Labour’s “woman to woman” campaign was launched today amid what has to be said was a twitter storm. The reason – the campaign will be taken around the country on a pink bus – yes a pink bus! #pinkbus trended on twitter most of the day – and as far as I could see most of the comments and newspaper coverage was negative – it was labelled patronising, sexist, and demeaning to women.
When I spoke to Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman -who ultimately signed off on the pink – be it Barbie, bubblegum or whatever of the 50 shades of pink you think it is – she was unsurprisingly dismissive of the furore.
The choice of colour she told me – was purely about wanting something eye catching and identifiable – to encourage the 9 million women who didn’t vote in the UK general election in 2010 to go to the polls this May.
Despite being a long time campaigner for women’s rights Harriet Harman wasn’t embarrassed by the colour, nor did she see it as patronising. The bus is – she said- about something bigger – about our democracy and women being equal in this country.
Indeed she told me that she’d already had one conversation in the supermarket behind her that in her words you would never hear in Westminster. She’d been talking with a mum about the “massive problems of school holidays and how difficult they are to manage” – working women piecing together arrangements for their children to enable them to carry on working while their children were off school.
Why wouldn’t you hear this conversation in Westminster? Is it because there are no MP’s with children? Obviously not! It’s because in 2015 there are still only 148 women MPs compared to 502 men.
And therein lies the problem – women are not on equal terms in this country. As Harriet Harman said – in the world of politics women are still pioneers and they are determined to make progress. Whether the way to change things is on a #pinkbus – chugging up and down the country is for the voting public to decide.