Frank Field's women

Harman, Thatcher and a political maverick

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It was good to see the unpredictable Labour MP Frank Field writing in the magazine's politics slot while I was away over the past two weeks. And intriguing to see him praising Harriet Harman, with whom he fell out 11 years ago when the pair were sacked as welfare ministers in the early Blair government. Defying the conventional criticisms of Harman during her period covering for Brown, he seemed to endorse her for the party leadership. "You have to hand it to her," wrote Field. "Harriet Harman has really shown how to use No 10 as a platform from which to direct policy."

Does the radically minded MP have a thing for strong political women? The comments reminded me of a tale from when Margaret Thatcher resigned as prime minister in 1990. While most members of her cabinet told her the game was up, a number of backbench Tory right-wingers pleaded with her to stay. And so did Frank Field. No wonder senior Tories have long dreamt of his defection.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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