In the official engagement announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle she was listed as Ms. As someone who was raised by staunch republicans my smile was sly rather than broad. Then I turn on the radio and hear a clip of her saying: “Women need a seat at the table, they need an invitation to be seated there, and in some cases, where this is not available, well then you know what, they need to create their own table.” I’m not just smiling now, I’m stringing up the bunting and buttering the baps for coronation chicken sarnies.
On a day (brace yourself this is the first of many) that the nation’s attentions will be on Ms Markle, some of us will be acting all patriotic and taking cues from our feminist fledgling princess by attempting to push through parliament the work of the one true queen of the amendment, Ms Stella Creasy.
Stella, with the support of MPs across the house, has tabled an amendment to the Budget that would force the government (through Office for Budget Responsibility) to conduct and publish a gender equalities impact assessment concerning the charging of income tax. This basically means the government have to show who wins and loses more; men or women, from their budget.
There is lots of research by different independent groups such as the Women’s Budget Group and the Library of the House of Commons that shows that women are disproportionately affected by budget cuts such as cuts to welfare and public service spending. The same research shows that men are disproportionately benefited by budget giveaways such as cuts in corporation tax. The fact that the Government don’t publish or seek to get the OBR to publish this data and analysis has been raised by the Women and Equalities Select Committee as well as many parliamentarians for many years. The Treasury ministers declined to come to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on the matter. Perhaps they have something to hide?
I’m not for one second suggesting that the government sit around devising the Budget to purposefully hurt women. I just think they forget about our existence and have little concern for the fact that they might be accidentally making us disproportionately poorer. Oops!
The amendment Stella Creasy has tabled to the Budget will not change any pound signs. She’s not asking them to shake a magic money tree. She’s not trading in her democratic will for a billion quid. She is just seeking to legislate that the Government have to at least check and admit if their sums about income tax are a bit sexist.
Those of us who have pushed the amendment are basically just waving like the neighbour you are trying to ignore - “cooeee” . Phillip Hammond as did Osborne before him are playing the part of the reticent resident who knows that joining the local neighbourhood watch is the right thing to do but doesn’t want to be arsed giving up their Sunday mornings. So they look down as they pick their milk up off the doorstep and pretend they didn’t see us. We’re just asking the government to remember women. Seeing these figures, streaming light on to the facts will help the government now and governments in the future make better fairer decisions. It’s really a little thing to ask for.
Tomorrow, while the nation compares Kate’s elegant princess dresses to Meghan’s slicker more corporate style, Stella Creasy, along with other parliamentarians, will push for a fairer, more equal balance of the nation’s finances. I’ll stand by Stella and know Meghan would probably rather be with us than chatting about clothes. She did after all say; “We need a global understanding that we cannot implement change effectively without women’s political participation.” We hear you Meghan, and as we’ve pledged an allegiance to the Queen and all her heirs it would be rude to ignore your sage words.
I hope that the Tories will join us in trying to get this transparency in the budget. I know lots will want to make that red box a little bit more pink. I hope that they join us in our patriotic fight to get this amendment in the bill. Tories love and worship the royal family. What a fitting welcome it would be to our new princess for Her Majesty’s Government to honour her chosen cause of gender equality.
“Because it isn’t enough to simply talk about equality. One must believe it. And it isn’t enough to simply believe in it. One must work at it. Let us work at it. Together. Starting now.” Well bloody said Ms Markle, well bloody said.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley