In a previous post on the supposed Tory attack on women, I wrote that there was a disconnect between women’s groups and this Government.
I see a general lack of understanding between women’s groups and the Government. Those who seek to speak out for women find that their messages are often not getting through to this Government. Perhaps these groups formed good relationships with the last Government and now find that previously successful lobbying techniques fall flat.
It’s easy to assert that the reason for this lack of communication between the Government and women’s groups is because this Government is anti-women. It’s easy for women’s groups to claim that the reason their messages, so successful with Labour, fail with the Coalition is because the Conservatives don’t want to support women. But to make those assertions would be to completely misunderstand the Government.
There’s a much simpler explanation: you’re just not speaking the same language. The approaches which worked with Labour won’t necessarily work with the Coalition. But that doesn’t mean that this government is anti-women. It’s the anti-centralisation, anti-state and anti-collectivist approaches which affect the ability of women’s groups to communicate effectively with Coalition politicians.
Many women’s groups have tended to seek political solutions through centralised funding and top-down legislation, putting them at odds with the localism and gender-neutral liberalism of this Government. This Government isn’t interested in what they see as social engineering – while they may believe in the cause, they won’t condone the means.
How should women’s groups approach this government? Think in terms of individuals, not groups. Cut out generalisations. Approach local government rather than central government. Talk in terms of grassroots community projects. Keep saying you have a pragmatic approach.
And advice for Conservatives? Don’t be put off by the language and imagery of “groups”. Ideas don’t always have to be couched in Conservative terms to have merit.