Saturday 17 February 2018

Eilis O'Hanlon: Young women need more Maggie and fewer mantras

A conveyor belt of motivational courses is likely to blunt our sharpest would-be female politicians

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

Eilis O'Hanlon

Jeffrey Archer had a problem. He was a young would-be MP and he wanted to run for the Tories in the constituency of Louth in Lincolnshire.

The only thing was that party traditionalists in this rural area wanted to know whether the candidates's wife, Mary, an Oxford-educated expert in solar power, would be available to open flower shows and attend mothers' meetings – "and mine clearly wasn't".

So he contacted Margaret Thatcher, then shadow minister for education, for advice. What she said to him, as related to Philip Boucher Hayes on RTE's Drivetime following the former prime minister's death last month, was this: "Tell them very firmly that Mary did not win a scholarship to Oxford and get a first-class honours degree to open flower shows."

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