Miliband and Cameron woo women voters

By Alex Stevenson

The political battleground shifted to women voters today as both Ed Miliband and David Cameron made bids to court the female vote.

Mr Cameron appeared on ITV1's This Morning sofa to explain the government's approach to its predominantly maternal audience, while Mr Miliband participated in a women's question-and-answer session in east London.

"This is the biggest attack on women in a generation," the Labour leader said of the measures announced in chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement on Tuesday.

Labour cited research by the Commons' library showing that nearly three-quarters of the measures which directly affect personal income, totalling £2.37 billion, would come from women.

Over £13 billion of the extra £18.9 billion the government has been raising since the general election through changes to direct tax, benefits, pay and pensions have hit women rather than men.

"Time and again, this government is making women take the greatest strain, even though they still earn less and own less than men," shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.

"They clearly don't understand the pressures many women are facing at the moment – especially women with children who will lose most of all."

Mr Cameron agreed with ITV presenter Holly Willoughby when she asked him: "Do you ever feel like shouting 'we can't afford it'?"

"The job of the government is to try to explain to people calmly and reasonably how we're going to come through this," he explained.

The prime minister flagged up the government's announcement that three- and four-year-olds are now eligible for 15 hours of free nursery education when pressed on how mothers were being helped into jobs that fit with family life.

"That will help young mums get into work, and getting into work is the best way to get out of poverty," he said.

Downing Street is keen for Mr Cameron to focus more on women voters. A memo leaked earlier this year revealed concern that policies including public sector pay and pensions, tuition fees, the abolition of child trust funds and changes to child tax credit and the childcare element were all seen as having "hit women, or their interests, disproportionately".