UKIP and Women: Too little too late?

25 Apr 2015

With the General Election looming, political parties must confront subjects that they have not taken a stronger position on in previous months. Unsurprisingly, UKIP falls short in terms of their policies and attitudes towards women, despite recently announcing new measures to include women more in their policies. I am in agreement that we should abolish the so called ‘tampon tax’ and taxes on sanitary products but, despite this, I don’t believe UKIP can turn back the tables and rid themselves of the ‘rugby club on tour’ image. With women outnumbering men by about one million, but only one quarter of MPs being female, it’s difficult to see how Westminster is representative of its country. So why should women still not vote for UKIP despite recent measures?

 

Patrick O’Flynn, Suzanne Evans, and Diane James recently outlined UKIP’s new policies towards women revealing they would reduce childcare costs, abolish the tampon tax, introduce 3000 more midwives, access to specialist mental health services for pregnant women and new mothers, a zero-tolerance policy for illegal cultural practices or ones that ‘conflict with British values’ such as forced marriages, and an increase in allowance for carers. Farage also said that after the coming election there would be as many women as men representing UKIP; these promises fizzle out as we come to understand the statistics: 100 percent of UKIP MP’s, 90 percent of their General Election candidates, 81.1 percent of 360 UKIP Councillors and 71 percent of their MEP’s are men.

 

We can see that despite ‘wanting’ to appeal to more women, they have made little or no attempt to include women. I am also reminded of Evans’ and James’ claims that UKIP support current maternity leave arrangements as I think back to Farage’s March comments that maternity leave lays too much of a ‘burden on small businesses’.   

 

UKIP enjoys being controversial with some comments, but they cannot deny some shocking attitudes expressed towards women. "They [women] don't have the ambition to go right to the top because something gets in the way. It's called a baby.” said UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew, and Stuart Wheeler, a UKIP donor, said "I don't accept it is sexist, it simply rings true. It may be that women are not as competitive." Godfrey Bloom, now a former UKIP MEP, said it was wrong for companies to employ women of a childbearing age. Even though Bloom has now left the party, initially Farage supported him saying it was all a ‘joke’, as well as Bloom calling women ‘sluts’. Farage himself is not at all innocent as he’s said women are worth ‘far less’ once returning from maternity leave, even though UKIP apparently supports it.

 

Conservative cuts to the public sector have been rebuked by Farage as not being ‘radical enough’; such services include child and social care which a large amount of women rely on and he has publically reinforced his belief that women should not be allowed to breastfeed in public because other people have a problem with it. To save himself looking too far right, Farage declined an alignment with the French far right National Front party but we cannot forget that he has aligned his party with the EFDD with such members as Robert Ivashkievich of the Polish New Right Party whose leader once said he believes "women should not have the right to vote. Just choose any political meeting at random and see how many women are present" and "when women say no, they don't always mean it".

 

Obviously a party such as UKIP, one that supports ‘British values’, would not align themselves with such sexist brutes? Further to the point on laws, UKIP claim they are active within the European Union to work towards British independence yet UKIP MEP’s are notorious for either not turning up or abstaining from EU votes on equal pay for women, and for the idea that they plan to end laws that prevent employers from discriminating on the grounds of race or gender because, as Farage said in a documentary interview with Trevor Phillips in March 2015, he does not believe arguing that employers could discriminate on these grounds in not valid today.

 

UKIP’s own party members can be recalled for illustrating just how much of a ‘rugby club on tour’ UKIP really is; former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire sued the party over sexual discrimination in an employment tribunal and another former MEP for UKIP, Marta Andreasen, called Farage an ‘anti-women Stalinist dictator’. The party have attempted to dismiss these claims as nonsense as obviously not true, sighting Suzanne Evans and Diane James as clear examples of why UKIP is forward moving. In the face of this, both of these women are perfect candidates for UKIP as they are not of childbearing age which means that they are not going to take maternity leave.

 

The new measures pushed forward by the three UKIP candidates recently have shed light on how UKIP must fight to appeal to women, but the promises ultimately fall short. Although the other leading parties really need to take a step up to include more women in politics, UKIP appears to lag behind all others. Patrick O’Flynn said, at the announcement of these promises, "There is no reason we should be lagging with women voters. We still are." There is every reason UKIP is still lagging behind when it coming to the female vote and I do not believe much will change in this area for the simple reason that, despite needing women’s votes, the party has already expressed its old-fashioned opinions that cannot be undone.

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