It is a shameful fact that 36 years after the Equal Pay Act women earn an average of 17 percent less than men.
It is shameful too that New Labour wants us to believe that this is down to women insisting on taking low paid jobs, becoming nursery nurses rather than plumbers. Female civil service workers, employed by the government, earn 22 percent less than their male counterparts.
Women make up the majority of the part-time, low paid workforce. They do so because of the way society is run. The responsibility for childcare still falls to women. The prohibitive cost of childcare, which is the highest in western Europe, means that a large proportion of women attempt to work around school hours, taking part-time work or returning to less well paid jobs that allow more time for childcare.
New Labour has added to the problem by privatising jobs like cleaning and catering in schools and hospitals, jobs overwhelmingly done by women, reducing earnings in the process.
Activism can engage
New Tory leader David Cameron is trying to ape Tony Blair by ditching past policy in order to reposition the Tories next to New Labour on the centre right. This will only increase the growing disengagement with formal political institutions.
This was highlighted by a Rowntree Trust report this week. The numbers believing they have no say over government have risen dramatically to 56 percent.
The report finds it is disillusionment with the established parties underlying the fall in voter turnout, not apathy. In submissions to the report a range of people cite the narrowing of any difference between the three main parties.
The report contrasts this with participation and support for events such as the February 2003 Stop the War demonstration and last year’s Make Poverty History campaign.
It states, “These events were built around the willing involvement of hundreds of thousands of British people in vigorous political activity of national and international significance. This activity is innovative and imaginative.”
A very British coup
Ken Livingstone’s suspension from office shows just how limited British democracy is. The London mayor was suspended by three unelected men who represent a quango set up by a little noticed piece of legislation. They are charged with overseeing standards in local government.
The case involved an Evening Standard reporter. The usual way to deal with dissident political figures in Britain is to vilify them in the media. Livingstone suffered that as head of the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1980s, with the Evening Standard and its sister title, the Daily Mail, leading the pack. Margaret Thatcher then abolished the elected GLC.
If media vilification does not work there are other ways. In November 1975 the queen approved the removal from office of the elected Labour prime minister in Australia. The governor general of Australia acted to remove Gough Whitlam and replace him with a Tory.
Whatever you think of Ken Livingstone he has always opposed racism. He needs no lectures from Lord Rothermere’s press. There is still much power in unelected hands in 21st century Britain.