According to Metro, Minister for Women Tessa Jowell has claimed it will never be possible to fully close the gender pay gap, despite the progress that she says “the most feminist government in our history” has made. Her “most feminist” claim is only plausible because no government has ever made much effort to empower women — New Labour’s agenda leaves a lot to be desired.
The BBC tells us that women workers earn an average of 27% less than men do — for part time workers, the figure is 40%. These working-class women are less of a concern for the government than those who can’t get top management positions because of the “glass ceiling”.
Only middle-class women’s interests seem to count. Women immigrants are particular victims of this outlook, since New Labour has even set targets for imprisoning and deporting more women and children — pregnant women are not spared.
Similarly Blair’s position on abortion is merely to endorse the status quo while admitting that debate “should continue” on whether the time limit is cut to 22 or even 20 weeks. The fact that the government won’t even reverse the Tories’ 1990 cuts in abortion rights hardly displays any great feminist credentials.
New Labour has of course increased the representation of women in Parliament (a whole 27.7% of Labour MPs are women!) — but greater involvement of middle-class women in politics does not necessarily mean that working-class women are better represented.
The only real “feminism” is socialist feminism , which is concerned with fighting for the interests of ordinary women.