Thatcher – part two

Or Queen Bee syndrome.

In an attempt to discourage further comments on my previous Thatcher post, I thought a quick new one was needed.

While I love all your thoughtful and intelligent comments, it’s difficult for people to read through so many. Well, it’s difficult for me, so it must be difficult for others. My blog, I’m right, and all that. So here is a new post. Even though I really want to take some time out ….

So if you want to say any more about Thatcher, say it on here. Where I shall be concentrating on her position as the first woman British PM and what she did/didn’t do for women.

Here are some facts:

1) She was Britain’s first woman prime minister, and the first in western Europe.

2) She was, of course, as a female head of state, preceded by the famous trio of Golda Meir (Israel), Indira Gandhi (India) and Bandaranaike (Ceylon/Sri Lanka) all of whom I grew up with. Not literally I hasten to add, they didn’t live in Yorkshire. Plus two others, making her not just Britain’s first woman prime minister, not just western Europe’s first, but only the sixth in the world.(The other two came from the Ukraine and Africa). Linky to Clouds post about women leaders.

3) In eleven years of power she appointed one woman to her Cabinets, the intensely homophobic Baroness Young, who seemed to spend a large part of her life opposing gay rights.

So, at a quick glance, she did stuff all to promote women to positions of power ie in her Cabinet. Unless of course, they didn’t like gays.

Were there really no women around back in the 1980s who were good enough to make the Cabinet?

Her successor John Major, on the other hand, managed a superb 100% increase on that, appointing not just one, but two women to the Cabinet – Gillian Shepherd and Virginia Bottomley. Naturally they were in the two traditional soft women’s areas of, yes, Shepherd – education, and Bottomley – health. Hello, teacher, hello nurse. That’s all women can manage. Nothing tough like foreign secretary, finance, environment, employment, the list goes on ……

Although if you include Thatcher there were two women in her Cabinets.

Blair, on the other hand managed an astonishing five or six in his Cabinets.

Zapatero (elected in 2004 Spain), appointed his Cabinet, or whatever they call it in Spain, fifty fifty women and men.

But the question is should Thatcher have done anything for women? And if not, why not?

Well, let’s return to Queen Bees.

I first encountered this in the civil service. Working under the Thatcher government as it happened. As chance had it, I was the first and only woman to be appointed to my press office. Health and Safety wasn’t really a girly sort of thing.

But the civil service being an equal ops sort of place, off I went on a course for women managers. Because we need courses, us girls, as we don’t know how to manage.

Natch, this course, focused on how we should all dress because women need to be judged on how they look. Sadly I’ve never been on a men’s management course, so I have no idea how much of the time is devoted to what colour tie to wear.

We had a long session on assertiveness training because women are incapable of saying no. Um, really?

Or, when we try to say no, we start with, ‘I’m sorry but …’ etc.

Don’t think Margaret had too many problems with saying No.

I did learn about Queen Bees though. The course wasn’t all about the right suit and the right to say no.

Queen Bees are basically women managers who don’t want other women around. In my organisation at the time, we had one of those. She headed up her department, luckily not mine, and kept the women down. Even the men managed to work out that one.

Later, in the health service, I worked for another one, when Virginia Bottomley, one of Major’s two women Cabinet members, was going big on womens’ rights and we had some silly equal ops drive.

It was so silly that naturally my organisation promptly appointed a man to head it. When I complained – there were a fair amount of intelligent women around – I got dumped with it. C’est la vie.

However, our chair was a woman. A blue rinse Tory Madam Chairman to be accurate (until I sneaked into the board) and started referring to her as chair of the board (please boys this is not the much-promised PC linguistic post, you will have to wait for that one, so no boring comments about chairs are for sitting on are allowed).

On discussing the membership of our health authority board, which was meant to be equally made up of men and women, and reflect the local ethnic population, she said to one of my former colleagues (a Queen Bee and vicious bitch of the first order I might add) ‘But if I’m the chairman we don’t need any other women do we?’

Which pretty much summarises Thatcher. She was there, she had made it, who gave a shit about other women? She was no feminist. She could have done a lot for women, but she chose not to. Shame. But which woman leader of state has done?

In a man’s world, and in a patriarchal society, because that’s what we live in, women need to fight by the same rules, and play the same games to get anywhere. Doing soppy stuff for women’s rights isn’t tough enough.

