If you want the Tories out, only one man can show them the door: Jeremy Corbyn

First published by International Business Times, 21st April 2017

How many times did Theresa May or her aides deny the possibility of a snap general election? Enough to make it clear that she has no problem telling lies.

Her cynical decision to call an election should be a warning to all of us. May has seized upon a moment when Labour is polling poorly and there is still enough inner-party division to potentially hand the Tories a sweeping victory. Once she has this, Theresa May will set about driving exactly the kind of Brexit that she wants through Parliament, without argument and without accountability.

May is a perfect example of why public trust in politicians is low, making U-turns on key issues (like Brexit) with impunity and delighting in saying one thing then doing another – all in the name of pure self-interest.

On 8 June, I will be casting my ballot for Labour and for Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be a man of his word. Since becoming an MP in 1983, his principles remain virtually unchanged. He has championed the rights of women and LGBT people, campaigned for peace and diplomatic solutions, fought against inequality, and found himself on the right side of history time and time again, voting against the Iraq War and campaigning to end Apartheid in South Africa. No moats or duck houses for Jeremy, instead he was thelowest expenses claimer in the country in 2010, after spending just £8.70 on an ink cartridge.

More importantly, Corbyn is fronting a set of common-sense election pledges that will benefit wider society, not just the frosting of privilege on the top. Britain needs a government that will commit to providing affordable housing, full employment and cheap, efficient public transport. We need leadership that will take initiative when it comes to the environment, by investing in carbon-neutral solutions and green technology, and creating jobs while they’re at it. We need to tackle inequality by providing free, high-quality education for every single child, not just those born into more fortunate circumstances.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a country where rich people can’t decide to just not pay their taxes in full, because they can afford an army of slippery accountants who exploit loopholes in the law. I want tackling violence against women and girls to be a priority, as two women in Britain are killed every week by a current or former partner. I want to be part of a Britain where no one dies because they’re hungry and their benefits were sanctioned, or they were found ‘fit for work’ when they have serious mental health problems.

Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party because all the other contenders in a panicky, post-referendum leadership race simply dropped out. Corbyn was elected leader in a landslide victory, attracting thousands of new members to the Labour party. He was challenged in an unprecedented second leadership election, and again emerged victorious.

However, it’s Corbyn who faces the ire of the British media, and has received incredibly hostile coverage since he assumed leadership of the party. The character assassination of Corbyn has come from all angles, not just from traditionally right-wing publications, but also from more liberal outlets like the Guardian and New Statesman. Even the BBC has been accused of bias against Corbyn. The onslaught of dismissive or downright vicious coverage makes the mocking of Ed Miliband for chowing down on a bacon sandwich seem minor.

It’s Corbyn who is portrayed as weak and incompetent, as someone who people cannot get behind, despite energising thousands of supporters and attracting people who had previously been cynical about politics. Corbyn’s determination and resolve in the face of these media attacks, coupled with open dissent from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), shows strength of character that I’m not sure many of us would be capable of replicating in his situation.

Perhaps it would’ve been better, and easier, if Corbyn had stepped down before the snap election was called, and allowed a candidate to assume leadership who was unsullied by the constant, exhausting drip, drip of negative news articles. It would be foolish to assume that Jeremy Corbyn is the only person who can lead the Labour party on a solid platform that benefits ordinary working people and reverses the damage done by the Tories’ failed austerity programme.

However, it’s too late for a change in leadership. Every single person who wants to avoid another disastrous four years of austerity under a Conservative government should be putting aside their differences and rallying behind Corbyn. He has served as an MP and as the Leader of the Opposition with honesty, decency, and strength in the face of overwhelming adversity. The least we, as the electorate, can do is vote based on the policies he is putting forward, not on a skewed image presented by an increasingly partisan media, largely owned by vested interests.

A vote for Labour is a vote for ordinary working people, for a strong NHS, for quality education for all, and for economic growth that doesn’t come at the expense of the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of society. Whatever the Lib Dems, Greens or even the sad, silly remnants of UKIP say, Labour is the only credible option for keeping the Tories out.

