Boris is turning back the clock for women in London

Shelly Asquith reports on Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson’s sexist attitudes and anti-women policies.

This weekend in London, 1,000 people met for the annual UK Feminista conference. Given its proximity to the Mayoral election, organisers arranged for a debate to take place on women’s issues in the capital.

All of the main political parties’ candidates were invited, but only Boris Johnson refused to attend.

Given the Mayor of London’s record on gender equality, it comes as no surprise he has chosen to back out of a chance to discuss issues with a room full of Londoners angered by the cuts and the disproportionate burden they place on women.

Boris Johnson has been turning back London’s progress on women’s rights since his election in 2008, from cutting resources and finance, to ignoring rising domestic violence figures in the city.

Each measure the Mayor has taken (or not taken, in many cases) on women in London is reason enough for him to be scared of the angry voices on Saturday.

As we’ll see below, Boris’s attitude is in stark contrast to that of Labour’s Ken Livingstone.

Last month, an article in the Evening Standard covered the progress made on women’s rights in London throughout Ken Livingstone’s time in office as both leader of the Greater London Council and as Mayor of London:

Across the country, in the offices of local councils, campaigns and charities there are men and women who fought the bruising equality battles in London and recall Ken from the frontline.

Journalist Joshi Herrmann quotes Linda Bellos, a black Jewish lesbian and leading feminist activists in the 80s, as having recalled:

Ken was among the first to seriously put resources into women’s issues – there were funded women’s centres where women could go for advice on birth control or domestic violence. This was a new politics.

When in office, spending on Livingstone’s Women’s Committee totalled more than £25 million, and the positions of Women’s Adviser and the London Domestic Violence Strategy Team helped see rape and abuse rates fall, while introducing the London Living Wage meant more women on low paid jobs were lifted out of poverty.

Under Johnson, much of this progress has been unpicked.

In Boris’s 2008 election manifesto he pledged to “protect women in London”. Yet one of the first moves he made in office was to axe the role of Women’s Adviser at City Hall and five posts from the London Domestic Violence Strategy Team. Under Johnson, the scheme, which contributed to a 57% reduction in domestic abuse murders, had £90,000 immediately removed from its budget.

The Safer Travel At Night Board, a measure that contributed to reducing cab-related sexual offences by 46%, was also scrapped by Johnson.

Last year’s campaign to get Boris to ‘Keep his Promise’ over funding for Rape Crisis Centres was a huge embarrassment for the Mayor, and forced him to u-turn on abandoning plans for three centres in London. The funding for the centres is still £489,000 short of the Mayor’s original manifesto pledge.

And now the Tory Mayor has come under fire again for failing to confirm whether funding will continue next year, and for failing to tackle the rising rape figures in the city.

The London Childcare Unit, which supported London boroughs in providing affordable places for children from low-income and single parent families – 90% of which are women – has also been abolished, a move that has disproportionately hit young mothers in London much harder than any other group.

The Capital Woman conference, an annual event addressing women’s issues which began in 2001 and was attended by more than 3,000 women in 2008 was also immediately cancelled by Boris upon him taking office.

The London Conservatives, who currently have a majority at City Hall, have only one female Assembly Member.

Boris Johnson’s Mayoralty has not only failed to protect women’s rights in London, it has systematically removed the strategies that were in place and making progress; Livingstone, meanwhile, has ensured women’s issues will play a central role in his election manifesto and that fighting for gender equality will be put back on the agenda if he becomes Mayor next year.

Judging by the reception on Saturday, it is clear women in London are angered by Boris’s regressive cuts and failure to show his face and justify them. As 52% of the electorate in London, women are not a group to be dismissed: we must fight back and ensure we are a decisive force in next year’s Mayoral election.

See also:

Two weeks after ‘fixing’ it, Cameron creates a new “women problem”Alex Hern, October 17th 2011

New figures show women’s employment prospects the worst for decadesJames Plunkett, September 14th 2011

Female unemployment highest for 15 years; outlook bleakTony Dolphin, July 13th 2011

Osborne’s economic attacks on women reflect a wider Tory problemDaniel Elton, June 21st 2011

Two women a week die from domestic violence; legal aid cuts will see moreJonny Mulligan, June 16th 2011

32 Responses to “Boris is turning back the clock for women in London”

  1. Mr. Sensible

    Same old Tories…

  2. Robert Beard

    RT @leftfootfwd: Boris is turning back the clock for women in London http://t.co/iWVSLXVQ