So that’s why Thatcher (and other women leaders) have done little or nothing to advance women’s rights. They aren’t even in a position to do so. They have to focus on all those hard macho issues. Finance, shooting the shit out of people in foreign lands, and ruffy tuffy stuff.

And, the latest British kerfuffle is about her funeral. Do I care? (No). Technically it is not a state funeral, but a so-called ceremonial one which is one step down. Waste of money in my view, but so is much of public expenditure.

Why does she merit that? Or the attendance of the Queen? Probably because since Churchill she is the only British PM who went to war (Falklands) in defence of the realm and won. That is no mean achievement.


53 comments on “Thatcher – part two

    • Really? A little over the top there darling, but thanks anyway. You speed read faster than me. I was still sorting the literal errors when you commented. I hate computers, I can never publish without errors!


        • I was going to write a long thoughtful reply. I won’t bother (after all you never did reply to my suggestion for lobster for lunch) so, you get a plain, but appreciated, thank you. I don’t agree with your analysis but I like the excellent, so that does it for me. Brilliant and excellent on one post. I shall off me to the bank on that one.


  1. So what colour tie should I have worn? Shirts white, suits dark blue, occasionally a very racy Prince of Wales check. Not to be confused with a Princess of Wales cheque. This is important. Please! I had forgotten the fragrant Ms. Bottomley. What about Edwina Curry? Didn’t John Major “appoint” her in his spare time?


    • I said, I had no idea about tie colours. Never came up on my course. Although I rather liked them after 14 years of wearing them. I’ve no idea why I didn’t affect ties in my earlier years at work.

      I wasn’t aware the Baroness (can you believe that??) was fragrant. I thought that adjective had been copyrighted by Ms Partner of the one who wrote lots of books and went to prison, whose name sadly I forget right now. Or perhaps not so sadly. I read one of his books. One too many.

      Ha! I looked up the Curry before I wrote this. A spicy bit of stuff. Not in the Cab though. A minion. Apparently the bodyguards got in the way.


      • Baroness? VB is a baroness! Whatever next! I think her constituency was near me in Hampshire, or somewhere close by. I think Hilda Ogden would have been a better candidate. I always liked her and her Muriel. I have a deep knowledge of Corrie, 1965-1995 approx thanks to my late mother. I was a big fan of Martha, Ena and Minnie.


        • I have no idea why VB has a peerage. That is beyond me. A social worker who messed around with health services.

          Hilda’s Muriels. Wonderful. I remember that now, had my family in stitches. I wonder what happened to those good writers (on a par with the lovely Black Pig ones).

          I was forced to watch it because of my grandmother’s deep love of it. I didn’t remember Martha, although Minnie and the lovely Ena were imprinted on my mind. Can’t find the mural episode but here is another, includes dear Emily.


  2. You have a most entertaining style of writing – personality but with precision and facts.
    I always hated those management trainings. Nothing can take the fun out of a job like a Queen Bee boss.
    Guess I never saw Thatcher as one who should be doing more for women – She always looked pretty busy doing what you said ” Finance, shooting the shit out of people in foreign lands, and ruffy tuffy stuff.” Someday maybe people will just look at an individual and say, Oh, that was the best one for the job.” Perfect last sentence.


      • I think that is disrespectful. I can’t be doing with this dancing on the grave stuff either or street parties at someone’s death. But I didn’t agree with all the jubilation at Bin Laden’s death either. Death of anyone should be a time for respect, reflection, and if they have been significant, maybe some analysis and personal views about them. Equally applies to world leaders as it does to parents.

        The vitriol and hatred directed at an 87-year-old woman with increasing health problems who was hailed as a world leader is unwarranted. Yes, she damaged a lot of people in the UK, but some people did benefit from her policies and that seems to be being ignored. I’m the first to criticise her destruction of industry and the working class, but I’ll also say I benefited from the housing boom in the 80s.

        When someone has died, just leave alone the past and move on.


    • Thank you. That’s rather well summarised what I’m aiming for – something personal and an easy read, but with some hard news/facts and analysis thrown in there. Although I have my own views, I’m not always totally biased. Well, not on this blog. Clouds is another matter!

