It’s been thirteen years since the UK has seen a British female Prime Minister. Perhaps Margaret Thatcher made such a drastic impact on society, we were too scared to put another woman in power. Or perhaps, until 2013, there was a drought of eligible female politicians causing a stir in Parliament.
Suddenly, we are presented with two eligible candidates; Theresa May and Yvette Cooper, two very different politicians, are the leading ladies in British politics right now.
Perhaps women are a more feasible option for future party leadership and potentially UK leadership because they seem more relatable. A former Labour minister said “People do seem to think that women must get it, they must be a bit more normal. Women get a pass on some of the ‘politicians are all evil’ stuff”. In a political climate dominated by men in pinstripe suits, there aren’t many relatable figures in British politics.
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries perfectly highlights what makes our current leaders so unreliable, when she called David Cameron and George Osborne “two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”. Dorries perfectly summed up today’s out-of-touch political leaders, when she described government policy “run by two public school boys who don’t know what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunch boxes”.
These two female politicians are more relatable than their male counterparts, and could be very eligible contenders in 2015.
ConservativeHome, the influential online Conservative media hub, compared May to Germany’s Angela Merkel, after her stern and serious manner. She’s been the Home Secretary since 2010, and is noted for having weathered a number of scandals well, including her extradition of Richard O’Dwyer, the founder of TVShack, and the case of her false claim that an illegal immigrant avoided deportation because of his cat.
May is known for her eccentric choices in footwear, and the old dig says it’s the most interesting thing about her. But perhaps this is just because she doesn’t live up to the media-friendly stereotype of a Home Secretary. She doesn’t have time for cosy personal anecdotes told to soften her image, nor does she suck up to the press the way many politicians do.
May’s strict stance on limiting immigration and withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights has caught the attention of both the press and politicians, and has been subject to much criticism. But this just demonstrates her pragmatic response to a sensitive issue. She has observed blue-collar Tories feeling alienated by a cabinet full of rich public school boys, and leaning towards UKIP, and she’s acted upon it. By holding weekly surgeries for MPs, May articulates how much more in touch she is with the general public than our current leaders.
Cooper served as a Cabinet minister between 2008 and 2010 under Gordon Brown, and is currently both the Shadow Home Secretary and the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, so she already has impressive experience under her belt. She’s raised awareness over how women suffer significantly more than men from spending cuts. In making this link, Cooper has triggered great female hostility towards Cameron’s government.
Her stance on immigration has critics scratching their heads, as Cooper supports the proposal to restrict benefits for new immigrants. She voices this opinion in such a way that neither the Tories nor left-wingers in her own party can criticize.
It is yet unclear whether Cooper will contend for party leadership and stand for Labour in 2015. She reused to run in 2010 because she feared it would distract her from spending time with her young children, who are now older and less or a diversion.