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Stacey Collins
News on the election is hard to ignore this year. It's the first year for the televised debates between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats, and somewhat of a stir has been created amongst people of all ages.

Whilst Margaret Thatcher experienced female triumph in 1979, politics has been criticised for being largely male dominated - with the majority of MPs, and all candidates for the next role as Prime Minister, being men. If women are so scarcely found in politics, is it possible for party policies to be pertinent for potential female voters?

Well, not only does this year celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which allowed women the right to vote, more parties are outlining the fact that they are committed to ensuring more women get a seat in Parliament.

Another attempt to appeal to the ‘fe-masses’ has seen the loyal wives of the Prime Ministerial candidates being thrown into the PR organised limelight. This publicity stunt has seen the women receive somewhat of a celebrity status as they share in their husbands' campaigns and proudly and competitively sell their husbands as the ultimate family man, caring and kind. Does this appeal to you?

So what of the actual party manifestoes? What is it that they can offer us as women?

Labour sells themselves as the ‘party of equality for women’, the group that have helped the progression of women equality in the home, workplace and in society. Conservative aims for a ‘family friendly’ Britain, and the Liberal Democrats, with their ‘fairness to all’ approach, champion women’s rights and aim to get more women into ministerial positions.

If you are a new mother, one hot issue which all three of the main parties want to alter is maternity leave. A more flexible maternity leave with the chance to extend the period or for those mothers itching to get back to work, the opportunity to exchange the time to paternity leave is being offered by all parties.

For those amongst you have been awarded the birthday present of a free bus pass, you may have seen pledges from the Conservatives about freezing council tax for two years, policies from Liberal Democrats stating that they will increase the state pension annually and promises of winter fuel allowance and free NHS prescriptions from Labour.

However, as a young, single female with a degree and a future in Britain, what could three, middle aged men with receding hairlines who on the surface seem to exist in a distant, irrelevant, upper class sphere offer to me?

Although it's a year too late for me personally, Nick Clegg opposes tuition fees and plans to phase them out over six years if they win. Not being crippled by debt as you start out on life after University will leave this policy favoured amongst students. In the work place, Liberal Democrats continue with their fairness theme by pursuing companies to make sure unequal, discriminating salaries are identified and changed.

An honesty in advertising policy to regulate the airbrushing of models into unrealistic representations of beauty reaching children and young teens - and the opportunity to ask bus drivers to let you off between stops at night to cut out the long dangerous walk - are appealing, but possibly unrealistic targets.

Gordon Brown may struggle to regain the female voters support after his notorious ‘bigot’ comment but is certainly trying with his aim to make sure an additional 500,000 women are screened in the Breast Screening Programme, bringing in compulsory gender pay gap reporting to the Equality Bill and providing teenage girls with a cervical cancer vaccine.

And Cameron’s Conservatives? They want to introduce compulsory teaching of consent in the sex education curriculum in an attempt to reduce rape cases and tackle violence against women through preventive work in schools. And with the Conservative’s pledge to bring in stronger legislation to tackle the gender pay gap, it seems that both Labour and the Tories ‘agree with Nick’.

So even though Parliament is dominated by men, let’s have our say and make the women’s vote count.
Stacey Collins

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