      Ah, we’ve discussed QBs before have we not? I was probably the reverse. I got hugely annoyed with women who worked for me who didn’t want to advance their career. And the incompetent ones. I had one who took some minutes for me and it took me so long to re-write the garbage she had written that I just wrote them myself in the end. If you have no interest in the subject how do you expect to get anywhere? It was cervical screening which, ok, is a bit techy, and I knew nothing about it before I took it on (apart from opening my legs), but it was actually very interesting.

      I worked with some great women. My first chief reporter on a newspaper was a woman and was excellent. Supportive, helpful, a good mentor, and a good friend as well. The QBs I encountered, luckily, were not my direct bosses. If I had the choice – or even the opportunity – I’d probably prefer to work for a woman.

      People claim the best person for the job gets it regardless of gender. It’s not true though. Mediocre men get jobs and women have to be better. A blog friend said that to me some time ago. He specifically employed women in his specialist area because he knew they had to be good to succeed.

      As I said in my previous post, her domestic policies devastated the country – but that is just my opinion, others would see it as sound financial policy. I didn’t agree with her going to war at the time (I would now) and thought Carrington’s diplomacy was the way to go. But the realm (which is different to the British Isles/UK/GB) was invaded and she did something about it. Successfully. So she does deserve a little credit for that.

      Wasn’t it Clinton who said he would never be a great president because he hadn’t taken America to war? I’m misquoting there but it is an interesting concept.


        • A bit like one of your Texan colleagues (petspeopleandlife) says on here, I’m not qualified to comment. But I can’t think of an impressive American president in my lifetime. However that may be because I literally don’t know enough about American politics. Although what I do read about them doesn’t inspire me to want to know any more. That applies to all countries right now though.


          • It’s been a long time since one deserved it.
            Obama’s party is the one holding up Thatcher’s recognition….but he and his peeps are probably already packing for the funeral (and shopping! and traveling in style!)


          • I’ll take your word for it. I would have liked to see what sort of job Clinton (H not B) would have made of it. She certainly seemed brighter. Although not that bright given their joint shenanigans in the property stakes. And she hasn’t exactly been consistent over the years.

            But isn’t that like the comments we exchanged above? Just because you don’t agree with the views of another politician is no reason not to acknowledge them. Of course, we won’t bother with the tribute but we will go to the party.


  3. All those people dancing on her grave might think of MT’s quote “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”…
    I listened earlier this week to an excerpt of a George Negus interview with her for 60 minutes, where he proposed “People we’ve talked to say you’re a hard lady….” and she responds by demanding specifc details which of course he didn’t have… which I thought was hilarious as it eventuated, it bore out what he was saying, not that I think she cared, she didn’t feel the need to indulge him.
    Negus: Why do people stop us in the street almost and tell us that Margaret Thatcher isn’t just inflexible, she’s not just single-minded, on occasions she’s plain pig-headed and won’t be told by anybody?
    Thatcher: Would you tell me who has stopped you in the street and said that?
    Negus: Ordinary Britons…
    Thatcher: Where?
    Negus: In conversation, in pubs…
    Thatcher (interrupting): I thought you’d just come from Belize
    Negus: Oh this is not the first time we’ve been here.
    Thatcher: Will you tell me who, and where and when?
    Negus: Ordinary Britons in restaurants and cabs
    Thatcher: How many?
    Negus: …in cabs
    Thatcher: How many?
    Negus: I would say at least one in two
    Thatcher: Why won’t you tell me their names and who they are? (Wiki)


    • Laugh. A good early morning laugh there. I think I get up at the same time as MT did!

      But just yes. Criticising people is not the same as assessing policies, which is what I have tried to do on these posts.

      I’m not claiming objectivity just that I happened to live in the UK at that time and have a valid view of those years.

      One of my former friends came out with a classic quote to me: ‘You will never take a telling.’ It’s a Scottish turn of phrase but pretty much echoes the quote above.

      Probably why although I don’t agree with Thatcher policies, think she did severe and irreparable damage to Britain, I do admire the strength of character. In the analyses of her since she died, people are seriously confusing 1) policies 2) ability as a politician and, 3) the person.

      If Blair dies before me, I would probably write, if anything, I was in Portugal when he was elected, was pleased about the election result, looked forward to some change in society and was vastly disappointed. That would be it. I could write another 20 posts about Thatcher however. I won’t, before you fall down on the floor in complete boredom, but you get the idea. There is a huge difference in political stature.

