Male Tory MPs were lambasted by one of their own on Thursday, with Bernard Jenkin, the chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, bemoaning attitudes towards women within Conservative ranks, which he warned could harm the party at the next election. Jenkin even accused David Cameron of "unconscious slights to women".
Writing in House Magazine, the MP said that many within the party think women should be given lesser jobs, so that men can "get on with running the country".
In what is certain to be a blow for an administration already criticised for its lack of prominent women - Anna Soubry complained earlier this year she was given Public Health because it was a "soft bloody girly option" - Jenkin said that the leadership must improve its attitude towards women to move forward.
Soubry was moved to the Ministry of Defence to look after personnel, welfare and veterans during this week’s reshuffle, a move critics have said was an attempt to mask Cameron’s failure to appoint women to high profiles roles.
A damning Ipsos Mori survey for Mumsnet revealed in September that only 29 per cent of women support the Tories; 42 per cent supported Labour, a difference three times large than among male voters.
Jenkin wrote: "The Quad are all men. The National Security Council is overwhelmingly men. The Tory high command are all men. Only three out of 25 on the party board are women. Most of the advisers and policy wonks are men. And of course, most MPs will continue to be men. It is going to take a long time to change all this, so what else must we change?
"We should look at how we all behave. Generously hosting a 40-40 dinner to discuss prospects and tactics in the marginal seats, (former Tory donor) Lord Ashcroft was asked by a woman MP about declining Conservative support amongst women. 'Shut up and sit down!' was his response. He was trying to make a joke, of course, but the need to make a joke speaks volumes about the anxiety provoked by the question."
He added: "And the Prime Minister greeted a leading high profile business women who happens to be the wife of a major donor to the party, by asking, "And where is [x - the husband]!? We men are all guilty of such unconscious slights to women, but women voters see it and feel it. A business change programme would involve zero tolerance of such behaviour.
"We have perhaps yet to understand what 'change' in the Conservative Party really means. It is not something the leadership does, or women can do for us. Every man in the Conservative Party needs to change or be left behind. The leadership needs to be on this 24/7/365, not just at reshuffle time."
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