In a strange sort of way, I feel rather nostalgic about the Major years. I entered them as a bright-eyed eight-year-old and left a wiseass fourteener, with a political consciousness born in a time of parliamentary strife and political impotence. And yet, looking back, there is one element of those times I yearn to regain; the evil.
Work with me on this one; in the nineties you knew you were getting screwed, but at least you knew the people doing it were working day and night to make sure that you were. There was something perversely honourable about the whole thing; our fates were the result of tireless dedication, and beating the system was both a noble and achievable goal.
In the naughties, however, things are much different. We’re still getting screwed, but only because our ministers of state can’t find their butts with both hands. Occasionally that Hammer-esque sense of all-pervading evil creeps into the frame, but now David Blunkett has gone through his second resignation there appears little hope of his returning to darken our door.
It’s a development that has done much to fuel cynicism and apathy towards democratic politics in this country, but I can’t help but feel that there has been a greater casualty. Through the sixties, seventies and eighties, we saw the rise of a small but significant class of strong political women. You may not have agreed with the politics of Barbara Castle, Shirley Williams and Margaret Thatcher, but you knew they were able, intelligent politicians. New Labour were meant to take things even further, with the Blair Babes sweeping all before them in the march for equality…
Beckett. Hewitt. Jowell. Harman. Blears. Kelly.
Now name six connected people who are more incompetent.
Discounting sporting answers, it’s difficult to do. Okay, so Mo Mowlem did well and Clare Short had her moments, but they were in relatively minor posts and were quickly shunned by the Millbank mafia. It is these six who have led the way for women in government, and they have done an abominable job of it.
But I hate to leave on such a dour note, so here’s an alternative list;
Willott. Swinson. Teather. Kramer. Goldsworthy. Featherstone.
See? It is possible to find six competent female politicians. I’d offer you a third list from the ranks of LDYS, but as the girlfriend’s on it I’ll tactfully refrain…