Comment: The Empress’ new clothes

Righteous and radical feminism is making a thoroughly undemocratic lurch for power.

By Charlotte Vere

Women are the new political football.

The ubiquitous Harriet Harman paraded around Labour party conference dressed in the Empress' new clothes of righteous and radical feminism and continued to push the message that the coalition government is anti-women.

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat minister for equalities, clumsily entered the debate at her party's conference, by blaming the ills of the world on men. And no doubt the Conservatives will soon join in with pledges for x% of female Cabinet ministers or y% of female MPs.

But why is it that Harman and her sister-in-crime Yvette Cooper, shadow minister for women, feel emboldened enough to push their pro-women, anti-men agenda with so little opposition? Harman has been trying to promote her brand of radical feminism for years, with very little success in the Blair/Brown era. Now, under the poor leadership of Ed Miliband she sees an open goal.

Both Harman and Cooper see an opportunity to position women, whether deservedly or not, at the very top of the party of opposition and, more undemocratically, potentially at the very highest level of our country.

Last Saturday, the Labour conference kicked off with a 'women-only' meeting which included Ed Miliband. Although referring to Ed Miliband as an 'honorary woman' is worth a titter, it has very serious undertones. A meeting where the attendees are decided by gender? A meeting where, if you ask to come in and you are not of the 'right' gender, you are refused entry? A meeting where policy is purportedly set by just one gender? Is that democratic?

Next, Harman is pushing the idea that either the leader or the deputy leader of the Labour Party must be a woman. Surely, deciding a leader of the opposition on the basis of gender is undemocratic, but what is are the consequences if the opposition becomes the party of government? Is a gender-appropriate prime minister the best person that the party of government has to offer? What would that do for the standing of Britain amongst other more democratic, global economies? Surely, getting a top job for any reason other than being the most qualified would make Britain a laughing stock.

Finally, we are already hearing rumours of a possible reshuffle. Commentators talk about the pros and cons of various participants. But rather than putting gender to one side, ignoring it, as it should be when discussing jobs, it is a prominent component of the discussions. Ed doesn't want to upset Harriet so his hands are tied. Which women can Ed lose, given his quota restrictions? Who can he replace them with? But most importantly, are they a man or a woman? There is no mention of whether they are highly experienced and skilled potential government ministers. Most of the focus is on gender.

The Labour party should expose the idiocy of the empress' new clothes of radical feminism. Promoting people on the basis of gender is always wrong, but to do so in order to shoehorn a person of 'correct' gender into the very top job in the land is blatantly undemocratic and could do untold damage to our country. And yet, will anyone in the Labour party be the first one to point the finger?

Charlotte Vere is founder of Women On.

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