If anything, quite the reverse. Photo:Getty
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SNP manifesto 2015: A document drafted in weakness

The SNP combine electoral hegemony with political weakness, and their manifesto reflects that.

Can you win a landslide, and still be powerless? The SNP might be about to find out. It now looks as if the party is nailed on to win at least 50 seats in Scotland and  it’s not unreasonable to suppose that they might win every seat on the Scottish mainland.

But what can they negotiate with, exactly? They’ve said before, and reiterated in their manifesto that they will not work with the Conservatives in any circumstances. Their leverage over Ed Miliband, my colleague George has blogged before, is vanishingly small. Stewart Hosie, the deputy leader, gave the Conservatives some good headlines with his threat to defund Trident through the budget or shutdown the British government thereafter, but neither weapon looks particularly sharp to me. Whatever the outcome of the next election there will be a large pro-Trident majority whatever the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens or the left flank of the parliamentary Labour party do. It is possible that the SNP could vote down Labour budgets thereafter – the Fixed Term Parliaments Act means this wouldn’t necessarily result in an election – but will the Nationalists really inflict a shutdown of government services on their own voters? It doesn’t seem likely and would be electorally lethal.

So the end result is a position of electoral strength and political weakness at Westminister, and as a result the SNP’s manifesto will leave the reader with a sense of déjà vu. A commitment to restore the 50p rate of income tax, a raid on bankers’ bonuses, the end to the married couples’ tax allowance, the abolition of non-dom status and further taxes on expensive homes: these are all Labour policies.

Far from offering a radical left alternative, it feels as if it is the SNP being pulled leftward by Ed Miliband. These are, for the most part, policies that have long been championed by the Labour leader but opposed by the Nationalists.  There are areas where the Labour leader has been outbid; a minimum wage of £8.70 an hour as opposed to £8. But on housing, the SNP fall badly short, promising half (100,000 a year) the new homes that Labour offer (200,000 a year). Tax breaks for businesses paying living wage has been Labour policy for several years now, and is in fact already being implemented by Labour-controlled local authorities in England.  

The trouble for the SNP, is, having ruled out any alliance with one party, they will have a hellish time getting concessions out of the other, particularly as Ed Miliband will be loath to be seen to concede anything to the Nationalists. (And the more seats Labour lose in Scotland this time around, the less they will have to protect over the next five years.) It may be that, far from providing a stronger voice for Scotland at Westminster , the SNP find themselves largely ineffective in the Commons.

Although that, of course, isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world as far as their big argument is concerned.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Leaving the cleaning to someone else makes you happier? Men have known that for centuries

Research says avoiding housework is good for wellbeing, but women have rarely had the option.

If you want to be happy, there is apparently a trick: offload the shitwork onto somebody else. Hire cleaner. Get your groceries delivered. Have someone else launder your sheets. These are the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it’s also been the foundation of our economy since before we had economics. Who does the offloading? Men. Who does the shitwork? Women.

Over the last 40 years, female employment has risen to almost match the male rate, but inside the home, labour sticks stubbornly to old patterns: men self-report doing eight hours of housework a week, while women slog away for 13. When it comes to caring for family members, the difference is even more stark: men do ten hours, and women 23.

For your average heterosexual couple with kids, that means women spend 18 extra hours every week going to the shops, doing the laundry, laying out uniform, doing the school run, loading dishwashers, organising doctors' appointments, going to baby groups, picking things up, cooking meals, applying for tax credits, checking in on elderly parents, scrubbing pots, washing floors, combing out nits, dusting, folding laundry, etcetera etcetera et-tedious-cetera.

Split down the middle, that’s nine hours of unpaid work that men just sit back and let women take on. It’s not that men don’t need to eat, or that they don’t feel the cold cringe of horror when bare foot meets dropped food on a sticky kitchen floor. As Katrine Marçal pointed out in Who Cooked Adam Smiths Dinner?, men’s participation in the labour market has always relied on a woman in the background to service his needs. As far as the majority of men are concerned, domestic work is Someone Else’s Problem.

And though one of the study authors expressed surprise at how few people spend their money on time-saving services given the substantial effect on happiness, it surely isn’t that mysterious. The male half of the population has the option to recruit a wife or girlfriend who’ll do all this for free, while the female half faces harsh judgement for bringing cover in. Got a cleaner? Shouldn’t you be doing it yourself rather than outsourcing it to another woman? The fact that men have even more definitively shrugged off the housework gets little notice. Dirt apparently belongs to girls.

From infancy up, chores are coded pink. Looking on the Toys “R” Us website, I see you can buy a Disney Princess My First Kitchen (fuchsia, of course), which is one in the eye for royal privilege. Suck it up, Snow White: you don’t get out of the housekeeping just because your prince has come. Shop the blue aisle and you’ll find the Just Like Home Workshop Deluxe Carry Case Workbench – and this, precisely, is the difference between masculine and feminine work. Masculine work is productive: it makes something, and that something is valuable. Feminine work is reproductive: a cleaned toilet doesn’t stay clean, the used plates stack up in the sink.

The worst part of this con is that women are presumed to take on the shitwork because we want to. Because our natures dictate that there is a satisfaction in wiping an arse with a woman’s hand that men could never feel and money could never match. That fiction is used to justify not only women picking up the slack at home, but also employers paying less for what is seen as traditional “women’s work” – the caring, cleaning roles.

It took a six-year legal battle to secure compensation for the women Birmingham council underpaid for care work over decades. “Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard,” said one of the women who brought the action. “And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

If women are paid less, they’re more financially dependent on the men they live with. If you’re financially dependent, you can’t walk out over your unfair housework burden. No wonder the settlement of shitwork has been so hard to budge. The dream, of course, is that one day men will sack up and start to look after themselves and their own children. Till then, of course women should buy happiness if they can. There’s no guilt in hiring a cleaner – housework is work, so why shouldn’t someone get paid for it? One proviso: every week, spend just a little of the time you’ve purchased plotting how you’ll overthrow patriarchy for good.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.