POLITICS

Ed Miliband Criticises Plan To Put Jane Austen On Banknotes

27/06/2013 19:16 BST | Updated 01/07/2013 11:41 BST

Ed Miliband has attacked the outgoing governor of the Bank of England in the row over banknotes as he warned of a "crisis" in the way women are represented in British culture.

The Labour leader criticised Sir Mervyn King's comment that Jane Austen was "quietly waiting in the wings" to become the new face of the £10 note.

Miliband also suggested the decision to replace Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on the £5 note was sending out the wrong message.

The central bank has come in for criticism over the move, which means no women will be represented on UK bank notes.

Fry's replacement inspired inspired a petition to Keep A Woman On British Bank Notes.

In a speech to Women in Advertising and Communications London, Mr Miliband also attacked the commercials industry for producing too many outdated images of women and called for reforms to tackle gender stereotyping.

It is understood Labour is concerned about a number of campaigns over recent years, including a television advert featuring former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson in a raunchy dream sequence for Crazy Domains.

Weetabix was among others highlighted by the party for the way it stereotypes boys and girls. In a recent advertisement for a version of the breakfast cereal containing chocolate, a young girl is shown dressed in pink, playing with dolls and dancing while a young boy is dressed as a superhero practicing karate kicks.

The Labour leader also called on business to help protect youngsters from sexualised images on the internet by installing safer default settings on computers.

He said. "We face a crisis of representation in our culture. Now, we all know the changes our culture has gone through in recent years. Many of those are good. Greater prominence is given to fantastic role models for women and girls than there were in the past - Clare Balding, Doreen Lawrence, JK Rowling, Jocelyn Bell Burnell - as well as many of you present here tonight.

"Representation is not just about the jobs that people do, it also about how people are seen, about the images we have of each other, because it is partly from those images, we learn to interact."

He added: "There is a culture of increasingly sexualised images among young people: a culture that says that girls will only get on in life if they live up to the crudest of stereotypes; a culture where pornographic images, some violent, are available at a click on a smartphone or a laptop.

"Like any parent, I worry about this. There are things that can be done including safer default settings on our computers. It puts a greater responsibility on all of us to do what we can to counter these images and not just by doing all we can to protect children in schools and on the internet.

"Schools should always ensure the aspirations of girls and boys are encouraged. And schools should offer proper relationship education at all key stages to ensure all our children have a proper chance to understand what they have a right to expect.

"National and local government should offer the role models of heroic women and their achievements. That applies to everything from banknotes to statues around this great city of London.

"When Winston Churchill replaces Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note, everyone who will appear on notes issued by the Bank of England will be a man. What kind of signal does that send? I read this week that Jane Austen is 'quietly waiting in the wings' to appear on a banknote one day.

"But 100 years on from the great struggle to give women the right to vote, women shouldn't be waiting quietly in the wings for anything.

"This is an important symbol of the kind of country we are. Why don't we have one of our great women scientists like Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and a suffragette like Emmeline Pankhurst on our banknotes?"

The Labour leader urged the advertising industry to take the lead in the way women are represented in commercials.

"We all know there are still too many images of women in our advertising that reflect outdated ideas about the role of men and women, boys and girls. There are still too many adverts which do not show the modern world as it is - let alone as it should be," he said.

Miliband also took a swipe at Education Secretary Michael Gove for effectively wiping women out of the history books.

"And we all know the trouble Michael Gove has had writing a history curriculum. He's on his third go now. But he still can't get it right when it comes to women.

"It seems as if he thinks it is all right to talk about women when you are specifically teaching women's history, but then to talk almost exclusively about men when you are teaching the rest of history. It's wrong. The role of women should be taught throughout the history curriculum in our schools."