      I could equally write about some Aussies though. Joh Bjelke for example. Received a state funeral FFS? Fraser? Hawke? Don’t start me!!


  4. I can only imagine that man or woman she would have been rather unpleasant as a boss.
    My favourite piece of Spitting Image –
    An exchange between Thatcher & Kinnock also made me laugh –
    Thatcher – “I commend the Chancellors budget as a new broom”
    Kinnock – “then I suggest the Honourable Lady gets on it and flies away”
    And I didn’t like Kinnock either!


    • She’d probably have been all right if you were any good at your job. Maybe why she employed men though? ;) qv the veg :D Someone else quoted that the other day, but slightly out of context, so much better on your link.

      I remember the broom one now. i didn’t like Kinnock, or Foot, or well any of them really :D


    • Thanks Stephen. The same topics have always resurfaced re her period in power, and whether she advanced the cause of equal rights for women was always one of them. As a right-on feminist I couldn’t miss that one.


  5. Good points, well argued. Back in the day, one of my proudest moments was to halt a so called Queen Bee, from one of the Sunday broadsheets, in her tracks. The silence on the end of the phone before she had to back pedal was immensely satisfying.


    • Thanks. The post wrote itself really :D I was lucky with QBs, worked with them not for them. Even the Blue Rinse one I mentioned wasn’t my direct employer although as chair of our board I had to apply a fair amount of discretion with her.


  6. To be perfectly honest I know zero about Mrs Thatcher so I can not add anything to the conversation.. I do like the way you write though!!


    • Really? You know nothing about world leaders in the 80s? I am surprised.

      That’s a bit like me saying I know nothing about Bushes (both of them), Gorbachev, John Paul 2, Clinton (s), Reagan, Kennedys etc.

      Thanks for your compliment about my writing, I am just stunned you know nothing about her. Or maybe that is American life. It doesn’t affect you, just like for example Romney, doesn’t or hopefully doesn’t affect me. But the ones who get to be president do.


  7. Your posts tend to generate a lot of diverse comments, but I’m amazed at what’s been happening here! Mrs. thatcher certainly did give people something to talk about! This is particularly interesting to me, now, as our current prime minister, Stephen Harper, is creating much the same controversy and around eerily similar issues–that is, confusing (or just plain messing up) economic and social issues.


    • Has her death generated to Nfndlnd? Does it even mean anything your way? See one of the above comments who knows nothing about her.

      I know my posts just go whatever way! There is a similar age grouping, and a fair few UK people who have lived through similar times. I like the diversity and I like the input from elsewhere.

      I will have to look up Harper. After all, he’s not US so he’s not important is he? Why should I have heard of him? A bit like why should anyone have heard of Rajoy, Picardo and any other insignificant leader (ie not Merkel, Cameron, Obama and whoever the current French one is). Oh, and Gillard, who I do find mildly entertaining.


  8. Yipppeeeee, I get to talk about fashion. My specialist subject (NOT).

    Of course it was so much easier for men. Being of the blue eyed variety, it was a dark blue or dark grey suit, usually with a blue or red stripped shirt and a tie that was the same colour more or less as the stripes in the shirt. No one ever said to me have I seen that suit before, as the answer would have been I’ve worn it one day a week, every week since I joined the company.

    From the early 90s, when I no longer routinely wore a suit to work, the fashion thing became harder and required more thought. As to the male management course advice, it was usually ‘get your wife to check you out before you leave home’.

    I watched the tributes to Thatcher on the BBC Parliament channel. Sad I know, but it was cold and wet outside and I’d replenished the wine supplies the previous day. One thing that came across from the conservative women MPs who spoke, was how helpful Thatcher had been to them after she left Downing Street, and ceased to be Queen Bee.

    One of the things I wasn’t aware of was that Thatcher, even back then, realised the dangers of global warming. One female MP was talking to her about warming and Thatcher said “Well you and I support this so that’s a majority”. Her male colleagues didn’t get it then, not sure most of them get it now either.


    • I did advise my chief exec about shirt and tie colours. He had grey hair and blue eyes. Pretty easy advice really. It was past the 80s days of stripey shirts, ties and suits. We needed nice soft pastels. To suit his colouring.

      Me, i could live in the 80s forever.

      Now, I am surprised at her help. And her awareness of GW. (well she was a chemist after all, so she might have twigged onto that one, even the rest of us have).

