Want To Solve The Conservative Party’s Women Problem? Make Westminster A Meritocracy

Right wing thinkers, like me, have a problem. We refuse to use the word “feminist” and seem blind that this is to our own detriment. We have created a vacuum allowing the feminist debate to be taken over by the left. As a result, the word “feminist” is now derided by the right because it seems to imply “‘bra burning’” or “man hating”. Conservative-minded people may be uncomfortable with the word – but it is time to reclaim it. 

As a conservative woman, I rage at socialist visions, with its male interpretation of what female problems need solving. A vision of “brothers and sisters of the world unite” which treats men and women as the same. The individual is lost for the greater good of all. The right wing feminist can help put the individual woman back in to feminist debate that at times it so lacks.

The Conservatives have ignored “feminist” and “female” issues for too long. It is untenable when you know that women under-40 have deserted the Conservative Party on mass since the 2017 election. Younger women, educated to be equal to men, are happy to use the term “feminism” and it is time that we all became comfortable with it. It is not feminism that chooses political parties, but parties who choose feminism to make political points. On this journey of conservative renewal we also need to show that the right have always had feminists within their ranks and listened to women.

UK news in pictures

UK news in pictures

  • 1/47 20 February 2018

    Sarah Clarke is introduced as the new Black Rod to the House of Lords. She is the first female Black Rod in the 650-year history of the role and will be known as the Lady Usher of the Black Rod.


  • 2/47 19 February 2018

    Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson holds a rhinoceros horn as he visits a Metropolitan Police wildlife crime unit facility in London. The Foreign Secretary's visit was to help him learn more about the work they do internationally to tackle the illegal wildlife trade (IWT).


  • 3/47 18 February 2018

    Allison Janney, Daniel Kaluuya and Gary Oldman clutching their BAFTA awards


  • 4/47 17 February 2018

    Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain celebrates after winning the gold medal during the Women's Skeleton on day eight of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games


  • 5/47 16 February 2018

    Models walk the runway at the Richard Malone show during London Fashion Week

    Ian Gavan/BFC/Getty

  • 6/47 15 February 2018

    Dame Vivienne Westwood walks the runway to model in the #INEOSVTHEPEOPLE catwalk presentation outside fracking giant INEOS’s headquarters in London


  • 7/47 14 February 2018

    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers his speech: Road to Brexit, a United Kingdom, as part of the Government’s road map on Brexit, at the Policy Exchange, London


  • 8/47 13 February 2018

    England and Durham cricketer Ben Stokes, 26, leaving Bristol Magistrates' Court, where he was told he will face a crown court trial over an altercation outside a nightclub


  • 9/47 12 February 2018

    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with local party supporters and residents in Penicuik, Midlothian, before speaking at a campaign rally at the town's Miners Welfare Hall


  • 10/47 9 February 2018

    Volunteers create a heart shaped collection of plastic bottles littering the foreshore of the River Thames at Queenhithe Dock in central London, in an event organised by the #OneLess campaign and Thames21 to draw attention to the impact that single-use plastic water bottles are having on the environment.


  • 11/47 8 February 2018

    Florist Hank Roling poses with a Vanda orchid during a press preview of the Thai Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens, London


  • 12/47 7 February 2018

    A staff member poses behind a moon jellyfish tank during the annual stock-take at London Zoo.


  • 13/47 6 February 2018

    Prime Minister Theresa May joins female Members of both Houses at the Palace of Westminster, to mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which gave certain women over the age of 30 a vote and the right to stand for Parliament.

    UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

  • 14/47 5 February 2018

    Lauri Love outside the Royal Courts of Justice after a judge ruled against extraditing him to America in a case where he was accused of hacking thousands of US government computers.


  • 15/47 4 February 2018

    A statue of suffragette Alice Hawkins being unveiled in Market Square, Leicester. Ms Hawkins, a shoe machinist, was jailed five times while leading the Suffragette campaign in the city in the early 20th Century.


  • 16/47 3 February 2018

    Demonstrators gather on Gover Street in central London ahead of a march towards Downing Street to protest against underfunding and privatisation of the NHS and demand an end to the winter crisis in the health service.


  • 17/47 2 February 2018

    Millicent Fawcett by Annie Swynnerton, newly on display at Tate Britain. Fawcett was a leading figure in the suffragist movement and campaigned relentlessly to get the vote for women in this country. The portrait of her is on display at Tate Britain to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women over 30 the right to vote.


  • 18/47 1 February 2018

    British Prime Minister Theresa May and husband Philip May visit the Forbidden City in Beijing during her three-day visit to China.


  • 19/47 31 January 2018

    A super moon rises behind blocks of flats in north London.


  • 20/47 30 January 2018

    Members of the Jarl Squad dressed in Viking suits after marching through the streets in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles during the Up Helly Aa Viking Festival.


  • 21/47 29 January 2018

    Travis Frain (left) and Dan Hett from the Survivors Against Terror Group talk to students at Manchester Enterprise Academy. Frain survived the Westminster attack in March 2017, while Hett’s brother Martin was one of the 22 who died in the Manchester attack in May 2017.


  • 22/47 28 January 2018

    Members of the English Civil War Society take part in the King's Army Annual March and Parade, in London, as they commemorate the execution of Charles I. The route follows the route taken by Charles I from St James Palace on the Mall to the place of his death at the Banqueting House in Whitehall.


  • 23/47 27 January 2018

    Will Grigg celebrates scoring Wigan's second goal from the penalty spot during the Emirates FA Cup, fourth round match against West Ham at the DW Stadium. League One Wigan knocked out the Premier League side 2-0.


  • 24/47 26 January 2018

    US entrepreneur and co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates and Britain's International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt meet vet Andy Hopker and students Vanya Lalljee and Jennifer Hunt during an event to launch the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh.


  • 25/47 25 January 2018

    President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum in Davos.


  • 26/47 24 January 2018

    Alun Wyn Jones of Wales, Guilhem Guirado of France, Dylan Hartley of England, Rory Best of Ireland, John Barclay of Scotland and Sergio Parisse of Italy pose with the trophy during the 6 Nations Launch event at the Hilton in London.


  • 27/47 23 January 2018

    Kyle Edmund reacts after winning his men's quarter-final match against Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open. He will play sixth seed Marin Cilic in the semi-final.


  • 28/47 22 January 2018

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson next to US Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson on a visit to the new embassy in London, a discreet move after criticism of US President Donald Trump who refused to inaugurate it.


  • 29/47 21 January 2018

    Women's rights demonstrators hold placards and chant slogans during the Time's Up rally at Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street. The Time's Up Women's March marks the one year anniversary of the first Women's March in London and in 2018 it is inspired by the Time's Up movement against sexual abuse. The Time's Up initiative was launched at the start of January 2018 as a response to the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein scandal.


  • 30/47 20 January 2018

    Britain's Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland perform in the pairs ice dance free dance event at the European figure skating championships in Moscow.


  • 31/47 19 January 2018

    Sheep graze in a field in Thornhill, Scotland. Forecasters have issued a new warning of snow and icy conditions in Southern Scotland with the police advising people to leave work early in affected areas.


  • 32/47 18 January 2018

    French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May look up at a military fly past at Sandhurst Military Academy in Camberley. Theresa May is expected to make an announcement as part of the Anglo-France Summit at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where she will discuss Britain's strong and wide-ranging bilateral relationship with President Macron.


  • 33/47 17 January 2018

    A jackknifed lorry is recovered on the M74, following motorists spending the night stranded on the motorway in Abington, Scotland. Mountain rescue teams spent the night helping drivers following heavy snowfall in the Dumfries and Galloway region.


  • 34/47 16 January 2018

    Carillion, which has a variety of private and public service contracts in Britain and employs 43,000 staff worldwide, announced its immediate liquidation on Monday after the heavily-indebted company failed to secure a last-ditch financial rescue from the government and banks. Carillion held a £335 million contract to build the new Liverpool city hospital, the delivery of which was already delayed by the time the company went into liquidation.


  • 35/47 15 January 2018

    Dolores O’Riordan, frontwoman of the iconic Irish grunge-rock band The Cranberries, died suddenly at the age of 46. A spokesperson for O’Riordan said she died “suddenly” in London, where she had travelled for a short recording session.


  • 36/47 14 January 2018

    Glen Durrant celebrates with the trophy after victory during day nine of the BDO World Professional Darts Championship 2018 at The Lakeside.


  • 37/47 13 January 2018

    The Whittlesea Straw Bear festival in Cambridgeshire celebrates the old Fenland plough custom of parading straw bears around the town every January. This Festival happens on the first weekend after Plough Monday. The procession, led by the Straw Bear, has over 250 dancers, musicians and performers. They perform traditional Molly, Morris, Clog and Sword dancing.


  • 38/47 12 January 2018

    Workers look at the Madame Tussauds wax figure of US President Donald Trump outside the new US Embassy in Nine Elms, London, after Mr Trump confirmed he will not travel to the UK to open the new building - and hit out at the location of the 1.2 billion dollar (£886 million) project. Writing on Twitter, Trump said he thought the embassy's move from Grosvenor Square in the prestigious Mayfair district of central London to Nine Elms, south of the Thames, was a "bad deal".


  • 39/47 11 January 2018

    British Prime Minister Theresa May watches birds from inside a bird hide with school children at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust's (WWT) ahead of a speech to launch the government's environment plan in London. Campaigners on January 11 criticised Theresa May's plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years, calling it a "missed opportunity" that lacked the necessary urgency. The government will extend a charge on plastic bags to all businesses and encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles, May said in speech.


  • 40/47 10 January 2018

    Cirque du Soleil 'OVO' dress rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall.


  • 41/47 9 January 2018

    Prime Minister Theresa May leads her first cabinet meeting of the new year at 10 Downing street.


  • 42/47 8 January 2018

    Journalist Carrie Gracie speaks to the media outside the BBC in London after she turned down a £45,000 rise, describing the offer as a "botched solution" to the problem of unequal pay at the BBC. Gracie said she told the corporation she wanted equality, rather than more money, and was determined not to help the organisation "perpetuate a failing pay structure by discriminating against women".


