Issues & Ideas, The Parties | 15th April 2015

Labour women’s manifesto launch: more than just a pink bus?

The garish image of the pink bus has defined Labour’s women’s campaign, but what does it actually symbolise?

Photo: Getty


The pink bus. It’s almost a triumphant image, driving off into the Stockwell sunshine as it departs the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto in south London. The story that snatched notoriety from the jaws of obscurity. The gaffe that owned itself.

But what does the women’s campaign actually consist of, policy-wise? That’s what the Labour laydeez fronting the campaign – Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper and Gloria De Piero – gathered supporters and the press to hear about, at Labour’s women’s manifesto launch in a south London nursery.

The fact that pink is the colour, and the location was a nursery, suggests the campaign is not squeamish about playing to the cuddlier side of Appealing To Female Voters. There was lots of baby-holding and cooing.

Labour’s “Woman to Woman” campaign bus departs.

But the problem of women losing out disproportionately due to coalition economic policies ­is a crass oversight (at best) by the current government, and so I can forgive Labour its occasionally clunky framing of this subject.

The campaign spells out how the government “has let women down”, with 60 per cent of low-paid jobs created since 2010 being filled by women, rape and domestic violence cases up, childcare and Sure Start centre cuts, and employment tribunal fees making it harder for women to fight sex discrimination claims (these have fallen by 80 per cent).

It projected this rather retro poster onto the House of Commons last night:

IMG_5479 imp

The launch highlighted some policies to benefit women and equality. Most of these we knew already (raising the minimum wage, doubling paid paternity leave, introducing compulsory sex and relationship lessons in schools – see the manifesto here).

But one new announcement is to consult on allowing grandparents to share in parents’ unpaid parental leave. As Harriet Harman told the Mail:

“More and more daughters and daughters-in-law are in work, childcare is more expensive and grandmothers are now working.

“Instead of having to choose between retiring early and giving up work, or not being part of the daily care for their grandchildren, we’re saying let’s look at the leave arrangements to recognise what the pattern of family life.

“This is the next frontier. It’s the first time there has been a policy which recognises this role of grandparents.”