The way things are going, it may be that Thatcher was the first and last of her kind
If we look at the reign of Margaret Thatcher back in 1979, it is clear that not everyone was in favour of her legacy. From poll taxes to the withdrawal of school milk, the Iron Lady left her mark over the course of eleven and a half years, making her the longest serving leader of the 20th century.
Of course, Margaret Thatcher was famous not only for running the country but also for being the first ever British female Prime Minister. In the 2015 election female MPs held a record high, representing 29 per cent of all MPs elected. Although this figure is impressive, especially due to the mere 5 per cent of women elected prior to 1987, women are still the minority sex in politics.
This minority is also seen in the voting polls. Back in 2010, nine million women failed to vote. Research suggests these uncounted votes could have massively altered the result of who walked into number 10 Downing Street. However there are measures available to see these statistics improved. A recent launch of an XX campaign aims to create a national campaign to get young people, especially young women aged 18-25 registered to vote. Hannah Vincent, the brains behind the recent XX vote campaign explains: ‘A lack of positive role models for women’s votes pushes politics further away from them. They see men grunting at each other at Prime Minister’s Questions and think, this isn’t for me’. This campaign shows action being taken to get women to engage in the election. However, there are other issues surrounding women that need to be addressed.
Ed Miliband in 2014 claimed David Cameron was ‘failing women’. From an all-male frontbench to failing to lead his party into gender equality, Cameron has always been viewed by the media as ‘in favour of men’. This lack of understanding was also seen in Cameron’s teaching English scheme. The government agreed to pay £20 million for British Muslim women to learn English; however, Cameron’s unhelpful and inaccurate connection between poor English and extremism left the women irritated. Bradford-based women’s council stated:
‘Whilst we welcome the additional funding pledged today by the Prime Minister for English language support for Muslim women, we do not agree with the assertion that there is a link between a lack of English and extremism. David Cameron is conflating these two issues and is further isolating the very same group of people that he is trying to reach and assist’.
The somewhat questionable environment provided for female politicians is clearly affecting parties as they continue to favour male leadership. In the most recent 2015 election, female leading parties carried the least amount of votes. This suggests that although their policies may be flawed, it is the idea of having a female prime minister which still remains unpopular to voters.
It is clear that Britain is the most behind in terms of gender equality. Recent statistics state that 26 per cent (that’s six) of our cabinet ministers are women, but this is still noticeably behind countries such as Spain (53 per cent), France (47 per cent), Chile (45 per cent), Liberia (37 per cent) and New Zealand (35 per cent).
Whilst it is difficult to engage female voters and parties to change their attitude towards leaders, it is crucial that we aim towards a 50/50 gender representation in the Houses of Parliament. This, as well as the aim of avoiding sexism in the Conservative Party, will hopefully lead to more equal opportunities for both sexes in politics.