Come June 8, will you cast your ballot in support of May’s lies, or will you choose a man who behaves with honesty and honour? I know which one I’ll pick.

Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as Labour leader dispenses with claims of his ‘unelectability’

First published by International Business Times UK, 24th September 2016

Today Jeremy Corbyn has achieved a historic victory, winning his second leadership election in just one year. With 313k votes and a 61.8% share, Corbyn has increased his unprecedented mandate from 2015. The charge of ‘unelectability’ is constantly levied against Corbyn by his critics across the political spectrum, but today is solid proof that he’s not unelectable in the eyes of ordinary Labour members.

Despite the introduction of a £25 fee to dissuade new party members and registered supporters from having a say in the leadership election and the heavy-handed purging of ‘unsuitable’ Labour members, the NEC was not able to erode support for Corbyn. The NEC was not able to prevent thousands upon thousands of people turning out to hear Corbyn at rallies up and down the country. The NEC, for all its legal battling and the attempts to keep Corbyn off the leadership ballot altogether, was not able to stop the social movement that Corbyn and what he stands for has inspired.

In order to appease Corbyn’s supporters, Owen Smith was presented as a ‘clean candidate’, without a history of embarrassing voting decisions regarding the Iraq War, tax cuts for the rich, and tuition fees. However, his more polished image, his history of work for pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Agmen, and his habit of answering the question he wishes he’d been asked rather than the question actually put to him marked him out in the eyes of voters as another politician’s politician.

However, it’s definitely worth noting that Smith’s selection as challenger is testament to how firmly Corbyn’s election last year has shifted the tone of the party to the left and allowed Labour to once again differentiate itself from the Conservatives. Ed Milliband’s keeping-everyone-and-no-one happy, Tory-lite approach is long gone, and this in itself is a victory.

In the aftermath of the second leadership election in a year, it is absolutely essential that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) gets behind Jeremy Corbyn. Regardless of how MPs feel about their leader, he has been twice elected by party members, supporters and trade union affiliates. It is the duty of MPs to represent ordinary Labour Party supporters, not disregard them with a sneer, a shrug, and a paternalistic, I-know-best attitude.

This election has demonstrated, without the slightest shadow of doubt, that Labour members are not being swayed by disloyal MPs speaking to the press about Corbyn’s unsuitability for the role of leader. Anti-Corbyn MPs must accept today’s result with grace, and behave with professionalism towards a leader who is the clear choice of party members. Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and reach out to MPs who have previously opposed him. I can only hope that MPs will accept this olive branch and prevent further rifts in a scarred and divided Parliamentary Labour Party.

This unnecessary leadership election, called at a time of national crisis by short-sighted MPs, is now over, and Labour must focus its energy on holding Theresa May’s government to account and providing a clear, cohesive alternative message for voters. Labour cannot win an election under Jeremy Corbyn if MPs like Jess Philips and Andy Burnham continue to feed negative and damaging messages to the press. Labour cannot win an election under Jeremy Corbyn if the party’s (and the nation’s) focus is on what Owen Jones has dubbed the ‘freakshow’ of internal struggles.

In his acceptance speech at the Labour Party Conference today, Corbyn thanked his opponent and reminded those gathered that they are all ‘part of the same Labour family’. Only when this key message is honoured by MPs and ordinary members alike, will Labour have a real shot at wining a general election.

Since his shock election in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn has presided over one of the most fascinating and unpredictable moments in the history of British politics. With a strong second win and an expansion on his huge mandate, the whole ‘Labour family’ must rally around Corbyn so that his government can effectively oppose May’s harsh Conservative agenda and kick-start real change in an increasingly austere and unequal Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn supporters have been demonised from the word go

First published by International Business Times UK on 17th August 2016

Despite the Conservative Party’s success in leading Britain into the disaster of Brexit, the complete lack of responsibility taken by the three key figures in the Brexit campaign (Johnson, Farage and Gove), the very public mess of professional backstabbings that followed, and the fact that Theresa May, a politician will a clear disregard for basic human rights, is ensconced in Number 10, all eyes seem to be on the Labour Party’s struggles.

