Last week professional boxer Amir Khan shocked many fans by admitting on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! that he didn’t know if there had ever been a female Prime Minister.
Given Theresa May’s record I’m not surprised. When I was invited on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, I said that “Theresa May is a female Prime Minister but she is no friend to women”, and I received criticism from many Conservatives.
But following the Budget, independent research by the House of Commons Library has confirmed that women are continuing to bear the brunt of 86 per cent of Tory cuts. Despite women having disproportionately paid the price of austerity compared to men, men received 46 per cent more spending in the Budget than women.
To quote Theresa May, “nothing has changed” when it comes to the burden this Government is forcing on women.
This week 127 MPs signed my letter calling on the Government to publish comprehensive equality assessments of Government policy in relation to protected characteristics such as gender, race, age, disability, class and region.
Theresa May claimed, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, that she would tackle the “burning injustices” in our society.
But how can she solve the injustices, if she refuses to face up to them?
Equality audits of Government policies would reveal the extent of the harm being inflicted on women and other groups by the Tories’ failed economic agenda.
Far from addressing burning injustices, her Government is adding fuel to the fire.
Instead of using her position to improve the lives of women across the country, women have been disproportionately disadvantaged by her Government.
The reality is that Theresa May has done nothing to improve the lives of women.
For example, women, particularly African Caribbean, Asian and minority ethnic women, are the hardest hit by the fundamental flaws in universal credit, which the Government is refusing to pause and fix.
By April 2021, 5.9 million women living in households eligible for universal credit under 2013 rules will lose £4,406 as a result of the combined impact of all changes. Black women, whether employed or not, stand to lose £5,030 a year.
The Government’s plans to remove women’s refuges and other short-term supported housing from the welfare system means vulnerable women will not be able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit. Cuts to funding are already forcing refuges to close at an alarming rate and if they lose this last guaranteed source of income more of these vital services will be forced to close their doors to women and children who are at risk.
This policy completely contradicts Theresa May’s pledge to transform the way the UK tackles domestic violence. The Government must develop a sustainable form of funding so that no woman or child is denied access to vital sanctuary and support.
They say there’s no money for these lifelines for women, but managed to find £1bn for the DUP, a party that opposes women’s fundamental reproductive rights. This deal was symbolic of May putting her personal interests above the interests of women.
Labour stands ready to deliver a fairer society for all. The next Labour government will end the Tories’ failed austerity agenda which has disproportionately harmed women and other groups, and we will take radical action to address underlying structural inequalities in our society.
Labour will publish equality audits of all of our policies to ensure that no groups are disproportionately targeted and disadvantaged by government policy, and that we are eradicating, rather than entrenching, inequalities.
The more the Tories try to silence me, the louder I will advocate for women’s rights. What’s important is not just having a woman in power, but empowering women. Actions speak louder than words and sadly the actions of this Prime Minister are failing millions of women across our country.
Dawn Butler is the Labour MP for Brent Central and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities