Could women voters be the key to Labour's electoral success?

Ed Miliband should seize the electoral potential of its advantage in the polls among women – particularly mothers.

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David Cameron throughout his premiership has been accused of having a “women problem”. Numerous polls over the years have suggested that women don’t feel the Prime Minister is on their wavelength, and his past refusal to call himself a feminist and notorious failure to pose wearing a “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt have compounded his problem with appealing to 51 per cent of the population. His promotion of women in a major reshuffle last summer arrived too late in the parliament to seem like an authentic commitment.

And some polling out today shows that Ed Miliband has the opportunity to capitalise on Cameron’s lack of appeal to women voters.

A poll carried out by TNS on behalf of the BBC’s Woman’s Hour indicates that 59 per cent of women say they are concerned about the NHS – significantly more than men (50 per cent). Although only 12 per cent of women feel Miliband best understands what life is like for people (compared with 10 per cent for Cameron), the fact that the NHS is the greatest concern for women suggests more will vote Labour, which is putting the health service at the heart of its election campaign.

Cost of living and care costs were the two other highest priorities among women – again, topics on which Labour is stronger than the Conservatives.

Also, according to the same survey, Labour is rated as the party that best understands the issues faced by families, with one in five choosing them (20 per cent) on this concern. Significantly fewer (16 per cent) chose the Conservatives on this.

A separate poll for the Financial Times by Populus finds that Cameron will have a particular problem with mothers come the general election. When it comes to mothers, the Tories are 20 points behind Labour; 28 per cent of mothers with children under 18 plan to vote Conservative, compared with 48 per cent for Labour.

With 35 per cent of women yet to decide who to vote for in the general election, as found by the Woman’s Hour survey, Labour has everything to play for – and a lot to lose – in harnessing its advantage when it comes to appealing to female voters.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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