Halfway through his second year in office, it became fashionable to claim that the Prime Minister and his party have a ‘problem with women’, a criticism that provoked the appointment of an ‘advisor on women’. The issue, so the narrative goes, is both a lack of female representation in his party and a lack of women-specific policy coming out of government. On both charges, this collection finds the Prime Minister not guilty.
As the contributors to Iron Ladies demonstrate, the Conservative Party’s female MPs are as diverse and pluralistic as the population itself. Many of the new intake are destined for rapid promotion not on account of their gender but on account of their talent. They stand out not for their group identity as women MPs but for their individual achievements, battles and concerns. They are the standard-bearers for issues from media regulation to NHS reform, not just those that traditionally affect the family.
This collection makes two clear points. Firstly, that there is no such thing as a ‘Conservative woman’ and no such thing as ‘women’s issues’ — there are issues and there are women who care about them, just as there are men who do so too. Secondly, that if the Prime Minister is in need of advice from an informed, articulate, powerful and thoughtful woman he already has a wealth of candidates sitting conveniently on his own back bench.