Barack Obama said that Margaret Thatcher was an iconic role model for our daughters.
Obama’s election as the first black president of the United States was a moment of vindication for black Americans.
His mantra during his election campaign, Yes We Can, could have been their maxim, too. Yes, black America, Yes WE Can!
But the election of Margaret Thatcher as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister offered no such promise. What she believed was Yes I Can.
She didn’t share power with women. She didn’t expand women’s democratic room for manoeuvre. On the contrary, she diminished democracy. She didn’t empower women.
Equality was a word purged from her vocabulary. And feminism, she believed, was ‘poison’. Without it, of course, she would never have become a Parliamentarian, a Prime Minister, or even a voter.
For sure, Thatcher proved that she could perform power like no man: she could be more than any man — but she wrapped a feminine endorsement around a thoroughly patriarchal project.
Her mission was to re-structure the state and society, and she engineered this with surgical elan; Thatcherism tilted the axis of British politics, she made the lore of the market appear to be the language of life itself.
It was — as the great Jamaican scholar-activist Stuart Hall, the pioneering theorist of Thatcherism — described it a project of modernisation: REGRESSIVE MODERNISATION.
It spoke freewheeling free marketeering into one ear, he said, and ‘the voice of respectable, bourgeois, patriarchal man’ in our other ear.
Hear this fast, bracing debate between the lovely Tory MP Margot James and myself.