First things first. Newspaper journalists are writing about the breakfasts they have at the early morning press conferences. (Apparently the Tory manifesto provided chocolate croissants, brioche, bacon and sausage sandwiches.) Just for the record, I had porridge and a crumpet this morning while the children fought over who had the most red bits in their cereal bowls.
Moving on. According to the Daily Telegraph, Cameron reached out to women voters with his manifesto yesterday. Female shadow ministers made speeches before him to prove how highly he rates women, and he focused on making Britain one of the most "family friendly" countries in the world. What's not to like about "family" and "friendly"? A family friendly country sounds great. Perhaps he could start with cafes and build up? "Every cafe to have wax crayons and paper for young customers", for instance. "Cafes to ban sniffy customers who stare accusingly at mortified mums trying to mop up juice spills and hush up noisy children."
There's a problem with Cameron's offer of a DIY revolution and women are going to spot it. The manifesto talks of:
*the redistribution of power to individuals, families and local communities.
*higher levels of personal and civic responsibility
*a society where people come together to solve problems and improve life for themselves and their communities
Parents will be enabled to start new schools and communities empowered to take over parks and libraries under threat.
Am I the only woman out there whose heart sank when I read "Our ambition is for every adult in the country to be a member of an active neighbourhood group"? Was it just me who heard the threat implicit in the pledge "We will stimulate the creation and development of neighbourhood groups, which can take action to improve their local area." There's even a spending pledge to fund the training of "independent community organisers" to help get these groups off the ground. And of course a "Big Society Day" to celebrate their work. (I am so looking forward to that one.)
The manifesto goes on: "Building the Big Society means encouraging the concept of public-spirited service - the idea that everyone should play a part in making their communities stronger."
And as final evidence that these manifestos aren't written by wives and mothers, but crafted by policy wonks who don't get out enough along with politicos in the business for life who only ever talk to other politicos in it for life, the assurance that a Tory government will "use the latest insights from behavioural economics to encourage people to make volunteering and community participation something they do on a regular basis."
I repeat. What?
You read a couple of hardback books of socio-economic psycho-babble and make a wish and the world changes and everyone in it. Yep. Like that's going to happen. If women are as important as they are supposed to be in this election, and this (along with SamCam looking bumpy and radiant) is all the Conservatives have in their armoury to appeal to them, then watch that electoral lead narrow, chaps.
I like the fact Cameron is an enthusiast and an optimist and believes he can change the world. I do. But the fact is talk to me about taking on anything else and I'm going to start screaming.
Women with families (friendly or otherwise) are operating at full stretch. If they are working as well, then they probably feel on a pretty regular basis that their lives are coming apart at the seams. They can hardly find time for the PTA, let alone become "a member of an active neighbourhood group." Oh good, something else to feel guilty about. Now you have to dodge the neighbourhood group chairman as well as the chairman of the PTA (and I speak as a former chairman of the PTA). Women will be hiding in the car boot from these people. They will tremble every time there is a knock at the back door. OK, there are indeed times we organise a petition to save a park or a playground, we fight some or other petty bureaucracy, and we bake three dozen currant buns for the cake sale at two o'clock in the morning because it's the only time we have. We'll do what we can when we have to. We already try our best. We already do our best. But please David, enough's enough. We can only do so much.