  3. Jay Thompson

    Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/i6LF1MLj writes @ShellyAsquith #LondonMayor #2012

  4. Alex Braithwaite

    If we are to make any progress on gender equality in London, we must get rid of Boris Johnson. Here's why: http://t.co/mjJWi9oU

  5. t hill

    If we are to make any progress on gender equality in London, we must get rid of Boris Johnson. Here's why: http://t.co/mjJWi9oU

  6. Dulcie Fairhurst

    Good article by @ShellyAsquith: If we're to make progress on gender equality in London we must get rid of Boris Johnson http://t.co/QXehRNVy

  7. Shelly Asquith

    Good article by @ShellyAsquith: If we're to make progress on gender equality in London we must get rid of Boris Johnson http://t.co/QXehRNVy

  8. paulstpancras

    Good article by @ShellyAsquith: If we're to make progress on gender equality in London we must get rid of Boris Johnson http://t.co/QXehRNVy

  9. KrustyAllslopp

    Good article by @ShellyAsquith: If we're to make progress on gender equality in London we must get rid of Boris Johnson http://t.co/QXehRNVy

  10. Ben Hayes

    Great article by @ShellyAsquith for @leftfootfwd on Boris' reactionary record on women Londoners: http://t.co/oReq4fke. Good work, comrade!

  11. Stephen Connelly

    Good article by @ShellyAsquith: If we're to make progress on gender equality in London we must get rid of Boris Johnson http://t.co/QXehRNVy

  12. David Sugg

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  13. Ivana Bartoletti

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  14. Liza Harding

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  15. Alan199

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  16. Helen Godwin Teige

    RT @leftfootfwd: Boris is turning back the clock for women in London http://t.co/pvnik8mA

  17. techsparx

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  18. Stephen Rooney

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  19. NextGenerationLabour

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  20. Stealinghome

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  21. Barnet Mags

    From last night – how Boris is turning back the clock for women in London: http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 by @ShellyAsquith

  22. Alan Cowan

    Boris is turning back the clock for women in London | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/qtfPe1pl

  23. Passerby

    I’m no tory supporter but this report is just stupid. No feminist admired the paternalistic and divise actions of Ken and his tame team of municipal feminists.

    And in fact, for what ever reason, Boris’ VAW strategy included rape and sexual assualt whereas Ken’s didn’t. And the funding for new rape crisis centres were never in doubt. All the time the left was runing round making fools of themselves about Boris keep your promise, members and advisors from Rape Crisis were working with City Hall to get appropriate structures in place. This was necessary because under Labour leaders the London Rape Crisis Centre had been closed.

    As it is thanks to Labour divisive prioritising of DV over rape, some of these new centres have just be come an add on to existing refuges, rather than autonomous women’s rape crisis centres.

    But then Ken has never liked women to organise autonomously. The farcical waste of money on the IWD event, in direct opposition to the women led MWR is another example.

    Ken’s barnstorming statements may go down well with the politically vacuous form of feminism promoted by the Gaurdianista’s very own sixth form political activism of UK Feminista (note the cute little a on the end to make the word less threatening!) but is taken with a large pinch of salt by the women who are actually practicing feminism at the front line.

  24. Jessica Asato

    #3 Boris is turning back the clock for women in London http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 (The joke that that should have been last month has been made)

  25. David Orr

    #3 Boris is turning back the clock for women in London http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 (The joke that that should have been last month has been made)

  26. ellispritchard

    #3 Boris is turning back the clock for women in London http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 (The joke that that should have been last month has been made)

  27. Vera Baird

    #3 Boris is turning back the clock for women in London http://t.co/1XZGH7U7 (The joke that that should have been last month has been made)

  28. Joshi E Herrmann

    Good piece, glad something I wrote was useful material RT @leftfootfwd: Boris is turning back the clock for women http://t.co/iOxu8ghX

  29. And the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011 could have been... | Left Foot Forward

    […] Boris is turning back the clock for women in London – Shelly Asquith, November 14th […]

  30. Brian Moylan

    "Boris is turning back the clock for women in London" http://t.co/EPABLxPe by @ShellyAsquith #ukpolitics

  31. Women turned away from refuge shelters told to sleep in Occupy camps | Left Foot Forward

    […] also: • Boris is turning back the clock for women in London – Shelly Asquith, November 14th […]

  32. Bankers' buddy Boris breaks promise not to slash police and fire budgets | Left Foot Forward

    […] Boris is turning back the clock for women in London 14 Nov […]

Leave a Reply