By Jenni Tomlin
Have you ever read or heard of Jesus’ comic metaphor for hypocrisy? It turns up in the book of Matthew in the Bible where Jesus asks his followers, ‘How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye’. It is supposed to be a comically over exaggerated metaphor to highlight the folly of hypocrisy.
When David Cameron appointed Laura Trott as his female policy adviser last week, the first post of its kind, I couldn’t help but think of that speck and plank. It seems to me as though David Cameron and perhaps the coalition government in general, are trying to take the tiny speck out of their left eye, whilst wilfully ignoring the massive whacking great plank sticking out of their collective right eye.
Laura Trott will be responsible for counselling the Prime Minister on how policies will affect women. This many say, is a positive step forward for women’s equality; a central role, a person with influence to draw to the Prime Minister’s notice inequality in legislation. For some this is a sign that the government is finally taking seriously their commitment to equality impact assessment in legislation.
It is well reported that women have been carrying a heavy burden where current government policy and legislation is concerned. Female unemployment is at a 25 year high according to ONS data, twice as many women than men lost their jobs in the last quarter of 2011 and there has been an 18% increase in unemployment amongst women compared to a 1% increase in men’s. On top of this we are faced with the massive reduction in Sure Start, the cuts in child tax credit, the dismantling of women’s services in councils around the country and the Fawcett society’s claim that the coalition’s policies are pushing women’s equality back a generation. All of this has led to the impression that the coalition isn’t quite on top of things where women’s equality is concerned.
Now as a woman with a firm belief that our society should enshrine equality at its heart, I sincerely hope that Laura Trott’s presence will stem the tide of collisions taking place. I also hope that the purpose of her appointment was sincere and that she will be genuinely listened to, not simply used as a women friendly PR puppet.
But back to my speck and plank- how can we take such a move towards equality seriously when there are still only 3 women in the cabinet? That’s 3 women out of 22 cabinet roles, a representative share of 13.6%.
How can we trust a government to take women’s equality seriously, when they can’t even take women’s representation seriously?
David- it’s time for a reshuffle.