Make no mistake, this ‘dream team’ is a daft rearguard action to try to thwart Brexit
First Ghostbusters, then Doctor Who, a female 007, and now, perhaps the most ambitious, gender-flipping reboot in history – an all-women cabinet. Caroline Lucas has invited 10 politicians to join her in forming an “emergency Cabinet” to fix Brexit. The Green Party MP claims her group could “bring a different perspective” to politics. Women, she added, “are able to reach out to those they disagree with, and cooperate to find solutions”. If only we’d had a lady leading the process until now, eh?
But these won’t be any old women setting the “vagenda”. Though Lucas’s unifying overtures extend to Emily Thornberry, Jo Swinson, Anna Soubry and even Nicola Sturgeon – whose sole political aim is, literally, separation – this is a selective sisterhood. All share her uncompromising belief that Brexit must be halted in its tracks.
I am beginning to wonder whether the stop-Brexit brigade’s increasingly mad-cap schemes are in fact a form of elaborate postmodern satire. Just when we’d finished chuckling at the latest Orwellian wheeze – a “Government of National Unity” populated by rabid Remainers – along comes Lucas and her plan to exclude not just all Eurosceptics but all men. But you can never be quite woke enough for the woke Left. The Corbynista MP Clive Lewis piped up, “Great idea but what about the BME women?” I predict corresponding cries of: “You bigot Clive, how dare you marginalise disabled BME transwomen?”
Lucas’s proposal is an extreme manifestation of a depressingly common narrative of Brexit as a “sexist” project, imposed on women by “grey men in suits”. Remain activists ignore the essential roles played by the likes of Gisela Stuart, Theresa Villiers and Kate Hoey during the referendum, and the female voters who turned out in their millions on June 23 2016. Other women who vote the “wrong” way, such as Tories, are regularly smeared as “gender traitors” or sinister Stepford Wives.
Lucas’s stereotype of women as inherent fixers and bridge-builders stems from a long-standing progressive fallacy. Echoing Mrs Lintott’s view of history as men making a mess and “women following behind with the bucket” from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, many argue that a female-led world would be a more peaceful place.
Christine Lagarde claimed that male domination of the banking industry hastened the 2008 financial crash. “If it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might well look a lot different today,” she said. Such clichés of compliant female risk-aversion may masquerade as progress but they share far more with the Victorians’ mawkish stereotypes of perfect womanhood. And it’s hypocritical for feminists, usually so quick to denounce in-built gender norms, to claim inherent virtue on the basis of sex.
A glance through history shows that women can be every bit as ruthless as men when given the chance. One study of centuries of rule in Europe found that queens were more likely to wage war than kings – just ask Isabella of Castile or Catherine the Great. In the sixteenth century alone, Catherine de Medici allegedly masterminded the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Queen Elizabeth I took on the Spanish Armada (and won), while “Bloody Mary” killed more heretics in five years than her sister did in 45. Boudicca appeared to have missed the memo about “reaching out” to the Romans when she ordered every inhabitant of Colchester to be slaughtered and the city burnt to the ground.
Female leaders even approach Europe differently – Mrs Thatcher went to the European Council and returned with a rebate, while Mrs May surrendered £39 billion for the privilege of opening trade talks. It’s almost as if we women are a diverse and multifaceted breed, who don’t always behave the same.
“Speaking as a woman”, as a minister in the Lucas government might say, I find this latest scheme to be just a bit patronising. But take heart: what we are seeing is merely the desperate rearguard action of a group still struggling to realise that Britain will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal. Treating politics like a progressive fantasy football league won’t make the slightest difference to the outcome – though it will give the rest of us a good laugh in the meantime.