Belfast Telegraph

Why Scotland's new female leader Nicola Sturgeon could get more women into Stormont

By Jane Graham

Something is blowing in the British wind. It's not the first time the political world has been talkin' 'bout a revolution, but it's the first time that revolution has been female. It's not, of course, the first time seismic change in the UK political scene has been given a female face; the rise of Margaret Thatcher can claim that breakthrough. However, with Thatcher's PM-ship came a notable failure to promote both women, or the policies which particularly affect them.

Whether this was because she just happened to have no interest in either, or felt the only way to maintain credibility in a male-dominated workspace was to behave like a big, ballsy man who regarded female-centric issues (or should I call them issues that especially affect half of the population) as so much fluff and flannel, we will never know.

But, in spite of the XX chromosomes, there was rarely a swerve from masculine politics - in approach, personnel, or focus - in Thatcher's tenure.

Now, though, there are signs of a real change. When Nicola Sturgeon took over from Alex Salmond as Scotland's First Minister, it didn't occur to me what a huge step forwards for feminism it really was.

It was only when she stepped out for photos with her new cabinet - 50% of which is clever, forward-thinking, dynamic women - and announced a raft of female-slanted policy priorities, that it really sank in.

If she and her gang of girls succeed at putting better-funded childcare and increased penalties for both domestic abuse and the online exploitation of sexual imagery of ex-partners (aka "revenge porn") closer to the centre of the political agenda, Scotland could become a beacon for female-friendly government to be envied across the Western world.

There will be some - they've already started bleating - who'll say politicians should be promoted not because of their gender, but because of their qualities. Having studied Sturgeon's new recruits, I'd say that's exactly what she's done.

It's a radical thought, but perhaps women really are as smart, as thoughtful, as talented as men. They've struggled with family-ruining work demands, around which British politics has made a point of being inflexible, but Nicola has plans to address exactly that.

Some may have felt less comfortable with the angry, adversarial debating approach of UK parliaments than their male colleagues, but with so many more female voices in Holyrood, perhaps the whole tone of public discussion will soften a tad and take on a more respectful, compromising and less damn shouty character.

While Nicola was restyling a cabinet in Edinburgh, the kitten-heeled woman most likely to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader was telling listeners of Desert Island Discs that women in politics "should be able to do the job as themselves".

While I can't say I warm to Theresa May's politics - freeze like an ice-pop in the Arctic would be a better description - her words did suggest a welcome rejection of the Thatcher "walk like a man" ethos.

I can't help wondering what Britain might feel like if she, the much-proposed Labour aspirant, Yvette Cooper, and Sturgeon were all leading their parties this time next year. Especially as it looks likely that the SNP will win bucketloads of seats in the general election, which could see them pulling strings in a coalition.

Northern Ireland has no female party leaders and, historically, they're rarer than a Campbell at a Gaelic class.

As the increasingly independent Scotland makes waves in the political discussion in this country, I hope it's not just the issue of devolved powers which gets under the skin of the underachieving, overly aggressive Executive at Stormont.

Ridicule on the cards for Blairs

There is a keenness for the family photo Christmas card among the political fraternity.

Which is odd, as many politicians do not look great in photos. Or in real life, come to think of it.

But even in a world of very low - nay tawdry - standards, the Tony and Cherie Blair festive card is a "how could they have allowed this to happen?" disaster.

Cherie's embalmed vibe leads to thoughts of where Tony might have stored her body. And Tony, curiously, looks like he's halfway through saying, "Don't take this photo".

You can't call that a smile. It's closer to a cry for help.

Merry Christmas!

Morris' satire truly mind-bending

Still available on BBC iPlayer is Raw Meat, a tribute to the radio work of Chris Morris on 4Extra. In On the Hour (precedent of TV hit The Day Today), Morris pioneered a kind of media satire that was peerlessly funny, intelligent, merciless and unnervingly prophetic.

He showed just how suggestive and keen to be offended celebrities and the public were, infuriating them with made-up, nonsensical "outrages".

With his controversial Radio 1 show, and the blurred, druggy, surreal radio poetry of Blue Jam, he went to places where no one has yet had the nerve, or imagination, to follow. Treat yourself to a mind-bending blow-out.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph