Why Ukip has a problem with women
If the Labour Party had any sense, or money, they’d get some vaguely Ukip-coloured campaign flyers made up in Heywood and Middleton, bearing the slogan: “We do have a problem with women.”
Because that’s the classic soundbite which emanated from the mouth of Ukip‘s deputy leader Paul Nuttall after a poll yesterday showed that women in the by-election seat were blowing the party a giant raspberry.
Ok I’ll be fair. Nuttall went on to say the following: “We do have a problem with women, in terms of – we are disproportionately supported by males. That has got to change over the next parliament.”
There’s something very Ukip about the use of the word “males”, but leaving that aside for a minute, I must applaud Nuttall for his honesty.
The poll in question showed Ukip attracting 41 per cent of male voters and only 21 per cent of female voters. By contrast, 38 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women planned to vote Labour. So clearly Ukip does have a problem with women.
The leader Nigel Farage was as commendably upfront as his deputy. “The problem with female voters and Ukip is that, over the last five to ten years at times on a very bad day we’ve looked a bit bloke-ish, a bit like a rugby club on a day out and I’m probably the most guilty person of all,” he said.
Resisting the standard Westminster spin is one reason why Ukip has garnered the anti-politics vote so successfully, and to the great detriment of the mainstream parties. But it’s also true that Ukip couldn’t spin itself out of its women problems even if it wanted to. And therein lies the problem.
Farage no doubt doesn’t need to be reminded of his pal Godfrey Bloom’s description of women as “sluts”, not to mention Bloom’s declaration that “no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age”.
And while the Ukip leader has rightly said he won’t “pretend” to win over women voters, he should perhaps search a little harder for his inner feminist.
Bloom was suspended but he wasn’t sacked, and ended up leaving the party of his own accord after Farage said he didn’t want to see his friend “hounded out of the party”.
And the leader himself has opined that a woman in the City who takes time off to have children is “worth far less to the employer when she comes back than when she went away”.
With gems like that coming from Ukip mouths, it’s not difficult to see why the party is struggling with women in Heywood and Middleton, but it is difficult to see how the Ukip leopard can change its spots.
The leadership points out that it now has seven female MEPs, and cites the prevalence of female party apparatchiks as “a complete sea change”. Certainly there are vocal and passionate women climbing the ranks, though we’ll see if they stay the course.
Farage was quoted yesterday as being in something of a quandary about his little local difficulty with the ladies. “I’m not sure what you want me to do, I might go and sell flowers,” he said.
Somehow I think something rather more fundamental than saying it with flowers is needed.
Follow @cathynewman on twitter