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have been unfairly demonized by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and by comfortable, London-based political pundits since the outset. His inclusion on the leadership ballot in June last year was viewed as an indulgence, a foolish little outing for an ageing, left-wing politician, and his unprecedented win saw hackles rise within the party and across the media landscape. Even the ‘ethical’ and purportedly left-wing Guardian would not give their support to Corbyn.

Corbyn has been forced to battle on all fronts, taking on not only the Tories, but his own party who have hardly covered themselves with glory during this episode in Labour’s history. Accusations from leadership contender Owen Smith in today’s BBC hustings debate that Corbyn has failed to work with his colleagues are truly laughable, as Corbyn’s only crime towards the PLP has been to be voted leader (with the biggest mandate in Labour Party history). Mass resignations, open disloyalty and barbed comments to the media were carried out by anti-Corbyn Labour MPs and the responsibility for these actions sits squarely on their shoulders. They have shown a remarkable disrespect for the Labour members and supporters who voted overwhelmingly to elect Mr Corbyn as leader.

The National Executive Committee’s (NEC) move to block 130,000 Labour members who joined after January 2016 (and the subsequent legal wranglings) is another attack on Corbyn’s supporters and it feels horribly unfair that the NEC is able to simply rewrite the rules of Labour membership because they wish to oust Corbyn. Last week former Deputy Tom Watson warned of ‘Trotskyist infiltration’ in the Labour party and of course Jeremy Corbyn was to blame for this. Corbyn has become Britain’s most popular scapegoat, and his supporters are tarred with the same brush.

Owen Smith’s accusation that Corbyn of taking Labour back to a 1980s politics of mass protest rallies in last Thursday’s leadership debate is absolutely indicative of the paternalistic attitude of many of Corbyn’s critics. It doesn’t seem to matter what ordinary Labour party members and supporters want. We’re treated as plebs, fools and extremists, not as the people that the PLC is there to represent.

It’s immaterial how many people have joined the Labour party because they’re energised by the common sense policies and ‘kinder politics’ espoused by Corbyn, or how many people have turned out to attend rallies up and down the country. It’s of no consequence that Labour members are calling for a fairer Britain where the agenda of austerity is challenged, tuition fees are scrapped, corporations are forced to pay their taxes, rail fares are affordable, mental health is addressed in a compassionate and cohesive manner, green solutions are engaged with, and billions are saved instead of being funnelled into nuclear weapons. It doesn’t matter to the PLP because they always know best.

Saying that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable doesn’t necessarily make it true. If he were so unelectable, why would the NEC need to go to such great legal lengths to ensure that the 130,000 new Labour members were excluded from the leadership ballot? Why would the media bother with bias and smear if Labour has no chance of being elected under Corbyn? It has, of course, been proven that clear bias has been applied to articles about Corbyn across major publications, in a vicious and destructive way previously unseen even in the hard-knock world of political reporting. The ugly treatment of Corbyn indicates fear of a man who has forever voted on the right side of history and who cannot be bought.

I’m now going to take the opportunity to state that the abuse of ‘Blairite’ or anti-Corbyn MPs by those who support the Labour leader is absolutely abhorrent. It flies in the face of everything that Corbyn stands for. There is no room for sexist or homophobic abuse, threats of violence, or any other kind of intimidation or harassment among Labour supporters. It is unequivocally wrong and it disgraces all of us.

However, it’s essential that this bad behaviour from some supporters does not eclipse the consistently bad behaviour of anti-Corbyn MPs, media pundits and the NEC. Labour must start listening to it’s members, and fast. Within the media bubble, it’s easy to see Corbyn as a lame duck, dragging his wounded body towards a sad conclusion, but when you get out on the streets and talk to people, a very different picture emerges. Corbyn has already won 285 nominations from constituency Labour parties, not because people want to see some kind of ersatz ‘Red Britain’ or because they are stupid, or even because they’re endeared by Corbyn’s ‘dad dancing’. His support comes from the fact that he was the only 2015 leadership candidate to provide an alternative to the Tories’ cruelty and their slash-and-burn austerity agenda, and from the policies he stands by. If we are to move towards a fairer Britain, the PLP must scrap it’s patronising ‘Daddy knows best’ approach and wake up to the real concerns of Labour members.


