Despite his advances, Ed still has women problems

by Kevin Meagher

Ed MIliband’s changes to the shadow cabinet yesterday have increased the number of women sitting at Labour’s top table to 44 per cent. Yet despite this symbolism, Labour’s support among ordinary women voters’ now lags behind men on a range of key political and economic issues.

Exclusive polling by YouGov for Labour Uncut reveals that while many women are unhappy with the coalition, they remain consistently less enthused than male voters that Labour has a coherent alternative.

While 31 per cent of men think a Labour government led by Ed Miliband will create ‘more jobs and reduce unemployment’, just 26 per cent of women feel the same.

Asked which party is best able to build more homes, 29 per cent of men say Labour but only 24 per cent of women.

Questioned about who will deliver ‘high standards of health in NHS hospitals’, 33 per cent of men support Labour, while only 27 per cent of women back the party’s approach, with 38 per cent of women saying neither Labour or the Tories.

While the Tories retain a large lead over Labour when it comes to ensuring ‘less crime’, the figures for women voters are stark, with 29 per cent backing the Tories and Labour left trailing on just 13 per cent.

And despite the party’s toughening stance on immigration, Labour remains behind the Tories on which party will deliver ‘the right level of immigration’ by a similarly large margin, with women voters choosing Cameron over Miliband by 23 per cent to 12 per cent.

The figures will come as a disappointment to Labour given the consistent efforts of the frontbench in articulating how the cost of living crisis is hurting families and spending cuts are particularly harshly felt by women.

The poll was commissioned for Labour Uncut to coincide with the publication of our new book ‘Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and whywhich explores what the party needs to do to win the next general election and govern effectively afterwards.

In terms of the welfare state, women voters were more likely than men to support the statement that ‘too much money goes to the wrong people’ by a margin of 57 to 53 per cent. And asked whether the media distorts ‘the truth about the system,’ 30 per cent of men said it did but just 23 per cent of women voters agreed.

Asked to choose which groups don’t get a fair deal out of the benefits system, 33 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men said ‘pensioners’,  but, in what may be a counter-intuitive finding, more men than women said ‘families with children’ (11 to 9 per cent).

However women voters were markedly less certain than men about whether the current benefits bill is too high, low or about right, with 28 per cent of women and just 14 per cent of men ‘not sure’.

The figures also show a slight gender gap the other way, with men less likely than women to back Labour on several key issues. Asked whether Ed Miliband or David Cameron will ensure ‘high standards of education in state schools’, 29 per cent of men opted for the Tories and only 27 per cent backed Labour.

While on the question of who was best able to secure ‘value for money in schools and hospitals’, the two main parties were level-pegging among men, both on 29 per cent.

Two things become clear from the polling. The first is that the political battle for public trust in deciding which party is best able to secure decent public services, a modern welfare state and an effective approach to delivering jobs and housing is wide open.

The second is that Labour now needs to try much harder with women voters than it perhaps thought.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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4 Responses to “Despite his advances, Ed still has women problems”

  1. swatantra says:

    How is it that I’ve never been polled, or had up for Jury Service?
    As a result I’m always sceptikal about polls, because I don’t believe they ask the right people. Kevin is right, EdM went along way to getting a 50:50 balance. Maybe a woman Shadow Chancelloer and a Woman Shadow Defence Sec would help; we’ve already had a woman at the FO and a woman at the HO.
    Pensionners are probbably the most cossetted group around and yet they still want more! Still they do come at and vote. No, I’d put my money on deserving ‘families’ with costley childcare, the costs of extra curricular activities and no proper family homes with gardens, only flats in tenament blocks, where the lifts are always out of order. So thats where Labour needs to do more work. More homes for the deserving, more childcare and more fun activities to keep the kids amused.

  2. uglyfatbloke says:

    I was polled once, but the interview was discontinued when it became apparent that I was n’t giving the preferred answers to some very loaded questions, so I’m as sceptical as can be. Same with newspapers. Given that I am pretty ignorant about almost everything in the world, but when it comes down to the tiny range of things I genuinely understand the media are invariably deeply wrong, I’m not inclined to be very trusting.
    Ed’s done at least one good thing with this re-shuffle, Murphy’s been removed from defence – no doubt he’d be out of the SC altogether if was n’t for the trouble he’d make on the backbenches.
    What can Ed do to help the most vulnerable families? How about making child benefit available to the poorest parents? At the moment it gets /means tested/ by the back door. If we can afford it for families with incomes of 40,000 a year. why can’t we afford it for families on benefit?

  3. Blair says:

    When watching TV the other day my wife said pointing to the screen “I don’t like him”. It was Ed Miliband appearing on some news programme.

    Similarly a few weeks earlier my mother, a traditional Labour voter, said she also didn’t like Miliband. I wont say how she described him or what she said (not very complimentary I’m afraid).

    Now this is purely anecdotal but here are two people that have traditionally voted Labour and do not like the current leader. Most politicians like to say its all about policy, but if you talk to ordinary people its also about who they “like” and it seems that Ed is not high on the list for the ladies.

  4. swatantra says:

    Politics has never been about policies; its all about personalities.
    As they say: The King id dead! Long live the King! The Govt goes on.

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