This week has been an ungratifying one for the joke that is our national political landscape. Both of the main parties have indulged in self-parodying that renders satirists redundant.
On the Labour side of the divide Harriet Harman, forever harping on about the belittling and marginalisation of women (her, in other words) showed her seriousness, statesmanship and her worthiness to be at the helm of the election campaign. She launched a pink bus to shuttle female Labour MP’s across the country to have conversations with women ‘around the kitchen table.’
Ah Harriet, The gift that keeps on giving. This unaware patronising gaffe is the brainchild of the most senior woman in the Shadow Cabinet and deputy leader of a prospective party of government. With female voters reportedly more disenfranchised with our system and unlikely to vote, surely such a tactic, stereotyping women with the image of pink, characterising them as occupiers of kitchens, will only serve to repel them more?
Female pundits on The Daily Politics, Question Time and This Week were for the most part aghast at the bus. In an age of trivialisation of politics this is yet a further backward step that will solidify the deep set and justified assumption among many that our Political Parties are short sighted jokes that suffer from a complete disconnect from real people’s lives.
No one would ever accuse this writer of being a feminist, yet I took deep offence on behalf of women voters, and the majority of female family and friends I spoke to shared such indignation. Rather than such damaging gimmicks, the Parliamentary Labour Party should be putting its best female performers at the forefront. Liz Kendal on maternity and paternity leave improvements. Stella Creasy on the scourge of payday loans companies. Yvette Cooper on crime and antisocial behaviour. Good performers, up to date on these briefs, giving straight interviews on matters that affect women and indeed us all. Not scuttling in and out of a pink bus. Time for this prospective party of government to get its act together.
This week meanwhile the Conservative Party has also played up to the worst interpretation of itself, hosting a glitzy fundraiser for election donations.
Although it was never really a convincing slogan, ‘we’re all in it together’ rings especially hollow when one see’s the spectacle of Cameron arriving in a tinted windowed car and ministers entering into the back of a posh hotel to mingle with porn barons, high flying bankers, speculators and other members of the super rich.
Bids for holidays, Pheasant shooting, shoe shopping with Theresa May and a run with Ian Duncan Smith amongst other things to raise money for the party most associated with opulence and economic inequality, set to outspend Labour by three times in the election, is almost beyond satire. The Tories were not even able to secure a majority at the last election, their status of largest party being guaranteed not by a swathe of goodwill by a loving electorate, rather a disenfranchised one rejecting the (by then) incompetent and burnt out Brown Government and making a tentative move rightwards to a party perceived to be better custodians of the public finances.
With such little goodwill to trade on and promising further, deeper austerity, the fundraiser and the image it reinforces seems remarkably naive and terrible PR in the run up to a close election. This is not the move of a party making a concerted effort to detoxify, to present itself as a broad church able to build a coalition of support and interests. Rather it smacks of one of two things. Either of misplaced complacency, assuming the electorate will turn a blind eye and give the incumbents the benefit of the doubt. Or rather of a Party throwing three sheets to the wind, being bold and cultivating its core vote only in a make or break attempt to cling onto power by the skin of its teeth, scraping over the line as a minority government.
Barbie doll buses, multimillionaire fundraisers. Are both of the main parties trying to lose the coming election? This undecided voter, positioned politically between the two parties, currently shan’t grace wither with my cross come the 8th of May.