'Cameron only wants women for one thing... their votes': blasts Harman

 Harriet Harman claimed the Tories had been sidling up to women voters

Harriet Harman has launched a blistering attack on David Cameron saying he was only interested in women for their votes.

Labour's deputy leader accused the Tories of 'lurking around' women's groups when in reality, she claimed, they had not changed at all and still cared nothing about equal rights.

Miss Harman also identified social division as a continuing source of inequality - although she avoided using the actual word 'class' after a last-minute alteration to her speech.

But the Conservatives hit back, accusing her of turning back the clock and returning Labour to the rhetoric of 'class warfare'.

In a speech to the Trades Union Congress in Brighton, equalities minister Miss Harman admitted that economic times were hard but turned her fire on the Opposition for 'posing' as the new friends of equality.

'They are now sidling up to trades unionists and fawning over equality laws, and lurking around women's organisations,' she said.

'But they are still false friends of fairness.'

Miss Harman said the Tories had lined up against Labour equality laws for years - opposing the Race Relations Act and the scrapping of Section 28, the 1980s law which banned the 'promotion' of homosexuality in schools.

'The party of back-to-basics says now it recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes,' she said.

'But look at their policies - their "tax break for married couples" would penalise couples who have separated and lone parents.

'The party which decried our demand for women's representation as "political correctness gone mad" now wants more women MPs - but they won't take the positive steps to make that a reality.

'What I always say about David Cameron is that he wants women for one thing and one thing only - their votes.'

Earlier this year, Ms Harman - nicknamed Harriet Harperson for her feminist views - unveiled an Equalities Bill forcing public bodies and many private companies to carry out audits to measure the pay gap between men and women.

The Bill will also make it legal for the first time for companies to give a job to a woman or a black person over a white man if they are equally qualified.

David Cameron poses outside Parliament with female Conservative councillors: Harriet Harman has claimed he is only interested in women for their votes

In her speech to union delegates, Miss Harman blamed class for inequalities, announcing the establishment of a new commission to examine what else needs to be done to drive forward equality.

'Inequality has never just been about the gap between black and white, or men and women,' she said.

'It's also a question of the gap between rich and poor, the gap between north and south.

'Some of the inequality that has been passed down through generations is stubbornly persistent.

'While it used to be the case that women would live longer than men, now rich men live longer than poor women.

'And it's still the case that by the age of six, a less able child from a better off family will have overtaken a more able child from a poor family.'

While Miss Harman's speech did not actually mentioned the word 'class', a draft of it, given to a newspaper, reveals that she had originally intended to say: 'We have made great progress on tackling inequality but we know that inequality doesn't just come from your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability.

'What overarches all of these is where you live, your family background, your wealth and social class.'

In response to Miss Harman's speech, Conservative equalities spokesman Theresa May said: 'As usual her grasp of the facts was at best tenuous and at worst fanciful.

'She is living in a dream world if she thinks the Government's work on the equality agenda is done.

'Trying to move the agenda on to class and background is outdated and distracts from the real issues facing people in this country today.

'Harriet Harman is still stuck in the class warfare rhetoric of 20 years ago. She needs to wake up and realise that this is the 21st century and her party is still failing on equality.'

Miss Harman made her comments on class despite her own privileged background.

She is the niece of the Countess of Longford and she was educated at one of the best girls' private schools in the country, St Paul's.

She has previously faced the wrath of Labour backbenchers when she sent her son and daughter to selective grammar schools.