We had the chance to help 3,000 child refugees – why did the Tories refuse?

First published by International Business Times, 26th April 2016

Today is a dark one. Today, Tuesday 26 April, we learned that 289 Conservative MPs voted against the Labour proposal that would’ve seen the UK offer asylum to 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children, made homeless by the Syrian crisis. They discarded the last shreds of humanity that might still have clung to the putrefying corpse of this selfish government. They denied 3,000 vulnerable children the chance of safety and dignity in our country.

I’m not alone in my anger, as Labour MPs shouted ‘shame!’ as the result was confirmed andcharities including Save the Children have expressed their dismay at the defeat of the proposal, by just 18 votes.

The cross-party proposal was made by Labour Peer Lord Dubs, who compared it to the ‘Kindertransport’ scheme, a movement and series of rescue efforts that brought children from Nazi-controlled areas of Europe to Great Britain in the nine months before the Second World War. Through Kindertransport, Czech-born Lord Dubs escaped the Holocaust and was able to grow up in safety, attend the London School of Economics, and contribute significantly to public life in Britain, through his work in politics. The defeat of his proposal, backed by cross-party supporters from the Lib Dems and the Greens, prevents Syrian children from having the safety and quality of life that those brought to the UK through Kindertransport were able to enjoy.

The Syrian crisis is real. By providing asylum for some of the many, many children, Britain will not ‘encourage’ more people to make the dangerous journey across Europe. They are making the journey anyway, help or no help provided, because their country is in ruins. We have overwhelming evidence of how hazardous the search for safety is, not least from the image of Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach resort. This should have served to highlight how desperate the situation in Syria is. The parents of these Syrian children are fleeing from abject horror that most of us cannot imagine. The journey across Europe might be perilous, but it removes them from a warzone.

It all seems so blindingly obvious, but Home Secretary James Brokenshire thinks that if we help some vulnerable children, we will put more in danger. He said “we need to be careful not to inadvertently create a situation in which families see an advantage in sending children ahead, alone and in the hands of traffickers, putting their lives at risk by attempting treacherous sea crossings to Europe”.

 Unfortunately, that is already happening. This conflict has already seen children separated from their parents, homeless, hungry, and at risk. The threat of traffickers is already there. We don’t increase this threat by helping children, we reduce the numbers exposed to it. Brokenshire seems to only be concerned with what families in the future might do and the dangers for children arising from this, rather than the crisis that families and children are currently in.

Britain could have intervened on behalf of the children at risk right now, but James Brokenshire and the other 288 Tories didn’t want to. To the five Conservative MPs who broke ranks; Geoffrey Cox, Tania Mathis, Stephen Phillips, Will Quince, and David Warburton, I salute you. Thank you for your decency.

As for your friendly neighbourhood clowns who voted against the proposal, including Jeremy Hunt, Boris ‘Obama Is Part-Kenyan‘ Johnson, Theresa May, Maria Miller, Nicky Morgan, Iain Duncan Smith, and Michael Gove. When you read through that list, are you blushing? I sure am, because it makes me completely and utterly ashamed to live in a Britain that voted these people into positions of power. They don’t care about the junior doctors, the students, the disabled, thementally ill, the people who can’t afford to buy their own homes, the people turning to food banks – and they certainly don’t care about defenceless Syrian children whose young lives have been shattered by conflict.

I want to be proud of Britain as a place that will lead by example when global tragedies occur and welcome people who need our help. We have a duty as human beings to reach out to those who are suffering. We had the chance to help 3,000 children, but too many of the people who are meant to represent us refused to extend a hand.

Whatever your political views are and whichever party you support, it’s undeniable that the Dubs proposal was about humanity.

Tuesday’s vote was an illustration of the base selfishness inherent in the Conservative government. They look out for themselves and people like them, and everyone else can suffer and scrabble for the crumbs. Every single person fleeing the Syrian conflict is human. It’s more than can be said for the 294 MPs who voted against Lord Dubs’ proposal.

Budget 2016: Cuts, tax and education…and all you can tweet about is Theresa May’s cleavage?

First published by International Business Times, 16th March 2016

It’s Budget Day and time to play political bingo, drinking every time the Chancellor mentions the ‘long term economic plan’, ‘hardworking families’ (as opposed to all those families who don’t really put a lot of effort in) and ‘tough decisions’ (read: economic measures to batter society’s poorest into submission).

There’s plenty to discuss, including the highly contentious decision to force all schools to become academies by 2020, the cut in capital gains tax from 28% to 20%, and the ominous further spending cuts of £3.5bn to be realized in the next four years.
However, many on Twitter and the political blog Guido Fawkes, run by right-wing blogger Paul Staines, decided to remind us about the REAL Budget Day issue: Home Secretary Theresa May’s daring choice to wear a similar red suit to last year, and show a few inches of cleavage.
Twitter users were outraged, presumably because they hadn’t actually listened to any of the measures delivered in Osborne’s eighth Budget as chancellor, or perhaps because they were so distracted by the sight of a woman who isn’t 20-something displaying cleavage that their brains imploded and rendered them unable to absorb any pertinent information.

The Guido Fawkes blog post begins with the line: “last year’s Budget saw Theresa May’s eye-catching number cause more of a stir on Twitter than George Osborne”.

Why on earth is Guido Fawkes keeping tabs on what Theresa May wears on Budget Day? It’s meant to be a political blog, not Perez Hilton On Westminster. If Guido Fawkes is so interested in the sartorial choices of politicians, why isn’t the site running posts about whether or not Osborne wore the same yawn-inducing suit two Budgets in a row?

You can become an MP, a key cabinet minister, and one of the most powerful figures in Westminster, but you’re still just a female and you can be reduced to your clothing choices and mammary glands.

Of course, many Twitter users have been sharing their intellectually stimulating witticisms regarding Theresa May’s cleavage.

User @Rannochmuir attempted to galvanise SNP MPs into cleavage-patrolling the Commons, tweeting: “will somebody on @theSNP benches tell Theresa May to put those gugged leathery auld saddlebags away. #boak #Budget2016”.

@BriefcaseMike shared his profound insights with the comment “wish Theresa May would remember that Commons uses overhead cameras. I don’t want to see her cleavage when I’m having lunch. #Budget2016”.

And @Pils10 simply said: “For God sake Theresa May, put your cleavage away, you’re on live TV representing your government and people not Babestation.”

These tweets are so lazily sexist – they aren’t just childish internet nonsense. They serve to remind us women of our place. You can become an MP, a key cabinet minister, and one of the most powerful figures in Westminster, but you’re still just a female and you can be reduced to your clothing choices and mammary glands. ‘Eww look at her boobies’ is flung out as an insult by man-boys hiding behind Twitter, even when you’re the goddamn Home Secretary.

The shaming of Theresa May for showing cleavage also taps into the wider cultural issue of how women who are no longer in their 20s and 30s are all-but erased within pop culture and denied any sexuality. It’s all right to get your baps out when you’re young, but after a certain point you’re gross and embarrassing and please just sit quietly in the corner until death, thank you.

The shaming of Theresa May for showing cleavage also taps into the wider cultural issue of how women who are no longer in their 20s and 30s are all-but erased within pop culture and denied any sexuality

Piers Morgan’s comments about Susan Sarandon’s choice to show cleavage at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards in February are a perfect example of this, calling her attire “horribly inappropriate” and “tacky”. I’m absolutely positive that the Academy Award and Bafta-winning Sarandon cried into her pillow that night because some puffed up former News of the World editor (I hear they were an ethical publication…) and Britain’s Got Talent presenter gave his unsolicited opinion on her outfit choice.
Piers Morgan used the word ‘inappropriate’ precisely because older women have to be ‘appropriate’. The cannot be sexy. They should be covered up and matronly; sexless and quiet. Not seen and not heard.

Roles for older women in TV and films are few and far between, save for the pre-approved matriarch, scary mother-in-law, contented homemaker or bitchy boss characters. On the Andrew Marr Show, Dame Kristin Scott Thomas recently said “I won’t bore you with all the stories of older women not getting jobs in film because it’s so boring. But it’s true. It’s a disaster.” Julie Walters and Patricia Hodge have made similar statements.

Older women should not be consigned to the scrapheap in popular culture, politics or in public life. If you’re not a fan of May’s politics (and I certainly am not), there’s plenty to tweet about. I find the entire Tory cabinet morally repugnant as human beings, but Theresa May deserves to be criticized on the basis of her political decisions and allegiances, not belittled by strangers on Twitter who are offended by the tops of her breasts.

A lesson for Kanye West: You are not a God and Taylor Swift doesn’t need your blessing

First published by International Business Times, 12th February 2016

Walking God complex Kanye West has courted controversy once again with the release of his new album The Life Of Pablo, which was unveiled on 11 February. The track Famous includes the lyrics “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous”.

West is referring to Taylor Swift and the moment during the 2009 MTV VMAs, where he took to the stage and interrupted her acceptance speech to inform the audience that Beyoncé should have won the award for best music video. He was widely criticised for his actions, with US President Barack Obama weighing in to call him a “jackass”.

According to Swift’s spokesperson, West asked Taylor to share the song Famous on her Twitter account. She declined and although unaware of the line “I made that bitch famous”, “cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message”.

Is Famous misogynistic? West’s reference to Taylor Swift certainly is. His behaviour at the 2009 VMAs was rude and childish. Beyoncé didn’t need him to fight her corner and he had no business ruining Swift’s acceptance speech. The rapper publicly apologised to Swift during the 2015 VMAs but he couldn’t just leave it at that.

He has used the lyrics of Famous to try and put Taylor back in her place, suggesting the 2009 controversy “made” her career, a statement that’s both sexist and untrue. Swift didn’t need a man’s rude interruption to set her on the path to stardom. She was already a star, already collecting an MTV award for best music video.

West’s assertion that he “might still” have sex with Swift attempts to belittle her, needlessly turning her into another potential conquest and a sex object. Does Taylor Swift want to have sex with Yeezus? Did he ask? Does she owe him?

It’s obvious that West has some very serious unresolved issues when it comes to women. He oscillates between extreme idolisation and denigration of the women in his life, worshipping his late mother Donda and his wife Kim, while dragging ex-girlfriend Amber Rose through the proverbial mud at every possible opportunity.

West has publicly admitted that he blames himself for Donda’s death, which occurred following complications from plastic surgery procedure that her son had paid for. He appears to be unable to see women as whole people, rather than viewing them through the lens of the Madonna/whore dichotomy. Women must either be perfect and revered (Donda and Kim) or base and reviled (Rose).

In his recent Twitter battle with Wiz Khalifa, West insulted Rose with the barb “you let a stripper trap you” and in an interview with Power 105, he previously described needing to take “30 showers” after being with Rose, to be clean enough for his wife Kim.

Each time West insults Rose, the jibes refer to her past as a stripper and her apparent “whorishness” or uncleanliness. This public slut shaming is not only incredibly misogynistic but it’s also odd since his spouse made herself and her family famous initially from a sex tape with rapper Ray J.

This week, Kanye also managed to implicitly victim-blame the women who were allegedly abused by Bill Cosby, by tweeting that Cosby is innocent. Between the Taylor Swift reference in Famous, his treatment of Rose, and the Cosby tweet, Kanye seems to have lost a fan in Orange Is The New Black star Ruby Rose.

West is an incredibly talented musician and performer, that much is undeniable. However, the product of Yeezus includes his lyrics, ego and public persona. If he continues to behave like a spoilt brat who can’t bear to be wrong or challenged, stuffing his Twitter feed and song lyrics with retrograde, sexist references, I’m not buying.

As for Famous, it’s merely another example of his huge, quivering jelly of an ego and his need to put a woman “back in her place” after his actions towards her placed him squarely in the wrong. West’s reference to Swift in Famous is not unlike his Twitter slurs towards Rose. Both women were connected to him, one personally, the other professionally, and both have thrived and become increasingly successful without his patronage and despite his derision.

Kanye is a sensitive soul. He needs to be needed. And he really needs to sort out his problem with women.

From tampon tax to pink razors – why are women always punished at the till?

First published by The International Business Times, 20th January 2016

According to new research, women are being charged up to twice as much for nearly identical products compared to their male counterparts by leading high street brands.

Women are already getting a raw financial deal in the UK, as continued austerity disproportionately affects women, so the revelation that major retailers seem involved in a broad scam to take more money out of the pockets of the female population is incredibly disheartening.

The Times investigation found that the pricing of hundreds of products aimed at women and girls are on average 37% more expensive than the male equivalents, presumably because it costs much more to make retail items pink than it does to make them blue.

Some of the UK’s most popular brands were named in the investigation, including Tesco, Argos, Boots, Levi’s, and Amazon. A children’s scooter in Argos was found to be £5 more expensive in pink than in blue, and women’s Levi’s 501 jeans cost on average 46% more than the men’s versions, despite having the same measurements for the waist and leg.

Tesco responded to the report by saying that “a number of products for females have additional design and performance features”, but if they are referring to the pack of razors in pink that they charge double the price for, it’s unclear how this is the case. Perhaps the pink razors are coated in some kind of cushioning fairy dust that protects the delicate skin of fragile females, because men have tough, hoary hides that need no soothing or respite from the burn of razor blades.

But no, the report specifies that these are identical razors, different only from the man-product due to their colour. Tesco said “we work hard to offer clear, fair and transparent pricing”, a statement that has been proved so laughable that it’s odd that they even bothered including it.

Boots made a similar statement when approached for comment, stressing that their products are “priced individually based on factors including formulation, ingredients and market comparison”. If the formulation and ingredients in women’s products are magically more expensive than what’s being offered to men, this is weird and sexist in itself.

Men and women both have skin, both consume skincare and other cosmetic products, and both choose to remove hair from their bodies. There’s no discernible reason why identical products should be ‘differently formulated’ or differently priced for one sex.

In the case of the more expensive pink scooters from Argos, it’s worth questioning why any children’s toy should be exclusively marketed to either girls or boys. There’s only one reason why a toy should be for a particular sex, and that’s because you operate it with your genitals. If this is the case, the toy is definitely not for children. If it’s not the case, the toy is for either boys or girls.

The Let Toys Be Toys campaign has been vocal in challenging sexist marketing of playthings, from the ridiculously-gendered Lego Friends series and lack of female mini figs in action roles, to pressuring top retailers into dropping ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signage from their aisles.

A scooter is a scooter, it’s not a male scooter or a female scooter. Instilling reductive notions of gender into children through the way their toys are marketed is regressive, strengthens unnecessary barriers between genders, and stigmatizes kids who don’t want to be confined to pink or blue boxes.

Tampon tax
Since tampons are such a luxury, it’s surprising that more women don’t dispense with them altogether to save moneyiStock

Sam Smethers from the Fawcett Society dubbed the extra cost a “sexist surcharge”, and she’s absolutely right. The only reason I can think of to explain why retailers are selling products targeted at women at significantly higher prices is because they have no respect for female consumers.

They think we’re stupid. Why else would we shell out more for the same product, just because it comes in a pastel colour? Women are being roundly ripped off in Britain.

We’re already paying tax on sanitary products, when other ‘essentials’ like crocodile meat, Jaffa Cakes, pitta bread, and bingo are VAT-free. Since tampons are such a luxury, it’s surprising that more women don’t dispense with them altogether to save money, and simply bleed freely in offices, on public transport, and when visiting friends with new white sofas.

At the 2015 spending review, George Osborne announced that the £15m raised by the tampon tax would be going to women’s services, the same women’s services that the Chancellor decided to slash in the name of austerity. It’s unclear what his long-term strategy for funding them is, as he has pledged to eventually abolish the tampon tax altogether, but for now, it seems to be acceptable for women who have been raped or the victims of domestic violence to pay for their own counselling and care because they bleed every month.

The retailers responsible for sexist cost differences could be called to Parliament to justify their pricing, but the honourable response should be for Tesco, Boots, Amazon, Argos, and Levi’s to independently alter their disparate prices. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because women are already being financially exploited in Tory Britain, without the companies we buy from making mugs out of us too.

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