Monday 10 July 2017

Who thinks the real victim of UK political sexism is a statue?

Sometimes you see an article that is so excruciatingly bad it makes you wonder how the hell it got written, let alone published.

In this case the abomination of an article was written by an Lib-Dem politician called Annabel Mullin, and was somehow published in the Independent, which was actually one of the least-bad mainstream media sources during Theresa May's vanity election.

The article

The article is entitled "From Luciana Berger to Margaret Thatcher, women in politics are held to a completely different standard to men" which provides fair warning that it is likely to be an absolute abomination, but I clicked on it anyway in order to see what kind of mental gymnastics would be performed to conflate the experiences of two such different politicians from two different eras to draw such an obvious conclusion (that sexism in politics is still rife). 

What I found was one of the most ridiculously out-of-touch articles I've ever had the misfortune of reading.

Luciana Berger

The article starts out by reciting a highly misleading right-wing interpretation of what happened after Liverpool Wavertree Labour Party elected pro-Corbyn representatives to 9 out of the 10 positions on their executive committee.

In reality one of these newly elected figures said that the local MP Luciana Berger should apologise for her role in the extremely damaging and spectacularly failed Anyone But Corbyn coup last summer.

Annabel Mullin decided (either through ignorance, or deliberate political partisanship) to tell a different story, that it was the whole Executive Committee who formally demanded that Berger abandon her own political views.

These kinds of extremely exaggerated distortions of events have become very familiar to Labour Party members, most of whom will be familiar with the extreme exaggerations over brick-gate.

The author then weaves her distorted and politically partisan version of events in Liverpool Wavertree into the ridiculous narrative that Berger was only asked to apologise because of a "chilling" effort to force her into changing position because she is a woman, rather than because she betrayed the will of the party membership by trying to overthrow the leader they'd elected less than a year previously with an anti-democratic bullying campaign.

This shoehorned version of events doesn't even make sense at the most rudimentary levels. Mainly because other coup-plotter MPs who happen to be male have also been told (often by women) that they've betrayed the party and should apologise, but also because Luciana Berger has already changed position and aligned herself firmly behind the party leadership.

If anyone is treating Berger with sexist contempt here, it's the author for having completely ignored Berger's own opinion ("The Labour Party In Liverpool Wavertree is a vibrant, democratic organisation with around 1,800 members. Quite rightly, the members elect officers of the party to oversee its work. We are united in wanting to secure a new General Election and the return of a Labour government under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn as soon as possible .. it is thanks to the hard work of local members and a revitalised national party under Jeremy Corbyn. It is a fantastic foundation for the next General Election, whenever it comes.") in order to construct a highly misleading account of what actually happened.

Instead of listening to and respecting Berger's opinion, this appalling Lib-Dem has ignored it completely in order to weave a dishonest and demeaning "poor ickle woman" narrative.

I know I'm hardly an expert on the subject, but isn't rendering women voiceless and using them as objects in your own warped fantasies a classic example of sexism?

Hasn't Annabel Mullin just clearly proven that it's not only men who can be guilty of misogyny?

Margaret Thatcher

The misleading drivel about Luciana Berger pales into insignificance when it comes to the following bit about Margaret Thatcher, which revolves around the decision to not erect a £300,000 statue of Thatcher, which was, according to the author, motivated purely by sexism.

The author either deliberately avoids mentioning, or is shockingly ignorant of a number of crucial points including:
  • It is customary to wait at least 10 years after the death until statues of political figures are erected, which means erecting a monument to Thatcher before 2023 would break protocol.
  • Thatcher's family didn't like the statue and expressed their objections.
In order to force the statue decision into her sexism narrative Mullin not only decided to ignore the points above, she also decided to write a Thatcher hagiography in which Thatcher is fully "deserving" of having normal protocol broken and a statue that her family actually hate erected.

Apparently Thatcher's fixation with hard-right economics which caused mass unemployment, the decline of British manufacturing, the establishment of powerful privatised cartels in the former public utilities, the shocking waste of the Scottish oil bonanza, the loss and non-replacement of social housing stock, eye-watering interest rates that Mullin could never imagine paying on her mortgage, the reckless deregulation of the financial sector, and an apathy inducing hard-right political consensus that's only just coming to an end with the SNP in Scotland and the Corbyn surge in England and Wales.

No. Thatcher didn't deliver a toxic brew of neoliberalism, privatisation mania, centralisation of executive power, financial market deregulation ... she delivered wonderful and unquestionable "economic stability".

Tell people in the still-broken mining, steel working, ship building and train building communities of the north, midlands, and South Wales that Thatcher delivered them "economic stability" and see what reaction you get.

