Saturday, August 02, 2008

I hope it won't be for many years but ...

Margaret Thatcher should have a state funeral when she dies.

Labour has been vacillating about this, first suggesting it and then denying that they have done so when some of their hardline supporters started whining about the idea.

There is no reason to think Mrs T will die any time soon, and I hope she lives for many more years, but although she was and remains to some extent a divisive figure, she was the first woman Prime Minister of this country.

Anyone who is neither a male chauvinist bigot or a left-wing bigot of the stripe to be unable to put their own views aside and look at the wider picture should be able to recognise what an achievement that was. It was an important and positive thing for the development of real democracy and true equality of opportunity in Britain, and it killed the idea that there is any high office which women are not competent to hold.

Paradoxically, it is precisely because Margaret Thatcher was not a stereotypical feminist, and thought of herself as a political leader rather than as a woman politician, that she was able to win election to number ten. She was elected by people who agreed with the things she stood for, some of whom voted for her in spite of the fact that she is a woman. The fact that in this sense she was a normal politician, not one who was a woman politician first, which made her unprecedented acheivement of being the first woman elected to be Prime Minister possible.

In the process she ensured that in the future, women in politics, while they may still face prejudice, no longer have to deal with people for whom the idea of a woman MP or Prime Minister is unthinkable.

Many orthodox feminists do not admire Baroness Thatcher - it is no co-incidence tha it was Harriet Harman who has been talking down the idea of a state funeral for her - but Maggie did far more to make it possible for women to aspire to senior positions than anyone since the suffragettes.

Whether you admire or loathe the things Margaret Thatcher did as Prime Minister, her place in history as the first woman elected to run this country is incontrovertible and should be celebrated. While I hope not to see it anytime soon, that is why I agree with those who say that she should have a state funeral.

1 comment:

Virginia said...


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