Yvette Cooper has said that the government’s welfare cuts will hit women twice as hard as men, and pledged that Labour would vote against them if she is elected leader. Speaking on a live web chat with parents’ website MumsNet, the Shadow Home Secretary answered questions on a range of topics and said that Labour should defend their record in government and “must always be the women’s equality party.”
Gender equality has become an important theme of the Labour leadership debate in recent days, with Cooper’s leadership rival Liz Kendall this morning criticising senior Labour figure Charlie Falconer for his implication that only Andy Burnham was “tough enough” to defeat veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn.
Cooper herself stated earlier this week that Kendall should not drop out of the leadership race in a bid to stop Corbyn and said that she shouldn’t “leave it to the boys on the basis of one poll.”
Today, the Castleford MP said: “We've campaigned over the years for stronger laws on violence against women, equalising women's pensions, more childcare, better maternity leave, stronger protection against discrimination, all issues I feel very strongly about.”
She added: “Though it would be nice if after over 100 years of campaigning on women's equality we could break through our last glass ceiling and have our first elected woman leader and Labour woman Prime Minister too.”
In response to a question on the compulsory teaching of Sex and Relationship Education in schools, Cooper said she strongly supported SRE. The Shadow Home Secretary said that “at a time when there is growing evidence of violence in teenage relationships, and when we know many children are exposed to all kinds of abuse and violent pornography online, it’s more important than ever that children learn respect and zero tolerance of abuse in relationships.
“Sometimes people say it can all be solved by parents talking to their children and having parental controls on computers. I'm all in favour of parental chats and parental controls, but to be honest I have to ask my children how to use the parental controls, and I know the last thing most teenagers want is to discuss sex education with their mum or dad!”
She also called for a strong focus on arts and drama in schools, describing former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s educational reforms as “regressive” and said that there should be more attention paid to “children’s wellbeing as well as their ability to pass exams” in the interests of students leaving school with a more well-rounded education.
Cooper defended Labour’s record in government and stated that the deficit was caused by the financial crisis, not the other way round. She said that the deficit should be brought down in a “sensible, balanced way” and criticised the platforms of both Kendall and Corbyn.
She added; “People are being given a false choice at the moment; on the one hand, stand up for your principles and be unelectable, on the other hand ditch your values in order to win votes.”
The former Chief Secretary called once more again for pride in Labour values and said that she agreed with Corbyn on opposing the Tories’ plans to repeal the Human Rights’ Act and that Labour should oppose the cuts to tax credits. However, she stated that it was “not enough” to protest and called for the party to offer “practical, Labour alternatives” to the Conservatives.