  • 43/47 7 January 2018

    A man reads a newspaper as he takes part in the annual 'No Trousers On The Tube Day' (No Pants Subway Ride) at Liverpool Street Station. Started in 2002 with only seven participants, the day is now marked in over 60 cities around the world. The idea behind "No Pants" is that random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter, without wearing trousers. The participants wear all of the usual winter clothing on their top half such as hats, scarves and gloves and do not acknowledge each other's similar state of undress.


  • 44/47 6 January 2018

    League Two side Coventry City celebrate victory over Premier League side Stoke in the FA Cup third round.


  • 45/47 5 January 2018

    A commendation ceremony takes place at Manchester Town Hall to recognise the actions of police and rail staff following the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena in May 2017.


  • 46/47 4 January 2018

    Stuart (no surname given) with his possessions in a bus stop near Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she disagrees with Tory council leader Simon Dudley, who called on police to clear rough sleepers from Windsor before the royal wedding.


  • 47/47 3 January 2018

    Storm Eleanor lashed the UK with violent storm-force winds of up to 100mph.


Despite having had two female prime ministers, nobody counts Margaret Thatcher as one of the best examples of feminism the UK has. When Geri Halliwell tweeted in 2013 “The first lady of #GirlPower, Mrs Thatcher” she was howled down and deleted the tweet. The right won’t use the word, and the left deny her as a real woman, as if a female Prime Minister has to behave in a way that only socialists can define.

It makes no sense to measure all female success in terms of what men value. And the state, as formed by successive generations of men, does not value the work of family or those private spaces of home and hearth. GDP itself counts wealth in terms of how much each person earns, where we are all subject to Karl Marx and his “units of production.” George Osborne was hooked on this male definition of usefulness, wanting ever more women and men in the endless drudgery of work so that they can get money for the greater good of all (or for the Exchequer).  

As so many women struggle with the “I don’t know how she does it” society, it is not so much that the argument should be how many women are on boards, an issue that right wing feminists support fully, but more nuanced feminist debate would include how many men choose to stay at home and participate in “feminine” and undervalued caring roles. As a Conservative I believe strongly that women, and men, deserve choice. Right wing feminism would allow more focus on the individual to act as they wish rather than following the state dictum and social expectations that women deserve everything from babies to top jobs, and are failures if they don’t reach these dizzy heights.

Theresa May answers question on Jared O'Mara: All of us should show women.. the respect they deserve

There were times in my life when I was fully capable of participating on boards and being a taxpayer, including being leader of Richmondshire District Council, but other times when caring for my children, ageing parents in the community and relations with mental health issues, took priority. I earned less, but achieved greater choice and have been successful in my chosen spheres. But the GDP was unable to measure this success. To them I was unemployed, a mere burden on society, rather than a producer of caring that kept others off state support. And to the left wing feminists I was a middle class member of the bourgeoisie who doesn’t understand “real” women. Both are insulting.

Some women (and do read “men” in whenever you wish) want to work full time – others wish to leave the work place and re-join it when their own priorities allow. So where are the policies allowing this greater flexibility? Women should no more be forced in to the home than join the traditionally male world of success measured only by what you earn. Conservative discourse needs to rescue women’s priorities from this political narrowness. I realise that now I’m sounding like a left wing lecturer but the word feminism belongs to all women, not just lefties, so let’s use it to widen women’s choices – not narrow them down.

Interestingly attempts at feminist economics have tried to measure wealth and its supposed corollary, happiness, to include traditionally unpaid female activities, as well as paid work measured by the traditional GDP. They found that it was not the USA who was the richest country in the world but France. Money is needed but after a basic income is achieved a work life balance becomes more important.

The new feminism might bring forward new policies ideas, such as a carer’s pension, guaranteed to those who take the burden off the state by looking after their family. Not the equal state pension that we all get at present, if we work long enough, but an enhanced pension for carers when they cannot contribute to their own pensions, but are still doing valued work for society.

It is not 16-24 year olds who suffer the greatest from lack of job opportunities, but middle aged women who struggle to re-enter the work place after time off. What policies could be introduced here? The low paid in part time jobs are often mothers trying to balance child care and economic work, so where are the well paid part time jobs?

The suffragettes may have secured a partial vote for women in 1918 but there is still a long way to go before we live in a society with equal voices from men and women at decision making level. It is disgraceful that only 23 per cent of the Conservative parliamentary party are MPs. Within Local Government there’s a shocking shortfall of 12,000 women councillors needed across all parties. This lack of balance between men and women must be acknowledged and changed. Right wing feminism can help conservative minded women re-engage with the world of politics. After all, who wants to be a member of a party that women don’t want to stand for?

If the Conservatives don’t accept that women have political policy needs of particular interest to women, and these can coalesce around the word “feminist”, then the Conservative Party will be seen by younger women, and men, as speaking a different language.

Fleur Butler is the Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO) Yorkshire and Humber 

Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/conservative-party-feminism-women-carers-children-policy-economics-left-out-a8040081.html

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