Adamning indictment of our ‘social progress’ is contained in a current Daily Telegraph Gallup Poll report on women voters quoted in a recent bbc television programme. In every election since the war there has been a yawning disparity between men and women voters for the Labour Party. So much so that had women voted for the Labour Party in equal numbers to men, there would have been a Labour Government in power uninterruptedly since 1945. Even today, the percentage difference in support for the Labour Party is striking: an 18.5 per cent lead over the Conservatives among men, but one of only 4 per cent among women.
The political position of women is a complex one in a world in which right-wing leaders (the Shah of Persia!) proclaim feminine emancipation for reactionary ends. But, as the 19th century Uncle Toms of the us South showed, those who derive their rationale from their deprivation and exploited position can have an emotional vested interest in preserving the status quo. The Labour Party can hardly afford its complacency. Even on the left, Judith Hart (in a recent number of Twentieth Century) considers the problem of female emancipation solved.
The Party issues a monthly bulletin to Labour women: it is an anaemic sheet, characteristically laced with knitting patterns and recipes. Campaigns and propaganda always concentrate on the marginal voter—the middle-class family pursued by the hp companies—while this far vaster fund of potential converts remains untapped, indeed confirmed in its conservative rôle. Home once said, ‘Most of the troubles of the world date from the time that women were given the vote’. Ironically, not his troubles.