Election 2015: Labour’s Catherine West ‘Women Are Bearing The Brunt Of The Coalition Cuts'

Nine million women didn’t vote in the last General Election. With less than 24 hours until Brits go to the polls, Yahoo is sitting down with female candidates from each of the main parties to talk about why women in the UK are feeling so disillusioned with politics and what their party plans to do about it. Today, Labour candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green, Catherine West.

Austerity has been the name of the game for the incumbent Conservative-Liberal Democrat government since 2010.

David Cameron has overseen £21bn being cut from social security over the last five years, which his detractors have claimed have hit working class families and those with disabilities the hardest.

Women, including single mothers, are worse off now than they were five years ago according to Labour's Catherine West [Rex]
Women, including single mothers, are worse off now than they were five years ago according to Labour's Catherine West [Rex]


Today, in a document leaked to The Guardian, the Department for Work and Pensions have outlined a series of “extremely controversial” cuts to benefits that the Tories would need to make to fulfil their promise of slashing a further £12bn from the welfare system budget.

Labour candidate Catherine West points out that you simply have to look at where the axe has fallen to see that it is women who have been hardest hit by these cuts in public spending.

West cites the closure of over 700 Sure Start centres across the country since 2010 as just one example of how women are worse off now than they were five years ago.

“Not only did these centres provide key medical services for children during those first few years, they had a strong sense of community," she tells Yahoo.

Catherine West claims a strong NHS and raising the minimum wage are the keys to building a better Britain [Rex]
Catherine West claims a strong NHS and raising the minimum wage are the keys to building a better Britain [Rex]


"We know that in London, many parents don’t have immediate family to help raise their children so the friendships that were built in these centres help combat social isolation and brought real benefits for the children.”

Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith refuses to be drawn on exactly where this £12bn will be cut from but today’s news points to an increase in the bedroom tax, freezing of benefits across the board and barring under-25s from claiming incapacity or housing benefits.

There’s one proposed cut in particular that highlights just how hard women have been and will continue to be hit by the Tories continued commitment to austerity – the scrapping of statutory maternity pay.

Reduction in maternity pay coupled with what looks like the continued privatisation of the NHS adds up to another five years of hardships for women, claims West.

“A lot of the Tory think tanks are talking about introducing charges to see your GP. In the UK 92 per cent of single parents are women so that’s nearly two million single mums now having to find the money to take their child to the doctor.”

West, with Labour leader Ed Miliband, is standing in Hornsey and Wood Green [Rex]
West, with Labour leader Ed Miliband, is standing in Hornsey and Wood Green [Rex]


While the economy is not usually seen as a ‘women’s issue’ in politics, West maintains that on a day-to-day level it has a real impact on the lives of female voters.

“Rate of pay is so important to women, as so many of them are caterers, cleaners, carers – the kinds of jobs where having a fair minimum or living wage make a real difference to their quality of life,” she told us.

“Raising the minimum wage to £8 or going one better and instituting the Living Wage (currently £9.15 in London) is the difference between women having one or three jobs to pay their rent and provide for their families. And if I can make a woman’s life easier by only having to work one job, I’d do that tomorrow.”

It’s down to the wire as Labour and Conservatives go in to tomorrow’s election neck and neck. For West, the decision is clear – for women and for everyone else. 

[Election 2015: Lib Dems' Jo Swinson 'Unconscious Bias Is The Silent Glass Ceiling']

[Election 2015: Green's Amelia Womack 'Why Should Women Earn Less But Pay More?']

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