I'd like to see Annabel Mullin go and tell some of the wives and children of the millions of proud working men who were thrown on Thatcher's scrap heap to their faces that she deserves a statue so much that she needs to be held to a different standard to men, so that her effigy can be erected long before the usual 10 year waiting period is over.

It's difficult to imagine that this disgracefully out-of-touch Thatcher hagiography was actually authorised by the Lib-Dems, unless they're actually intent on chasing away even more of their voters than they already have.

Sexism in politics

One of the worst things about this absolute abomination of an article is that the subject is actually really important and deserves to be written about with respect, care and consideration.
  • Just look at the abuse suffered by Diane Abbott during the election after she made a spectacle of herself by getting her numbers mixed up, and contrast it with the ridiculous blunders by male politicians like Philip Hammond and Michael Gove, and ask yourself why the Tory posh boys' blunders didn't make the headline news bulletins, which were reserved for the black, female from a non-establishment background.
  • Just look at the vile misogynistic comments that are lobbed around every time a female politician (of whatever political persuasion) hits the headlines.
  • Just look at the continuing under-representation of women in politics, and especially the under-representation of women from working class backgrounds.
  • Just look at the way the few female politicians with non-elitist regional accents (Angela Rayner, Laura Pidcock, Diane Abbott) have been pilloried and abused as "thick" for not talking in upper-class cut glass accents. 
Recycling a misleading right-wing interpretation of what happened in Liverpool Wavertree and then idealising Margaret Thatcher in order to demand a protocol-shattering statue that would be seen as a grotesque insult by millions of women across the UK is a truly shocking effort to address the vitally important issue of political sexism, especially in light of the absolute mountain of real evidence that Mullin has glossed over or ignored completely.

Blinkered elitism

Perhaps the worst thing about the article is the way that the author ignores the lived experiences of real women in order to create her elitist narrative. 

Mullin started off by ignoring Luciana Berger's own views in order to recycle the hard-right Guido Fawkes/Daily Mail version of events in Liverpool Wavertree, then she went on to ignore the plight of the millions of actual women who suffered terrible deprivations because of Thatcher's ideological agenda.

Mullin doesn't have a word of condolence for the hundreds of thousands of miners' and steel workers' wives who suffered impoverishment, and often even the breakdown of their marriages because of Thatcher's ideological agenda; she doesn't have a word of condolence for the women who have grown up in blighted, high-unemployment, low-opportunity former industrial towns; she doesn't have a word of condolence for the women who lost their homes when Thatcher let mortgage interest rates spike above 20% not once, but twice; she doesn't have a word of condolence for the millions of women who are suffering under this latest incarnation of callous Thatcherite hard-right economics called "austerity".

No. Mullin lives in such an insulated bubble of wealth and privilege that she expects us to shed tears of pity for Margaret Thatcher because she doesn't get a protocol-shattering statue!

You see, in the mind of privileged elitists like Mullin, the real victims of the sexist political system are not the ordinary women who have suffered 86% of the burden of austerity; it's not the ordinary women who suffered the appalling consequences of Thatcherism; it's not the 1950s WASPI women who have had years worth of their pensions snatched away by a callous and uncaring political elite; it's not the women from working class backgrounds who find themselves locked out of the political system, and then cruelly ridiculed as "thick" for their regional accents if they somehow defy the odds and make it.

No, the real victim of political sexism in the minds of people like Annabel Mullin is a stone effigy of Thatcher!

The conclusion

The conclusion to the article is one of the most irritatingly delusional and condescending things I've read in weeks. The author actually concludes that "we must create a new home for those who, like me, currently find that speaking up for what is sensible feels more and more radical".

Openly declaring yourself one of the only ones talking sense in a world of madness is a very poor look even if you have some shred of justification to make such a claim, but after such a parade of senseless elitist drivel it's a display of absolutely ludicrous posturing.

Thankfully though there is already a home for people like Mullin.

It's a home for people who are hopelessly out of touch with the public mood; it's a home for people who care more about the welfare of unwanted statues than they do about millions of ordinary women; it's a home for people who mindlessly recycle right-wing propaganda and write uncritical hagiographies of the woman who did so much damage to the UK economy and political system; it's a home for people with no real political principles; and it's a home for people with an ability to render incredibly important issues unlikeable and annoying simply because they explain them in such outlandishly disengaging ways.

This home for people like Annabel Mullin is the Liberal Democrat party, and she's perfectly welcome to stay there and continue making them look as out-of-touch with reality as they are.

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