      No disrespect to you or any other male readers, but half the time (minimum) men are fucking idiots.


  9. Plenty of QBs in my later days in the law….the sugary ‘helpfulness’ of telling a young woman not to bother to go on…”for her own good’…’save her wasting her life’….influencing the men not to give her a chance…


    • That says so much Helen. Unfortunately.

      My issue with QBs (or even QCs) is that they are women in power. It is not easy for women to climb the ranks apart from by the usual means. There is no equality. it would be helpful for QBs to give the rest of us a hand up the ladder. That’s all.


      • Given their mentality, they are not likely to do so. They see themselves as successes in a man’s world…and more women joining them would dilute that success.
        And there seems to be a dearth of men in power with any sense of equality to redress the balance.


        • Yes. That sums it up. ‘I got here, it was bloody hard, so if you’re any good, you’ll do it on your own.’ It’s a bit like when you’re offered a job or promotion, and you know you have to ask for more money just for the sake of it to prove you are tough. And to know the right point at which to back off. Things they never teach you (or never taught me anyway).

          As I said above, a patriarchal society perpetuates itself regardless of who is in power at whatever level. And therefore the values (or lack of) remain the same. Zapatero tried. Not only did he appoint women to half his cabinet, had a deputy woman president, but he also tried to tackle domestic violence. And how long did he last?


  10. Interesting for me as I just closed a community theatre production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls which takes place just after Maggie became prime minister. That time period was heavy with hope for potential possibilities for women, and yes, they materialized but only because of the hard work of the women who had the courage and the chutzpah to stare down a culture that wasn’t altogether on their side. I’m a fan in the sense that I admire her for doing work that generally had been seen as belonging by right to men, but it’s too bad that she was, as you point out, quite a classic queen bee.


    • Your theatre work sounds interesting. I saw The Revengers Comedies when it premiered in Scarborough which was another interesting take on women, work and life in the 80s.

      In many senses the 80s were full or promise and hope. If anything was fulfilled, I think it’s been lost. Thirty years later on – how much further on are we? Changing the societal status quo is a long haul job.


  11. The library world…meaning librarians who actually have 2 university degrees is 80% women, 20% men. It has shown over and over when surveys are done among the major library associations worldwide.
    The 2nd degree is master of library/information studies in North America.

    So when I did attend association meetings that was my world. Which wasn’t often.

    My jobs however, I was often serving client departments /clients where it was primarily men who ruled the customer base, etc.

    I get a bit sardonic, when there’s ever the claim that women have a better leadership tendencies. Crazy. There are simply good managers and lousy managers. There are visionary leaders and dull ones. What I do believe, is that women in the corporations/higher levels in govn’t need to speak on broader scale, vision and be not afraid to do so.


    • Had to laugh when you mentioned the library world. The first queen bee in my post headed up our library.

      I’ve had some good bosses all round, with a couple of crap ones who happened to be men. Given that more bosses are men, that’s not surprising. I’ve worked with women, who to me, were poor managers. But how do you judge someone? On their relationships with other people or on what they achieve? Thatcher got results. The fact that a lot of people (me included) didn’t like many of them doesn’t invalidate her achievements. She served three successive terms in office, so someone must have liked what she did.

      Running the country and taking a decision to go to war is a bit out of my league though. The problem for women in management is that we can’t get away from cultural gender stereotyping. I’ve just done it in this post by referring to QBs. It doesn’t matter how you cut it, women who speak out, who are intelligent, successful etc, will receive disproportionate criticism and are often criticised on the basis of their personality/gender rather than what they do.

      Here is a classic (Wall Street Journal) and saves me writing it all out! :


    • Thanks Y. I think I need to lighten up a bit though! I shall do a few more entertaining posts next. Met two wonderful dogs today and took some pix :)

      Thatcher had a big impact on those of us who lived through her years, so I had to mark it. Appreciate your compliment. Especially when I read your post on Val’s about not having the time to comment or read many blogs at the moment, so thank you very much for doing both.


          • A person in life or that commented in your blog about your dog? How dare that person. No dog is offensive unless it is a complete terror but that behavior would be about how the owner caused the dog to be that way.

            Yes, please post about your dog/s and some A– hats that you have encountered.

            I have to get trucking to get to the plant nursery and other chores that I have negleted with my animals while trying to catch up on blogs that I like and read.

            I’ll be looking for the post/s.


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