Since the conception of modern British Politics we have seen 76 Prime Ministers. Throughout their tenures the UK has seen mass political mistakes, two world wars and an ever-changing relationship between European powers.
Despite the historical events that have occurred throughout the centuries and their associated PMs, two in particular stand out as the most criticised: Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher.
Both May and Thatcher came to the forefront of British politics in turbulent times. Thatcher came to power during the late 1970s following Labour Party rule since 1974, which fuelled public discontent with British politics, which was not helped with 5 PMs in just over ten years.
May came to power in 2016 following David Cameron’s very public blunder over the Brexit Referendum which has since led to quite clear divisions in Britain over what is the best course for the UK when it comes to the EU. May took over the British Government at the most turbulent time in UK politics in recent years.
Why is it that the only time that women become the leader of this country is when no one else wants to? In times when their actions, no matter how appropriate, will divide the nation? I would personally argue that women in politics are set up to fail, or at least struggle to receive the same favours that men in politics do.
I am not blind to the mistakes both of these women have made during their time as PM. I agree with the much of the criticism that they have received. Theresa May has created a hostile environment in this country to anyone fleeing war, murder or torture and she should definitely be criticised for this.
But, why do we not hold men and women to the same standard when it comes to politics? May and Thatcher are not the only PMs out of 76 who have made despicable decisions, so why are they the most criticised of all?
They are women, and that is why.
Throughout 76 Prime Ministers we have seen major political blunders and frankly abhorrent actions committed by those who have controlled this country. For example, Winston Churchill remains one of our most celebrated Prime Ministers but was an outspoken racist who supported the use of gas against “uncivilised tribes”, among many other awful opinions and actions.
Tony Blair arguably took us into an illegal war with Iraq in 2003 which resulted in 100,000s of deaths, but on the announcement of Margaret Thatcher’s death the song “Ding-dong the Witch is Dead” charted at number 2 in the UK. I understand that she did plenty of things wrong during her time as PM, but she was a human-being with family, friends and loved ones and it was disgusting to see that people still attacked her for her decisions even in death. In contrast, on the anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death he is still in 2019 considered a hero by a vast percentage of our country.
In the present day, Theresa May has received a huge amount of criticism, and as a Liberal Democrat I cannot agree with what she has done concerning Brexit. However, I do believe that she has been given an impossible task to deal with and no matter what she does, she will inevitability polarise the UK. But, it seems that the vast majority of people believe Theresa May to be far worse a politician than the very person who brought us into this Brexit mess: David Cameron. Why has he not been so criticised for putting the future of this country at risk for his own political gain?
We live in a world where women and minorities are continually oppressed, where instead of focusing on women’s opinions and policies the media focuses on who “won Legs-it”. Where a female Prime Minister is called a “stupid woman” by her male counterpart.
British Politics has always been and continues to be dominated by men; currently in the House of Commons there are 208 self-defining women out of a total of 650 MPs. Women are far from making up 50% of Parliament, yet in terms of population they are more than half of our country.
Following the 2017 snap General Election we saw a “record number” of ethnic minority MPs come into Parliament. However, the number was only 52 out of 650 MPs. This country’s politics has a real issue in being representative of its public; our country is not dominated by white men who have been Oxbridge educated. Our country is made up of people from different countries, backgrounds, educations, cultures. Parliament should represent that.
We cannot expect women to want to become involved in politics when it is so abundantly clear that we do not treat them as equal to men. We need to ensure that we treat female politicians with the same respect that we treat male politicians and this ultimately includes holding everyone to the same standard, no matter their gender, age, religion, background or culture.