IF Tuesday’s Tory leadership TV debate taught us anything – and granted, it didn’t teach us much – it’s that politics is about to get a lot more macho.

This week saw Labour MP Stella Creasy write movingly about her experiences with miscarriage and her struggle with Ipsa over the lack of provision for maternity cover. Ipsa does not automatically provide paid cover for MPs on maternity leave, a policy which Ms Creasy says is forcing women to choose between becoming an MP and having children. Given the prevailing structural and societal barriers for women entering politics, the sight of five peacocking men trying to out-bravado one another in their battle to become prime minister was particularly jarring.

The BBC debate, which was hosted by Emily Maitlis, reeked of the machismo that has characterised the whole Brexit debate. They made promises they know they cannot keep. They oversold their credentials. And as they shouted over one another, with fingers jabbing and arms waving, they were at pains to convince us that they alone had the kind of macho energy that is apparently essential to delivering Brexit. You got the sense that (with the notable exception of Rory Stewart) each candidate believed that they need only swagger into negotiations with the EU and bang their fists on the desk for their demands to be met.

We’ve seen this unbridled machoism in the approach they have taken to the issue of a second Scottish independence referendum. Bullish talk of “refusing permission’’ and “not allowing’’ Scotland to have its say in future has exasperated Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. Diplomacy seems to be an outdated concept in this new, hyper-macho era of British politics.

Of course, female politicians aren’t predisposed to empathy or thoughtfulness and nor are they immune from acts of recklessness. We need only look to the outgoing Prime Minister to see that. Equally, an all-male line-up needn’t be boorish and uncompromising. That doesn’t take away from the fact that there has never been a debate, panel or political party that has been made stronger or better by being as unrepresentative as possible.

Michael Gove cites his adoption as a reason why he understands the care system. Sajid Javid references his immigrant parents as an experience that has made him appreciate the diversity of the UK. Jeremy Hunt punts his entrepreneurial background as an invaluable insight into the intricacies of negotiations. Given all that, we should expect the candidates to have a degree of understanding of their own limitations and gaps of perspective.

Rory Stewart summed up the BBC debate as “a bunch of middle-aged men shouting at each other’’. And while the reaction from viewers told us all we need to know about how palatable this bombastic posturing is with the public; it seems unlikely that the contenders will tone it down any time soon. If anything, it’s only going to get worse. When you’ve made your pitch as Popeye with a politics degree, at what point do you decide to start acting with some semblance of humility?

Read more: Who won the Tory manspreading contest?

Women have been largely absent from the Tory leadership debate so far. Not only on the centre stage, but in the punditry and analysis too. The episode of Newsnight that followed the BBC debate was filmed on the same set. Replacing the five male leadership hopefuls on those awful bar stools were five male Tory MPs, sent there to spin for them.

Of course, this is nothing new. Analysis from Loughborough University into the EU referendum campaign showed that men dominated the media coverage, securing 85 per cent of press coverage and 75 per cent of television time.

As the threat of No Deal looms larger than ever, it seems the candidates have thought little about how this calamity would impact women as a demographic. We know that austerity has hit women hardest of all with 86 per cent of the Government’s tax and benefit changes falling on their shoulders.

While the contenders have been questioned on policy areas outside of Brexit – such as the climate emergency, HS2 and taxes – so-called “women’s issues” have been omitted entirely.

What will the candidates do to combat the alarming rates of sexual violence and domestic abuse that women experience? Do they commit to increased funding for refuges and shelters? Will they maintain the pernicious two-child cap for tax credits – a policy which we learned this week has forced some women to have abortions that they otherwise wouldn’t have? We don’t know, because they haven’t been asked. And that should concern us all.

Where women have featured in the campaign, they have played passive and decorative roles. Wives have been paraded in front of the cameras and in excruciating “at home” interviews.

We’ve seen coverage of the “Number 10” makeover apparently undergone by Carrie Symonds, the partner of frontrunner Boris Johnson. The whole thing might look like a naff 50s throwback, but it is also entirely in-keeping with the direction our politics is headed.

While the Tory membership will choose our next prime minister based on the fantastical promises they make about Brexit, the rest of us will have to live with their decision. For women, there is a sense that the impact that person will have on their lives has been largely forgotten. If women aren’t part of the conversation now, there’s little hope in that changing when the new prime minister has settled into his new role.

Since the EU referendum, UK politics has been run on the expectation of a short shelf life. Promises needn’t last far past their political expediency. Pledges are disregarded as quickly as they are made. These contenders, as Theresa May before them, are saying whatever they think will get them over the line. This is a breeding ground for bad politics and continuing indifference to the domestic agenda.

The Tory leadership hopefuls will be whittled down over the coming days and there is a hope that this will give space for more in-depth questioning and scrutiny. With fewer voices battling to be heard, the public should gain greater insight into the kind of leaders these men would be. While women might not be the ones doing the talking, they will be listening. The contenders should be mindful that in the months ahead their appeal will have to reach far beyond the Tory membership base. And they’re not off to a great start.