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MP criticises government on women

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Bernard Jenkin MP on Tory attitudes to women“Every man in the Conservative Party needs to change or be left behind”.

Writing in House Magazine last week, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said that many Conservative (Tory) men believe women “can deal with ‘women’s issues’, so men can get on with running the country”.

He added: “The Tory High Command [David Cameron, George Osborne and Lynton Crosby) are all men. Only three out of 25 on the party board are women. Most of the advisers and policy wonks are men. And of course, most MPs will continue to be men.

“It is going to take a long time to change all this, so what else must we change?”

Jenkin’s comments come after the coalition reshuffle last week, which was seen by many as an attempt to increase the number of women in government and in senior government positions.

Esther McVey, former junior minister for the disabled, was promoted to employment minister, and Anna Soubry, who was working at the Department for Health, has become the first female defence minister.

However, the number of women in government remains low at 25 out of a possible 125 posts.

This is far off David Cameron’s target of having women make up a third of his cabinet by 2015.

In his article, Jenkin questioned if the reshuffle was “enough” to help women candidates.

He suggested that the issue lies with the behaviour of the key decision makers at the top of the government, including David Cameron, George Osbourne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander.

“Janet Daley blogged about how the Chancellor’s [special advisers] briefed the Telegraph team after his speech.

‘The two women among us he ignored. And when I say he ignored us, I don’t mean that he snubbed us or deliberately cut us dead. I mean that he didn’t see us. It was as if we were pieces of furniture rather than sentient beings’,” Jenkin quoted.

He went on to write: “The Prime Minister greeted a leading high profile business women who happens to be the wife of a major donor to the party, by asking, ‘And where is x – the husband?’”

Jenkin, who chairs the Public Administration Select Committee, admitted that the behaviour of others is also at fault, conceding that “we men are all guilty of such unconscious slights to women”.

Shadow equalities minister Gloria De Piero has also spoken out against the Conservative part of the coalition government.

She said that Jenkin had highlighted how “dangerously out of touch the Tories are”.

“It is a problem which goes right up to David Cameron and has seen women disproportionately affected by his Government’s cost of living crisis.

“While nearly half of Labour’s shadow cabinet are women, David Cameron has only four women in his top team of 22. That says it all,” she added.

Jenkin has called for “zero tolerance” of negative behaviour towards women.

“We have perhaps yet to understand what ‘change’ in the Conservative Party really means,” he reflected.

“Every man in the Conservative Party needs to change or be left behind. The leadership needs to be on this 24-7-365, not just at re-shuffle time.”

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