Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

8 U-turns PM Theresa May should do for women


So now, after the disastrous and divisive referendum campaign, we have a new Prime Minister.  And for only the second time in our history it will be woman.  I offer Theresa May my congratulations.  Having a woman at the top of our country sends a strong message that no girl or woman can be told "you can't do that because you're a woman".   The overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs are men and she beat them all to the top spot. 

But what will she, as a woman who has now reached the top, do to change things for other women? 

Here are the 8 U-turns we need from this new woman Prime Minister.

  • She should start with a U-turn which ensures that our public services, like the NHS and care for the elderly, have the resources they need.  It is mostly women who care for the elderly.  Conservative government cuts to social care have left women struggling to support family members without the support services they need to back them up.  Most of the people who work in the NHS are women and they need to be valued, not stretched to breaking point
  • She must ensure that every family has accessible, affordable childcare to care for children while the parents are working.  Most of the responsibility for care of young children falls on the mother.  This is the case in two parent families but even more so in lone parent families.  Women want to be able to go out to work, to get on in their jobs, to contribute to the family budget and the nation's economy and to set an example to their children that life is about work rather than relying on benefits.  But they need to know that their children are safe, happy and learning while they are at work.  Too many women have to limit what they do in their work because they can't afford childcare.  She should re-open the children's centres that her government has closed. And set about opening new ones.  
  • She must give parents strong rights at work.  Most of the people at work are someone's parent.  Parents need to be able to spend time with their children as well as earn money to spend on them.  There should be longer maternity and paternity leave and higher maternity and paternity pay.  Many mothers have to go back to work before they feel their baby is ready because they can't afford to stay off.  And many fathers take no paternity leave because they can't afford to lose pay.  Her government has said that these rights are a burden on business.  She must u-turn on that and strengthen rights at work
  • She must give grandparents new rights at work.  Most families just couldn't cope without the help of grandparents but they too are working as they have to work till they're older because of the raising of the retirement age. Grandparents need new rights to take paid time off work to help with their grandchildren
  • She must give the police the resources and the leadership they need to step up tackling domestic violence.  A woman prime minister should make it a priority to prevent the deaths of 2 women every week at the hands of domestic violence.
  • She must ensure that what we do internationally, through our Foreign Office and through our development aid, helps empower women around the world who are suffering poverty and oppression.  50% of our ambassadors must be women.
  • She must implement Labour's Equality Act, now and in full.  That will strengthen the law on equal pay and against discrimination for everyone, not just women but people of all backgrounds.
  • She should appoint a cabinet and ministerial team which is half women.

When Margaret Thatcher was a Prime Minister we had a slogan "The First Lady puts women last"

Being the Prime Minister is not just about who you are.  It's about what you do - for this country and all the people in it.  A woman Prime Minister should deliver for women in the country she will now lead.


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