“There is a new swagger about the Tory women”, Janice Turner wrote on Saturday. “Winning an election helps”, she said, “but beyond that is a sense they are valued by their leadership — no longer window dressing or “Cameron Cuties”, but the forward guard of a political strategy. Blue Feminism: it is a thought that should rock Labour’s pink van.”
I beg to differ. They are exactly that – a modern form of window dressing and an opportunistic one to boot. What Ms Turner forgets in her fulsome praise of this new blue feminism is that it is phonier, more superficial and self serving and nastier than the blue rinse brigade, as their socially conservative female forebears were caricatured.
“For decades”, Ms Turner proceeded, “the Conservatives have addressed women as carers, housewives and consumers. Blue Feminism speaks to them as workers…. they boast how more women than ever are active in the economy, a key index of a nation’s gender equality. And — although the party’s socially conservative stay-at-home-mummy wing must abhor this — even those with tiny children are no longer excused.”
Indeed they are not. As far as the blue feminists – the likes of Liz Truss, Nicky Morgan, Amber Rudd and Priti Patel – are concerned it is back to Victorian England for their less successful sisters when, it may surprise Ms Turner, millions of women toiled to make their families’ ends meet until their children, too, were old enough to labour.
For the modern Tory woman is as indifferent to the needs of infants as the mill owners who then dominated the Victorian industrial landscape. They care not that the normal two-year-old cries piteously on being parted from his mother to stranger care. Infants had better get used to it as far as these hard-hearted career opportunists are concerned.
This new breed of modern Tory women might as well say, get ye to the laundry or into the domestic service in which millions of 19th century mothers laboured to save their families from poverty.
Ordinary women, unlike their elevated selves, must walk the treadmill of labour and abandon their infants, if not to the factories or up chimneys, to indifferent daycare.
Life’s great, isn’t it just, if you are Nicky Morgan or Amber Rudd able to sneer at photographers at being called ‘girls’, women who also just happen to have had the full – and unprecedented – benefit of positive discrimination. It is so easy when you are prepared to be a compliant ‘yes, whatever you say’ female MP, simpering to your masters, whether Mr Cameron or Mr Osborne. It is so easy to dictate how other women must live their lives, once you are freed of sympathy or understanding for their choices. Choice between your child and job? they ask. No choice, get a job, you dolt.
Much despised motherhood is no longer an option for those in pursuit of ‘ blue feminism’ gender equality.
What gets me about this much vaunted Tory female vanguard is that they have hardly ‘got there’ on the basis of either ability or conviction.
Please let’s not kid ourselves they got into the Cabinet on merit or that they are more worthy, more able, more experienced than David Davis, Rory Stewart, Jesse Norman or John Redwood (to name but four of their male colleagues). They are not. They are there for one reason only. It’s called positive discrimination, not merit.
How dare they swagger?
Many of today’s Tory women MPs were fast tracked onto the A list of favoured candidates in the first place.
Then once securely ensconced in the House of Commons their chances of sitting at the Cabinet table were dramatically enhanced by Dave’s female quota commitment.
Whether they like it or not their preferment is pure tokenism. They are pawns in Cameron’s and Osborne’s political game.
Now that is something that never could be said of Harriet Harman, nor indeed of Clare Short or Patricia Hewitt. None of these Labour feminist Boudicca’s were fast tracked or benefited from Emily’s list style advantage. Love them or hate them, these fearless feminists cannot be accused of that.
Harriet Harman was a lawyer when she won her seat in Parliament in 1982. She had three shadow cabinet positions before her appointment in 1997 as Secretary of State for Social Security and first ever Minister for Women.
These Labour women, unlike their Tory ‘blue feminist’ successors, were also genuine ideologues who battled for their beliefs from their student days.
I don’t and never have agreed with their ambitions for women or for society. I always thought that children would be the losers in their game plan and that women would be under terrible pressure to deny their nurturing instincts. Events have borne me out.
Yet I have a higher respect for their integrity and ability than I have for Cameron’s troupe of political mannequins, who’ve have proved far too eager to cooperate with his image making.