New blog post about women in the new government here. I’ll also be posting the final round up of the leaders’ wives contest soon.

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New post looking at women in this General Election here – NOT SamCam, Sarah Brown and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez has earned respect for her determination to keep working during the five-week campaign.
She has said that she
doesn’t like the term political wife and generally avoids media attention.
Portrayed as a “modern” working woman who as a lawyer earns more than her husband and leaves him do the school run, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez commands respect among the Mumsnet crowd.
A partner in international law firm DLA Piper she joined her husband on the campaign trail at the weekend and her decision to “dress down” in jeans and a loose grey cardigan was duly noted.

Photocredit: Liberal Democrats via a Creative Commons licence.

It may be that the majority of the British public isn’t going to be swayed by the wives of party leaders on 6 May – according to a recent YouGov poll only four percent felt that wives’ popularity is crucial in the electoral race compared to 51 per cent who felt that it was not important at all.

But the fact that politicians have wives who do -or don’t – work, or do/don’t join them on the campaign trail and how they look seems to be a source of fascination in the media. It’s a phenomenon no one will own up to, or take responsibility for, but somehow, as the Express put it, leaders’ wives “are becoming their biggest weapons”.

“In what is increasingly being known as the Wag election, Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron are finding as much attention on themselves as their husbands.”

So whether the politicians are hankering after something of the Michelle Obama effect or whether it’s driven by the need for pictures and something to fill the space, the fact that the three leaders have wives who are attractive, relatively young and don’t conform to a stereotype that evidently still lingers, means that we can probably expect to hear a lot about Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron over the next few weeks. And she may have genuine reasons for staying out of it all but Miriam Gonzalez Durantez is guaranteed a flurry of attention whenever she does join Nick Clegg on the campaign trail.

The attention afforded the leaders’ wives in the past week has been heralded as a “giant leap” towards First Lady politics.

But the same YouGov poll showed that 76 per cent feel the media concentrate too much on the way that the wives dress, and 70 per cent think they should be seen as women with careers and values in their own right.
Only 15 per cent of the total felt that it was right for the media to focus on the women solely due to their role as ‘leaders’ wives’.

As Jackie Ashley points out, women aren’t getting much of a look in anywhere else in this election.
Whether it’s driven by strategists or by the media, until 6 May I am going to chart what is served up about the leaders’ wives.

Other links:
Times: Election war of the wives.
Telegraph:
This could get nasty
AP: A family affair
Comment is free: Prime minister or primate?

Photocredit: Downing Street via a Creative Commons license.

On the day Amnesty International and women’s organisations lobbied MPs for increased protection for all women facing violence in the UK, I re-read Janice Turner’s recent article on the silence of feminists in the face of casual sexism. Wondering where feminism went wrong Turner writes that of the half dozen twenty-somethings she met in a bid to find out only one identified themselves as a feminist and the rest didn’t identify with it at all:

The only feminist they can think of is Julie Bindel, the radical lesbian writer. Feminism means no fun or make-up, anger and hating men. It is a broken brand, not needed now. As one put it: “All the battles are won.”

Why is it, Turner asks, “that while America has a tradition of feminist writers and thinkers, including Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe, there are no young women “questioning the orthodoxy here”?

In a later article Turner sets out to rally feminists and stir up resistance to the “pornification” of culture. It’s time to challenge casual sexism she writes, inviting readers to send in examples of sexism.
The response to her first article she says was “thank God, someone is saying this — I thought I was alone”.

Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony argues it isn’t a case of feminists being silent, although she acknowledges those voices are rarely heard in the mainstream. She also criticises Turner for showing “a lack of knowledge or disregard of just what has been going on in the online world for the last decade” and picks up on the fact that feminists are often criticised for being silent on a variety of issues: “I’ve had it up to here with the “feminists have been silent about…” trope that springs up everywhere in the media both on line and off”.

So to an article by Clive James I recently re-read criticising feminists for their silence on the subject of so-called honour killings. He writes about Pamela Bone, an Australian journalist whose 2005 article in the Melbourne Age attacked Western feminists for failing to speak up against abuses in the Western world.

Reading around this issue, as with many others, it’s clear there are many vibrant feminist writers online.
If you are looking for authoritative voices speaking out in the mainstream media in the UK however, “silence” is what you’re likely to get.

Whether that’s important depends on how much weight you give to the mainstream. If you think it’s important that feminism is “heard” in the media then some of the questions Janice Turner raises about the pressures to keep quiet are important ones – but is it as much about deafness as about silence?

I went to the Convention on Modern Liberty at the Institute of Education in London yesterday.
I first went to the Blogger’s Summit that the chair Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy has written about here.
Interesting observation from Heather Brooke of Your Right to Know that whereas in the US electronic data and information is readily available, those in power in the UK regard information as something that “belongs to them” and not the people.
Ben Goldacre whose run-in with LBC is described below described amusingly how new media tools could be used for “chaotic, puerile disseminated investigative journalism”.
It was an event that brought together people across the whole political spectrum.. and covered a wide range of subjects as one of its organisers Henry Porter outlines here and here.
Peter Oborne’s comments about the media-political class inspired me to read his book The Triumph of the Political Class and so far its analysis of a political elite that exists for its own advancement is very persuasive – and goes some way to explain the apparent disconnect between the governing class and the people, no matter what political party they are in.
There was also some discussion about the impact that an economic slump will have on liberty and questions raised about the role the mainstream media would play if discontent leads to civil unrest.
Another book, Shafted, published later this month to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the miners’ strike examines some of the pitfalls journalists fell in.
What are the lessons to be learnt from the likes of Nicholas Jones who contributes to the book? What role will “chaotic, puerile disseminated investigative journalism” play? How important was yesterday’s convention as a step towards the fulfillment of what Sunday’s Observer editorial says is the obligation of every citizen – “vigilance and resistance” to the restriction of “freedoms” and “conceptions of the moral autonomy of the individual to act without impediment by the state”?