Margaret Thatcher: feminist icon?

"I hate feminism. It is poison," she reportedly told her adviser Paul Johnson.

There will be much discussion about Margaret Thatcher's role as Britain's first female prime minister in the coming days, and whether she can be considered a "feminist icon". It's probably worth remembering the Iron Lady's own thoughts on the subject:

‘The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.’                        

- as said to her adviser (and one-time New Statesman editor) Paul Johnson, according to a 2011 piece he wrote for The Spectator.

 

 

Update: Sky's political correspondent, Sophy Ridge, has written a blog about Thatcher's legacy for women, adding two more pertinent quotes:

She sits uneasily as a feminist trailblazer, famously saying "the battle for women's rights has largely been won" and "I owe nothing to women's lib".

The latter quote comes from a 1982 lecture. In full, it runs:

"The battle for women's rights has largely been won. The days when they were demanded and discussed in strident tones should be gone forever. I hate those strident tones we hear from some Women's Libbers."

Margaret Thatcher in 1975. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Recess confidential: Labour's liquid party

Sniffing out the best stories from Westminster, including Showsec, soames, and Smith-side splits.

If you are celebrating in a brewery, don’t ask Labour to provide the drinks. Because of the party’s continuing failure to secure a security contractor for its Liverpool conference, it is still uncertain whether the gathering will take place at all. Since boycotting G4S, the usual supplier, over its links with Israeli prisons, Labour has struggled to find an alternative. Of the five firms approached, only one – Showsec – offered its services. But the company’s non-union-recognition policy is inhibiting an agreement. The GMB, the firm’s antagonist, has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is awarded the contract. In lieu of a breakthrough, sources suggest two alternatives: the police (at a cost of £59.65 per constable per hour), or the suspension of the G4S boycott. “We’ll soon find out which the Corbynites dislike the least,” an MP jested. Another feared that the Tories’ attack lines will write themselves: “How can Labour be trusted with national security if it can’t organise its own?”

Farewell, then, to Respect. The left-wing party founded in 2004 and joined by George Galloway after his expulsion from Labour has officially deregistered itself.

“We support Corbyn’s Labour Party,” the former MP explained, urging his 522,000 Facebook followers to sign up. “The Labour Party does not belong to one man,” replied Jess Phillips MP, who also pointed out in the same tweet that Respect had “massively failed”. Galloway, who won 1.4 per cent of the vote in this year’s London mayoral election, insists that he is not seeking to return to Labour. But he would surely be welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, whom he once described as his “closest friend”. “We have spoken almost daily for 30 years,” Galloway boasted.

After Young Labour’s national committee voted to endorse Corbyn, its members were aggrieved to learn that they would not be permitted to promote his candidacy unless Owen Smith was given equal treatment. The leader’s supporters curse more “dirty tricks” from the Smith-sympathetic party machine.

Word reaches your mole of a Smith-side split between the ex-shadow cabinet ministers Lisa Nandy and Lucy Powell. The former is said to be encouraging the challenger’s left-wing platform, while the latter believes that he should make a more centrist pitch. If, as expected, Smith is beaten by Corbyn, it’s not only the divisions between the leader and his opponents that will be worth watching.

Nicholas Soames, the Tory grandee, has been slimming down – so much so, that he was congratulated by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, on his weight loss. “Soon I’ll be able to give you my old suits!” Soames told the similarly rotund Watson. 

Kevin Maguire is away

I'm a mole, innit.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser