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Women and New Labour

Women and New Labour: Engendering politics and policy?

Claire Annesley
Francesca Gains
Kirstein Rummery
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Women and New Labour
    Book Description:

    Although there is a growing body of international literature on the feminisation of politics and the policy process and, as New Labour's term of office progresses, a rapidly growing series of texts around New Labour's politics and policies, until now no one text has conducted an analysis of New Labour's politics and policies from a gendered perspective, despite the fact that New Labour have set themselves up to specifically address women's issues and attract women voters. This book fills that gap in an interesting and timely way. Women and New Labour will be a valuable addition to both feminist and mainstream scholarship in the social sciences, particularly in political science, social policy and economics. Instead of focusing on traditionally feminist areas of politics and policy (such as violent crime against women) the authors opt to focus on three case study areas of mainstream policy (economic policy, foreign policy and welfare policy) from a gendered perspective. The analytical framework provided by the editors yields generalisable insights that will outlast New Labour's third term.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-241-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Sarah Childs and Georgina Waylen

    Women and New Labour: Engendering Politics and Policy?is the product of a collective inter-disciplinary research project conducted by the Social Science Gender Research Network at the University of Manchester. In September 2005 we were invited to act as discussants for one of the project workshops and we were pleased to be asked to write this foreword. In exploring various policy outcomesWomen and New Labourfacilitates gender and politics scholars in the analysis of key themes of the sub-discipline, particularly the relationship between the descriptive and substantive representation of women and the interaction between actors and institutions (increasingly becoming...

  6. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  7. Notes on contributors
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  8. Part One: Introduction

    • ONE Feminising politics and policy: the impact of New Labour
      (pp. 3-24)
      Claire Annesley and Francesca Gains

      The iconic, but now rather clichéd, image of Tony Blair and the 101 female Labour MPs elected to the 1997 House of Commons sent a signal to the world that New Labour and women somehow go ‘hand in hand’. Undeniably, the 1997 General Election was significant in gender terms because Labour returned a record number of female MPs thanks to its use of all women shortlists (AWS) in selecting candidates for that election. Moreover, the party’s landslide victory that year was made possible by the massive swing in the female votes from the Conservatives to New Labour: remarkably, in 1997,...

  9. Part Two: Engendering politics?

    • TWO Theoretical underpinnings: women, gender, feminising and politics
      (pp. 27-42)
      Angelia R. Wilson

      This volume is primarily concerned with the assessment of New Labour as it purposefully sought to promote the interests of women and reduce inequalities between the sexes. In Parts Two and Three each author teases out the implications of the politics and policies underpinning New Labour’s celebrated attraction to, and for, ‘women’ and ‘women’s issues’. Along their journey in interpreting ‘the needs of women’, authors traverse a conceptual terrain which, while crucial to reaching their final destination, might take more time to detail sufficiently than possible within the confines of one chapter. Moreover, given that most of the authors share...

    • THREE Women and Nordic labour parties
      (pp. 43-62)
      Guro Buchanan and Claire Annesley

      Many accounts of the politics and policy of New Labour have tended to emphasise the strong influence of New Right or American thinking on the party’s reform agenda. Yet key figures in Labour Party policy circles have highlighted that much policy learning has in fact been done by looking towards the social democratic Nordic states. Geoff Mulgan, former director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, said that Labour’s welfare to work policies are ‘actually borrowed more from Scandinavia than from America’ (2003). In much of the comparative literature on democracy, welfare states and state feminism, the Nordic states are held...

    • FOUR Framing claims for women: from ‘old’ to ‘new’ Labour
      (pp. 63-92)
      Jill Lovecy

      As noted in Chapter One, it was the adoption of AWS that secured New Labour’s dramatic gender breakthrough in the June 1997 elections, when it virtually trebled the number of women MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) from 37 to 101. The party’s resort to this strong measure of positive discrimination was sealed under John Smith’s leadership at the party’s 1993 Annual Conference, in the immediate aftermath of the party’s fourth successive electoral defeat in 1992 (Short 1996, 19-21; Russell 2005, 111-5). Crucially, what AWS offered was a means of operationalising gender quotas within the framework of the UK’s...

    • FIVE Engendering the machinery of governance
      (pp. 93-114)
      Catherine Durose and Francesca Gains

      This chapter focuses on the opportunities taken by New Labour in power to engender the machinery of governance at national and local levels both in terms of representational policies and in changes to the organisation of the executive and other administrative policies. These types of policies are often described as the machinery ofgovernment(Massey 1995). Here we describe these changes as relating to the machinery ofgovernanceto reflect the devolved and distributed decision-making arenas of the contemporary British state (Flinders 2002). These administrative policies provide the context for policy-making in other substantive policy areas such as those discussed...

  10. Part Three: Engendering policy?

    • SIX Two steps forward, one step back: the gender dimensions of Treasury policy under New Labour
      (pp. 117-132)
      David Coates and Sarah Oettinger

      Governing in a society that is heavily gendered inevitably gives the policy process gender consequences, but it also makes those consequences very difficult to isolate. For gender relationships in a society such as the UK’s are not simply ubiquitous. They are also immersed, and sub-subsumed into wider relationships of class, ethnicity, region and age; and they are themselves in flux. Policy initiatives therefore not only impact on a stable and isolated set of gender relations. They also impact on what is essentially a moving and often an obscured target. To assess the importance and centrality of those policy initiatives to...

    • SEVEN New Labour policy and the gender pay gap
      (pp. 133-154)
      Damian Grimshaw

      This chapter explores the effects of labour market policy under the New Labour government on women’s pay. Long-run trends towards a closing of the gender pay gap in the UK have stagnated in recent years and this has provoked considerable debate about the role of labour market policy interventions to improve women’s earnings position. As argued elsewhere in this book, the appointment of a Women’s Minister, the establishment of the WU (renamed as the WEU), the campaigning role of the WBG and an apparent concern within New Labour to appeal to women voters have led some observers to proclaim a...

    • EIGHT New Labour: family policy and gender
      (pp. 155-174)
      Karen Clarke

      This chapter examines the coherence of New Labour’s approach to the family and the implications for gender roles of its policies. Family policy is a notoriously difficult concept to define. At its most general it is ‘everything the state does to and for the family’ (Kamerman and Kahn 1978, 3) whether or not the family is the explicit object of those state activities. Under a more limited definition family policies may be defined as ‘policies that identify families as the deliberate target of specific actions and where the measures initiated are designed to have an impact on family resources and...

    • NINE Caring, citizenship and New Labour: dilemmas and contradictions for disabled and older women
      (pp. 175-192)
      Kirstein Rummery

      Many of the case studies in this book look at policies aimed at groups of women whom New Labour has specifically targeted: working women, mothers, lone parents, and women living in poverty in particular. Policies aimed at these groups of women have clearly followed the overarching theme of making work pay and enabling women who were previously excluded from the labour market because of childcare duties to participate in paid work (see Chapters Six, Seven, Eight; Rake 2001). However, for some groups of vulnerable women at risk of or living in poverty, engagement in paid work is of much lesser...

    • TEN New Labour and ‘lesbian- and gay-friendly’ policy
      (pp. 193-210)
      Angelia R. Wilson

      This chapter considers a range of policies championed by New Labour which have made an impact on the lives of lesbian and gay citizens. The inclusion of this chapter in this collection may appear rather odd to some as it relates not just to ‘women’. Nevertheless, its placement here bares witness to the contested terrain of gender, sexuality and hetero-normativity and the impact of policies based upon stereotype and binary understandings of gender and sexual orientation. The level of cultural and political hostility toward lesbians and gay men prior to the election of New Labour and the overwhelming changes in...

    • ELEVEN The gender dimensions of New Labour’s international development policy
      (pp. 211-228)
      Juanita Elias and Lucy Ferguson

      In this chapter, we seek to examine the gender dimensions of New Labour’s international development work as well as to focus on some of the internal and external limitations of these policies. We note that these limitations stem from a number of different factors. First, institutional factors within the Department for International Development (DfID) have placed constraints on the extent to which policies of ‘gender mainstreaming’ have really taken hold within the department. Second, a growing emphasis on partnership strategies in international development assistance often result in the sidelining of gender issues in the complex bargaining relationships between donor agencies....

  11. Part Four: Conclusions

    • TWELVE New Labour: towards an engendered politics and policy?
      (pp. 231-250)
      Kirstein Rummery, Francesca Gains and Claire Annesley

      In commissioning the chapters for this book, we set out to investigate the extent to which New Labour has feminised politics, that is, whether it has acted for women, taken on women’s concerns and made a difference to women’s lives (Lovenduski 2005). By drawing together the evidence presented here, we have sought to understand why and when the party was able to act for women, what opportunities and constraints they faced, and examine what effects their actions have had on various groups of women. Finally, our aim was to draw some conclusions about how feminists can mobilise governments to achieve...

  12. Index
    (pp. 251-261)