we don’t just make laws for which help women, we have women making those laws.
We now have more female Conservative MPs and Ministers than at any point in history, and more set to be elected next year. I’m not complacent, and there’s still a way to go towards our goal of fair representation, but anyone who saw the queues outside our “Women2Win” fringe event this Conference would have been left in no doubt, that this is a party determined to ensure that it looks like the people it wants to represent
All of my conversations tell me that women don’t appreciate politicians who duck the hard issues. This week we’ve shown how the Conservative Party and David Cameron have a plan for dealing with critical issues such as the deficit, rather than forgetting about them, or at least trying to, as the Labour Leader did in his speech.
The decision that women will have to make next year is plain:
Whether to let back in a Labour Party that hasn’t learnt its lesson and risks undoing all the progress that this Government has made, or to back a Conservative Government with an offer to women that is clear and simple – security for you, security for your family, security for our country.
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