I’m not a fan of Margaret Thatcher by any means. Hell, while back in the 1980s my teen-aged self might not have considered her to be the Antichrist, I probably would have figured her as the Antichrist’s John the Baptist. Now, whilst still disagreeing (sometimes quite violently) with the probably the majority of what she did, I think I can perhaps see her in more measured terms. And in particular, I think I can now appreciate a fact now that escaped me then.
For a woman to get to be Prime Minister is one hell of an achievement; it would be so now, it was doubly so thirty years ago.
The barriers facing her, not only of sexism but perhaps also – being a grocer’s daughter – of class, were huge, and she smashed them all down one after another in a way that I can’t help but admire. She wasn’t the first prime-minister in the world, but she was the first to lead a major world power, and her election was undoubtedly a milestone in the drive to gender equality.
Of course, I wouldn’t expect New Labour to see it that way. You see, whatever I might think about Margaret Thatcher, she always struck me as – in the political sense – being honest and in possession of integrity, which is often more than can be said of New Labour; too eager to spin and manipulate the truth; too willing to politicise people, practices and organisations that should have stayed politically neutral.
Which brings me to the point of this post. As revealed by the BBC, the Equality’s Office (a branch of the government led by Harriet Harman) published on their website a document entitled “Women in Power: Milestones” which listed those people who had advanced the cause of women in politics, both in the UK, and elsewhere in the world. Fifteen women were mentioned by name. Margaret Thatcher was not one of them.
Yes. The government did a list of all the woman who’ve achieved milestones in the political arena, with a particular focus on Britain, and somehow managed to avoid mentioning Margaret bloody Thatcher! That’s like leaving writing a list of great physicists of the twentieth century and leaving out Albert Einstein.
Here’s the list (as originally published) of all the women mentioned, with the one, glaring omission.
1907 First woman councillor elected in Britain – Reina Emily Lawrence
1919 First woman to take a seat in Parliament – Nancy Astor
1958 Life Peerages Act entitles women to sit in House of Lords Lady Reading and Baroness Barbara Wooton first to take seats
1960 First female Head of Government – Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
1976 Shreela Flather elected first Asian woman councillor in Britain
1979 UK’s first woman Prime Minister
1981 Baroness Young becomes first woman Leader of the House of Lords
1984 Britain’s first black female mayor – Lydia Simmons, Slough
1987 Diane Abbott elected first black woman MP
1990 Baroness Flather is the first female Asian peer
1997 First BME female government Minister – Patricia Scotland
1998 Baroness Uddin is the first Muslim woman in the House of Lords
1999 UK’s first Asian female MEP – Neena Gill
2003 Baroness Amos is the first black woman appointed to Cabinet
2003 Baroness Amos is first black woman Leader of the House of Lords
2007 Baroness Scotland is first black woman Attorney General
It’s not like they’d have had to look her name up.
It’s petty. It’s childish. It’s rude. And this wasn’t an internal prank. They published this. What moron could possibly think this was acceptable?
I remember something my brother once said about the architects of New Labour. In the 80s, a lot of them had been hard-left Trotskyists; in the 90s they abandoned those beliefs but retained the ideological certainty that they were right and that anyone who disagreed was a progress-obstructing dinosaur who deserved to be bulldozed by the juggernaut of history.
These people have been in charge of a once-neutral civil service for twelve years now. Stunts like this make me wonder how much of it is left intact.